CLEVELAND - It's just about here.
October playoff baseball in Cleveland as the Indians look to win the World Series for the first time since 1948. Step one will begin on Thursday when they open American League Division Series play against the New York Yankees.
With all of the excitement of the playoffs, sometimes the images of a long 162 game regular season become lost. But it's important to be able to answer the question: What made the 2017 Cleveland Indians season so special? What things will we always remember?
Behold...the 5 things that made us feel great about the Cleveland Indians this season:
1. Respect The Streak
When you accomplish something that hasn't been done in a century, that's absolutely going to top the list. From August 24 through September 14, the Indians won 22 consecutive games! That broke the 2002 Oakland A's 'Moneyball' team's American League record and was four wins shy of the all-time record set by the New York Giants in 1916.
The streak was something truly special. Some of the numbers that CBS Sports' Mike Axisa compiled really puts the achievement into perspective.
- More than half the 22 wins were decided by at least four runs
- The Indians trailed for only eight innings
- Tribe starters had a 1.77 ERA during the streak
Those are just a few. We'll also remember the one walk-off victory in the streak, which came in win number 22 against the Royals thanks to heroics from Francisco Lindor and Jay Bruce.
I may remember the streak most for how it ended. After Kansas City beat the Indians on September 15, the sell-out crowd at Progressive Field gave the team a standing ovation, and the Tribe players, coaches, and manager Terry Francona responded with an emotional tip of the cap in return.
2. Jose, Jose, Jose...Jose, Jose
Just a few years ago, Jose Ramirez was not much more than a utility player for the Cleveland Indians. Now, he has emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate and helped power the Tribe to the best record in the American League in 2017.
The 25-year old batted .318 with 29 HR and 83 RBI. He led the majors with 59 doubles and tied with Giancarlo Stanton for the most extra base hits with 91.
Ramirez started the season as the team's third baseman, but went over to second after Jason Kipnis' rash of injuries. He batted in just about every spot in the order and never missed a beat. Jose was elected to start in his first All-Star Game and finished with a pair of hits and a stolen base.
Jose is a superstar on Twitter and has become one of the team's most popular players.
Chants of "Jose, Jose, Jose" boomed out from crowds at Progressive Field during his at-bats, and could even be heard at some road venues as well.
3. The Mini Balls
You have to love creativity, don't you?
It started with this from pitcher Carlos Carrasco:
Then it evolved into this:
Coming soon to a Progressive Field Team Shop near you... pic.twitter.com/w3jZjLB2r6— AL Central champs! (@Indians) September 25, 2017
Carrasco and Trevor Bauer explain how the phenomenon of the mini-balls became one of the prime images of Tribe baseball in 2017.
4. We loved those cool nicknamed jerseys, too
Remember Players' Weekend in late August? Major League Baseball came up with the idea of having uniforms with players' nicknames on the back of the jersey. The Indians fully embraced the concept:
Let the record reflect that the Tribe swept the Royals that weekend as the 22-game win streak started to pick up steam.
5. The heart of Terry Francona
Since joining the Indians, manager Terry Francona has won a pair of American League Manager of the Year awards. I'd make the argument that Tito deserves it this season more than any other.
The Indians struggled somewhat through the months of April, May, and June as they dealt with everything from injuries to inconsistency. But there was something else happening at the same time. Francona was having periods of illness and lightheadedness that caused him to either leave games early or not be in the dugout. On July 4, he was rushed to Cleveland Clinic with a heart rate that was pounding at roughly 200 beats per minute. After three days of tests and observations, Francona underwent a cardiac ablation procedure to correct his irregular heartbeat.
Having undergone the same procedure myself, I knew that there was a very good chance that Tito would be healthy and be able to resume his normal managing duties. You can't keep that man down.
He returned to the club right after the All-Star break and was tested right away after the Indians had a miserable road trip through Oakland and San Francisco. Francona challenged his players in a team meeting afterwards, asking 'What kind of club do you want to be?'
Message received loud and clear.
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