ALCS On Tap: Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox

Tonight’s game 1 dream pitching matchup: Josh Beckett v. C.C. Sabathia
As I thought about this matchup on my drive to work this morning, a good thought came to me. I was thinking about the fact that the Indians are underdogs, and the fact that not a lot of people are giving them a chance at winning this series over the loaded Red Sox, who are supposed to be the best team in baseball. At the same time, the Indians have been pretty good–and not many people really want to count them out either.
This reminds me so much of the 1997 American League Championship Series, where an Indians team that got hot came in and beat a Baltimore Orioles team with 98 wins and homefield advantage, in 6 games. The Indians did it that year with a big blow from Tony Fernandez in game 6. I remember where I was at when he hit that homerun, as well as Marquis Grissom’s clutch blast off Armando Benitez in extra innings, in which my mother had to wake me up in my sleep to tell me that the Indians had won. That was the turning point of the series indeed.
There is just something special about this Indians team that tells me you can’t count them out; and don’t you dare say you see the Red Sox winning the series. Even if you feel that way, you need to wait and hold your opinions, because this team just might end up making you eat your words.
At the same token, I’ve just got this weird feeling that the Indians will do something similar this year as they did in 1997–possibly something like getting past the Red Sox in 6 games–only to go to the World Series and lose to the Colorado Rockies for their 1st World Championship. It would seem both inevitable and poetic that this team lose it in a game 7 that goes 11 innings, blowing a lead late with their closer in the game and allowing for Colorado to celebrate on their own field due to an Edgar Renteria-like seeing eye single up the middle. At least Charles Nagy is no longer an Indian.
This series means so much for this young group of core players on Cleveland. It means so much to this championship-starved city. As I sit and watch tonight, and take in every gut-wrenching delivery from Josh Beckett, I will be rooting as hard as I’ve done before for this group. Many would like to sit back and say “If not this year, we’ll have a long string of chances to win with this group.” As a baseball fan I know that is not ever the case. There is an imaginary window that resides for every ballclub with talent to make the postseason. How long that window remains open to get a World Series championship through it is never certain. Make no mistake about it; there is no guaruntee that the Indians even take this team back to the postseason. The urgency needs to be felt and the time to strike is right now. This team has the opportunity of a lifetime ahead of them and I truly believe the winner of this ALCS is your 2007 World Champion.
I’m going to go ahead and and make my pick of this series, and yes I’m betting on the team from Cleveland. Yes I’m going with my heart which is something you should never do in sports. I might be going against some amounts of logic, but I’m taking the Cleveland Indians to upset the Boston Red Sox in this series in 7 games. That would mean the Indians win the final game, on the road in Fenway Park. As unlikely as it sounds, this team has something about them that won’t let them go away. They have staying power. Tonight as I watch from a bar seat at Easton mall in Columbus sipping away at my Jack and diet’s to calm the nerves, I’ll be pulling with all that I have on every pitch.
As a baseball fan, for a baseball fan…. it just doesn’t get any better than this.