Back in 1977, when the New York Yankees won their first World Championship in 15 years, they had a team filled with ex-Cleveland Indians. Or anyway, it felt that way as a kid growing in up Cleveland.
Look: Yankees' First baseman
Funny, looking back on it, there weren't quite as many ex-Indians as I remembered.
Still, it felt like a big deal in Cleveland in 1977. The Indians were terrible then, the Browns were terrible, the Cleveland jokes were a part of America's every day culture, and we were about to enter a winter that was so brutally cold and miserable that the city of Cleveland closed down schools for the entire month of February. Still, through it all, I remember people talked about those ex-Indians who had led the Yankees to the World Series. It felt so wrong. There was something about it that felt like a punch to the gut.
Some of those feelings are back. The Indians are terrible again. The Browns ... yeah. And on Wednesday night, the last two Cleveland Indians to win the Cy Young will be pitching Game 1 of the World Series --
This is the other view of the World Series, the flip-view from fans of small-market teams watching the dreams come true for everyone else. Sure, this World Series has the potential to be exciting, maybe even a classic. The Phillies are defending world champs. The Yankees have their mojo back. Philadelphia's
But I can tell you that's not how the World Series looks in those small-market baseball towns where the baseball talk revolves around how soon the good players will be too expensive to keep. I can tell you how baseball fans in Kansas City will view this Series. They will watch Philadelphia's
Kansas City fans will watch Yankees left fielder
This is the hard reality of the World Series. It is not a celebration for everyone. Year after year, it is also a time for fans of losing teams to see their old stars, and remember the promise, and think about what might have been, had ownership been a little wiser and had a little more money to work with.
This year, though, the clear winners in the "What could have been" World Series sweepstakes are Cleveland fans. The Indians had Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia in their pitching rotation for about four and a half seasons -- from the start of 2004 until Sabathia was traded mid-season in 2008. During that time, the Indians had two winning records, two losing records and made the playoffs once. Lee and Sabathia never had great seasons at the same time -- they were never quite
In other words, the Indians never really got to cash in on having developed two of the best left-handed starters in baseball. Baseball is funny that way: For teams without big payrolls the key is not just developing good players: The timing is also crucial. In the last eight years or so, the Indians have had young versions of Sabathia, Lee,
Some became stars, some did not, but the Indians have an overall losing record over those eight seasons and on Wednesday night Indians fans are left with their noses pressed against the restaurant front window, left standing in the rain while their old heroes Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia try to set the tone for this World Series.