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When it comes to the 2022 Cleveland Guardians, 'don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened': Dave 'Dino' DeNatale column

The youngest team in Major League Baseball gave fans in Cleveland a season they won't soon forget.

CLEVELAND — Whenever I go on vacation and am bummed about having to get on the plane to come home, I'm reminded of this quote by the great Dr. Seuss:

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

That's what came to my mind when I watched the Cleveland Guardians' playoff run come to an end Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium in a 5-1 loss in the fifth and deciding game of the American League Division Series.

So I'm not going to dwell on whether or not Shane Bieber should have started Game 5 instead of Aaron Civale. I'm not going to take the Guardians coaching staff to task for faulty replay challenges (or non-challenges). I'm not going to rip on players who didn't hit, or pitchers who couldn't get batters out. 

I just want to take a deep breath and consider how much fun we all had watching Major League Baseball's youngest team defy the odds time and time again. No one expected the Guards to win the American League Central Division, much less take down the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card round before pushing the Yankees to the limit in the ALDS. 

Actually, that's not entirely true. 

Both Laura Caso and Stephanie Haney predicted the Guardians to make the postseason when we did our staff forecasts in April.

Yours truly? I thought they would flirt with .500, finish 80-82, and be set up for a potential breakout season in 2023. Here's what I wrote: "Terry Francona and the starting pitching will keep the Guardians relevant, but there’s simply not enough punch in the lineup outside of José Ramírez and Franmil Reyes for this team to compete for the postseason. It will be interesting to watch how quickly some of the organization’s young position players develop."

Well, at least I had something right. It was "interesting" to watch the young position players develop! The Guardians had 17 players make their Major League debuts in 2022, with many of them proving to be key contributors down the stretch. Keep in mind that nothing in the future is guaranteed. That said, watching the likes of Steven Kwan, Oscar Gonzalez, Will Brennan, Gabriel Arias and more develop in the coming years is going to be so much fun. 

"This needs to be a starting place for us," Guardians manager Terry Francona said after Tuesday's loss. "This can't just be a good story this year. We need to take this and go, because I think we have a chance to have something really special."

I do, too.

We'll have more time this offseason to look at what this team needs to add to move forward. Clearly, it's not a finished product. My man Nick Camino has already put his wish list out there:

As important as it is for the players in this organization to do the work in the offseason to grow and develop, it's vital that ownership and the front office do their part in getting this roster where it needs to be. I'm hopeful that the addition of David Blitzer as the Guardians' minority owner will help make that a reality.

Let me leave on this note: I absolutely loved seeing this town come together here in October as the Guardians were making this dramatic run. We will always remember where we were when "SpongeBob" Gonzalez delivered not one, but two walk-off postseason masterpieces.

And what will always stand out to me about the Game 3 ALDS rally wasn't just the celebration on the field, but the eruption that came from Progressive Field that was captured by Pete Marek:

Which brings me to this last message to Cleveland baseball fans: Don't wait until October to support this team. 

As I wrote in a column earlier this season, "These players, their manager, and the rest of the organization are a credit to our city and our region. It's time to give this young team a chance, regardless of their nickname."

You want to wear "Indians" gear and call them the Tribe? Fine. I'm not going to waste time and argue with you. Just be sure to wear that gear at Progressive Field in May and June in addition to September and October. 

Cleveland may not be a "baseball town" first. But it will support a team that represents the best of who we are. 

So smile everyone, it was a heck of a great ride.

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