Now that LeBron James has won a title for Cleveland – thus ending one of the longest championship droughts in sports history – it’s time for the Indians to do their part. They haven’t won a World Series since 1948 or played in one since 1997.
That could all change in the coming weeks.
Cleveland (94-67) will face Boston (93-69) in the ALDS this Thursday.
“I think that LeBron did a great job for us. Now we have the opportunity to do it now with baseball,” former Indians great Carlos Baerga said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think we’re going in the right direction. We have the right manager with Terry Francona, so I believe the Cleveland Indians have the opportunity to show up. I know that we don’t have the two pitchers that we’re supposed to have. One is (Carlos) Carrasco and (one is Danny) Salazar. They’re hurt. But I believe that Terry is going to go with everything. From the first inning on, there’s going to be some bunting, hit and run – we’re going to play the little game. The confidence level is very high right now. We know that we have the opportunity to come up and shock everybody.”
But it won’t be easy. The Red Sox led the majors in runs this season, with 878. In fact, only two other teams – the Cubs (808) and Rockies (845) – broke the 800 mark. Boston was also second in the majors in run differential with a plus-184.
“This Boston team is showing me they have the kind of lineup we used to have in ’95,” said Baerga, who played for the Indians from 1990-96. “When you have David Ortiz having the best year of his career in his last year, you got (Hanley) Ramirez, you got (Dustin) Pedroia back and (Xander) Bogaerts and (Jackie) Bradley – you got six guys that are having monster years. But I believe that pitching can stop that.”
Trevor Bauer will take the hill in Game 1 of the ALDS, with Corey Kluber to follow in Game 2 on Friday. The Red Sox will counter with Rick Porcello and David Price, respectively, who went a combined 39-13 this season.
The Indians, who had the second-best home record in the bigs this season at 53-28, will need to defend their home turf at Progressive Field.
“We play really good at home,” Baerga said. “That’s an advantage that we have to take, playing at home right away.”
Baerga, 47, was a three-time All-Star with the Indians and helped the franchise reach the World Series in 1995. He was traded to the Mets in July 1996 and hit just .267 with 18 home runs in 306 games for New York.
“I’m going to say something that not too many people know,” said Baerga, a lifetime .291 hitter. “When I got traded to the New York Mets, I was hurt. I remember when (former Mets general manager) Joe McIlvaine called me . . . and he said, ‘Hey, Carlos, we just make a trade for you. We welcome you to the Mets.’ And I said, ‘I’m hurt. Don’t trade me. I’m hurt. I pulled my groin through my stomach.’ I said to him, ‘I cannot play for like a month. Don’t make a trade.’ And he said, ‘We don’t care. We want you there.’ So when I got traded to the Mets, I wasn’t healthy in my first two years. I cannot give (an) excuse because I used to play hurt no matter what, but I wasn’t healthy. But I really liked (New York). No matter where you play, I’m a blessed guy that I’m between the lines. I played for almost 15 years in the big leagues. I was there for a long time.”