You're pulling for the Indians -- or you suck
Sep. 30, 2005
By Ray Ratto
Special to CBS SportsLine.com
So once again, it's Yankees this and Red Sox that, over and over again until we all start confessing that we're involved in the Tom DeLay thing up to our eyelids.
There is, however, respite from this unpleasant and relentlessly repeated tale of two cities gripped by self-involvement, and it is the Cleveland Indians.
You see, while the Yankees and Red Sox are re-re-re-enacting the Battle Of There's Nothing West Of The Hudson And We've Done The Demographic Surveys To Prove It, the Indians play the White Sox this weekend in a series that should have meant more than it does but still means enough.
To cut to the chase, though (we know you have a busy day ahead of you), the proposition is this: If you have a soul, you are rooting for the Indians to win the wild card. If you do not, you are not.
There are many good reasons for this, but the main two are these:
One, the Indians probably have the best team in the American League, though you wouldn't have known it to watch them against Tampa Bay this week.
And two, the Yankees and Red Sox don't. In fact, the Yankees won't even have their best pitcher, Aaron Small, available, given that he pitched Thursday night.
You see, we already have enough structural problems in the National League, what with the Padres still not assured of a winning record even though they are assured of a place at the big table, and the Braves reprising their role as The Best Team Ever To Have Watched Other Teams Be The Best Team.
Unless, of course, that's the Cardinals.
But the AL is something else. The White Sox stopped strangling themselves just long enough to win the Central. The Angels saved their best for last. The Yankees and Red Sox might have been doing business with Arnold Rothstein this September to wring the last bit of drama out of a race between two profoundly flawed but still imposing teams.
The Indians, though, really look like the best in show, and now that we know that the wild card is the way to go in baseball's postseason, it ought to be the Indians.
America ought to get to know this team, after all.
C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Kevin Millwood, Jake Westbrook ... Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, Ronnie Belliard and the magnificently named Coco Crisp (and haven't you named your first-born son Covelli yet?) ... the manager, Eric Wedge, whose previous brush with fame was being mean-mouthed by Milton Bradley ... and the closer, the Buick-sized Bob Wickman, as the spearhead of perhaps the best bullpen in the game.
And then there's Cleveland proper. The fans there have suffered through the Indians far more than Red Sox fans, and if the Doris Kearns Goodwin Mafia had been forcibly relocated to Lake Erie, we'd be hearing about the great moral rectitude required to be an Indians fan.
Instead, their long-sufferers tend to be shot-and-a-beer guys who don't have book contracts jumping out at them from behind bushes, so their tortures don't have a voice, unless it's, "The damn Indians puked up another one last night, didn't they? Christ in Heaven, I don't know why I bother. Hand me that torque wrench, will you?"
So we have the best team, a team with brand new stories, in a town that deserves a winner far more than anyone else.
And no, we want to hear nothing from Chicago or San Diego, because White Sox fans are beginning to insist they've suffered way more than most other people, and as soon as you start telling us how much you've suffered, it stops being suffering and leaks into self-indulgence.
And San Diego? Please. You're lucky you weren't replaced by Fullerton State, so just be happy your invitation didn't get lost in the mail.
Oh, and Houston. Another title-less town, with the singular exceptions of the Rockets' brief flurry during the non-Jordan years and the Oilers back a thousand years ago, but you'd like the Astros to be able out outscore the Diamondbacks or Giants before they start putting on any airs.
No, this postseason demands Cleveland, in all its surreptitious glory. They have the most players you want to see, in a town that has tolerated the Browns and Cavaliers far too long, and best of all, they aren't the Yankees or Red Sox.
So cheer for the Yankees or Red Sox as you must, but it should be losers-out. It increases the tension in the series you want, while rewarding the Indians at the other end. And nobody deserves a reward more than the Indians.
Except maybe the Royals, but frankly, the Lord helps those who help themselves, or at least makes a pretense at it.