As Cleveland Indians stack wins in record streak, a new label emerges: America's Team
They have become America’s team, those lovable Cleveland Indians.
They win 21 games in a row, the most by any team in American League history, and we want the streak to keep going.
We see those empty seats at Progressive Field, and we want them all filled.
We listen to manager Terry Francona’s self-deprecating humor, the front office’s wit, the unbridled passion of Francisco Lindor, and don’t want them to stop talking.
It’s Cleveland baby, the epicenter of baseball.
Who else but the Indians could win 21 games in a row, knocking off the Detroit Tigers, 5-3, only to be embroiled in controversy whether they have tied a major-league record.
The 1935 Chicago Cubs are the only other team in baseball history who have ever won 21 consecutive games, but the Elias Sports Bureau is now telling us that the 1916 New York Giants really have the record. They did win 26 games in a row, but there was a tie after their 12th consecutive win.
No offense to Elias, but that’s not the longest winning streak.
It’s the longest unbeaten streak.
Don’t dare try to take any piece of joy away from the Indians.
“I think they’re enjoying themselves,’’ Francona said. “They should. It’s pretty special.’’
Take a bow, Cleveland.
This is your time.
If people want to chastise you for not selling out any games during the streak, remind everyone that this is a blue-collar city. School is in session. Besides, you had a stunning walk-up crowd of nearly 10,000 fans Wednesday for an afternoon game on a school day, drawing 29,346.
Enough of the jokes, even about the Cleveland Browns.
Savor the moment, knowing this likely will never happen again in your lifetime.
What the Indians are doing these days is preposterous. They have gone three entire weeks without losing a game. They’ve won as many games during this streak as the Browns have won since Nov. 20, 2011.
These guys have established themselves as best team in baseball, and need only October to prove it, finally ending their 69-year drought.
Sure, no one has them splashed on their magazine cover declaring them the best team in baseball history.
There are no movies in the works.
There may not even be book deals in the making.
It makes no difference.
The Indians are as likeable as any team in baseball, with a joyous close-knit clubhouse, a lovable manager, and a shrewd front office that isn’t afraid to speak from their heart.
It was earlier this year when Cleveland president Chris Antonetti was asked how long it took for him to get over losing Game 7 - and a 3-1 World Series lead - to the Chicago Cubs.
Antonetti looked me into the eyes, and without a smile, or even a smirk, paused, and blurted out the response from the heart.
“I’ll let you know,’’ Antonetti said, “when I do.’’
We can sympathize, and root for them rather than the big-market behemoths who will dot the playoff landscape.
These Indians remind us about the beauty of sports, where you can extract the possible from impossible and turn the improbable into probable.
America’s Team, right?
“It feels that way, from my vantage point,’’ Indians outfielder Jay Bruce, who hit a 3-run homer Wednesday, told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t have the pulse of it all, but this fan base here is making it feel like October. It’s easy to come to the park. People are thanking us.
“We are just doing what we can to play good ball, and perform for an awesome group of people who follow us.’’
You know you’re living large when Ohio’s most famous resident, LeBron James, takes time out of his day to shoot a congratulatory video about the Indians’ streak.
There may be some breaks that have come along the way, but there have been no flukes in this winning streak. Just absolute domination. The Indians aren’t just winning, but they’re bludgeoning teams, outscoring them 139-35 during the streak.
They have played 189 innings during this streak, and trailed after only four of them. They’ve won 14 of their games by five or more runs. They’ve actually hit more home runs, 41, than runs given up by the pitching staff.
This is a rotation that has gone 19-0 with a 1.70 ERA during the streak, with the staff throwing seven shutouts. Their 19 shutouts this year are five more than any team in baseball.
The Indians have run away with the AL Central, opening a 14-game lead over the Minnesota Twins, leaving them with a magic number of just 4 to clinch their second division title.
Logic tells us the streak can’t go on forever, but our heart wants more.
You know, a World Series parade.
This time, in downtown Cleveland.