Are you still mad at the Cleveland baseball team for knocking Chief Wahoo out of player hats and uniforms in 2019? Are you still refusing to follow the team because its owner, Paul Dolan, changed his name from Indians to Guardians from the 2022 season?
Well, continue to sit on the couch with your arms crossed in front of your chest and brood. That noise you hear on the street through your front window is from the coolest block party of the year, where Guardians fans celebrate the unlikely but very true fairy tale of the youngest major league team winning. the American League Central Division Championship. .
The Guardians had a four-game lead over the White Sox when a three-game series between the two teams began in Chicago on September 20. A Chicago sweep would have reduced Cleveland’s lead to one game. Instead, the G-men swept their hosts to build a seven-game lead, then swept the Rangers in Texas.
The Guardians got rid of Minnesota before sweeping the White Sox by taking four of the Twins’ five at Progressive Field.
Technically, the Guardians won the division before beating Rangers, 10-4, on September 25, because about 20 minutes before receiver Luke Maile recorded the final in Arlington, Texas, by catching a pop-up foul , the Tigers eliminated the White Sox with a 4-1 victory in Chicago.
“Ball game!” Guardians play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton shouted as Maile caught the ball. “And once again Cleveland, you’ll have an October to remember. The Guardians are the American League Central Division champions for the 11th time. And hugs all around between the third base foul line and the pitcher’s mound as Cleveland wins it in style.
“A five RBI game by Steven Kwan, who capped it off with a grand slam in the eighth. The party is about to begin.
The Guardians were 7-12 in April. They are 86-67 on Sept. 25. They are 18-3 in their last 21 games with nine games remaining in the regular season. Sixteen players made their rookie debuts with the Guardians this season.
“Everyone here loves each other,” center fielder Myles Straw told Hamilton in a postgame interview. “It’s really amazing to see how this season has gone so far.
“This is the first step. There are still a few steps left for us, but we will enjoy this one and we will enjoy this moment together.
It bears repeating that nearly every national analyst in their preseason predictions had the Guardians finishing fourth or fifth in the division. It’s what makes the celebration that took place in the visitors’ pavilion at Globe Life Field something the players relish. There was no drama involved in the Dodgers winning the NL West or the Astros winning the AL West.
And it’s worth repeating what Straw said about how much players love each other and shoot for their teammates.
The players were the first to arrive at the clubhouse. Their beloved manager, Terry Francona, joined them. Francona gave a short speech congratulating them, then the champagne corks popped and the celebration began.
“I’ve never done this before!” wide receiver Austin Hedges told Hamilton co-announcer Jim Rosenhaus in an interview at the clubhouse. “We kind of did something in 20 when I got traded here, but there’s nothing like winning the division for a full season with a group of guys you love so much. I’ve never been so excited. This is amazing.
“It’s the coolest thing ever. It’s my dream to win the World Series. It’s the team that can do it, but it starts with winning the division. I’m at a loss for words.
And from Francona:
“With what our guys have done, and then when you do it with people you care about, love and respect, yeah, that means a lot. There’s so much going on in a season. You wish. You still hope, but (winning the division) was a big ask.
“But you see it. They are improving. You start to trust yourself and it becomes quite special.
The Guardians don’t know which team they will face first in the playoff round. Their opponent will be the team with the worst record among the three wildcard teams in a best-of-three series at Progressive Field. Seattle holds third place at the moment with Toronto and Tampa Bay the other likely wildcard teams. But that could change with more than a week remaining in the regular season.
“It’s so special,” Francona said. “Walking (into the clubhouse) and seeing all the plastic -“
Francona couldn’t finish his sentence because Tyler Freeman doused him with a bottle of champagne in a sneak attack.
That block party mentioned earlier — it will continue Sept. 27 at Progressive Field when a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays begins. There’s an open invitation for everyone to join, including anyone still angry at Chief Wahoo and the name change who’s willing to let go of the past to be part of the fun.