Baseball

Indians fan: Best team on paper doesn’t always win

Patrick Orr
Patrick Orr

The Cleveland way is the hard way. A cliché? Yes. Truth? Yes again.

Can it get any harder than having every person on the planet who wasn’t born in the 216 area code against us?

That’s what the Indians and their fans are facing this fall with the media-darling, best-team-money-can-buy Cubs and all their well-documented noble suffering fans/star power support/deep-pockets ownership.

Billy goat curses. Steve Bartman. Leon Durham. Whatever. Cry me a river. There is no noble suffering in C-Town. We grind — and this team totally reflects that quality.

It’s the reason the Commissioner’s Trophy will live in Cleveland this year.

The Cubs are mighty — 103 wins mighty, with no obvious weakness. Everyone loves them. The $171 million Cubs look better on paper than the Tribe. It’s all set up for the big story.

Except the universe is ornery these days and doesn’t care about narratives — and there isn’t a better team set to capitalize on that than the 2016 Cleveland Indians.

They have the best manager in baseball, a pitching staff full of scrappers who know how to frustrate the gnarliest lineups and avoid the big inning, a terrifying bullpen, a top-five defense, an opportunistic offense that can scratch out a run when needed or hit three homers in an inning, and home-field advantage.

Baseball has a randomness no other major sport possesses — especially in the playoffs — and no one is better than Tito Francona to manage that unpredictability.

The Indians were never supposed to get this far. Nate Silver declared the Tribe statistically the longest shot to win it all at the start of the playoffs, and now only gives them a 37 percent percent chance to win the World Series.

Every bloviating national sports writer has picked the Tribe for a quick exit in every round. But baseball isn’t math, and it really doesn’t care about zip codes. Ask the Blue Jays and Red Sox how much that stuff matters now.

The Cubs, with all their talent and flash and cash, are burdened with 108 years of disappointment. The pressure is real. We know. LeBron and the Cavs lifted the Cleveland curse earlier this year. That pressure is gone. Our boys can just play.

The Cubs have more talent, but the Indians are closer on that front than many think, and are more battle-tested. I’m saying Tribe in six.

Believeland!

Patrick Orr, a former Idaho Statesman reporter and columnist, is a Cleveland native and a hardcore fan of the Indians and Cavaliers.

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