Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why You Should Root For This Other Cursed Team

            You've heard the numerous stories ran about the Chicago Cubs and their 108-year old World Series title drought. You've heard about the "Curse of the Billy Goat". You've seen ESPN run MANY articles about the Cubs and their "pursuit of history" (really, it's just a pursuit to break a century-old drought). But have you heard about "The Curse of Rocky Colavito"?
            "The Curse of Rocky Colavito" is a phenomenon that has haunted the Cleveland Indians for years. It was the result of an unpopular trade that sent Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn in 1960. Keep in mind that Colavito (42 homers) was the home run champ in 1959 while Kuenn was the batting champ (.359) in that same year. The trade had been initiated by the Indians' GM, Frank "Trader" Lane, who had gone on to trade every single player he inherited in only two years with the Indians. This outraged Cleveland fans greatly and left them to call for Lane's head on a platter.
            According to Terry Pluto in his 1994 book The Curse of Rocky Colavito: A Loving Look at a 33-Year-Old Slump, the trade was the catalyst for not finishing 11 games near first from 1960 to 1993. Pluto also mentions many other misfortunes that the Indians experienced during this span, such as Sam McDowell's alcoholism, trading Rick Sutcliffe to the Cubs, and the rushing of pitcher Steve Dunning into the majors without minor league seasoning. Of course, there are rumors swirling that Bobby Bragan, the Indians manager in the 1950s, placed a curse on Cleveland after being fired in 1958.
             Indians fans remember the moments where they were SO CLOSE to breaking the curse. If it wasn't for Jose Mesa's ineptitude in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, the Indians would've beaten the Marlins. If it wasn't for Boston rallying in the 2007 ALCS from a 3-1 deficit, the Indians would've faced the Rockies in the World Series (and probably would've been favored, too). Fortunately for Cleveland fans, LeBron and the Cavs snapped the titleless streak by defeating Golden State in the NBA Finals. But the Indians still don't have their title. So why should this year be a magical one for Indians fans?
             For starters, they have home-field advantage throughout the postseason starting in the ALCS. The Indians have been terrific at home, tying Texas for the best home mark in the American League at 53-28. Cleveland was third in the majors in runs scored at home with 452 and third in home batting average at .288. Cleveland lit up 22-game winner Rick Porcello and former Cy Young-winner David Price in their two home games against Boston. So Toronto should tread carefully with the bats.
             Another reason for why Cleveland has a chance to break "The Curse of Rocky Colavito" is the rotation. While the starting pitchers haven't been as effective at home as the bats have (sixth in baseball in road ERA at 3.81 as opposed to 13th in baseball in home ERA at 3.87), they've been just that: better on the road. Josh Tomlin, a pitcher who had an ERA of 4.40 during the regular season, held the Red Sox bats to just two runs in five innings pitched in Game 3 (he got the win in that game). Tomlin has posted a 1.75 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in his last four starts, providing more firepower to an Indians staff that has been shorthanded lately. Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14 ERA, 227 SO, 1.06 WHIP) has been the ace the Indians needed during a time where Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar have been injured.
             One final reason, and this is a big one, for why the Indians could break the curse this season is due to unlikely contributions. Mike Napoli (34 homers, 101 RBIs) has been a nice pickup for the Indians and Jose Ramirez (.312, 22 SB, 76 RBI) has also been a great contributor. The Indians have benefited greatly from their contributions in spite of not having Michael Brantley around for most of the season. Cleveland has also swiped a lot of bags this year, placing fourth in the majors in stolen bases with 134. The Indians also have a SB success rate of 81.21%, second to only Arizona (81.55%) in the majors. Rajai Davis has a good number of those stolen bases with 43.
             People are talking quite a bit about the Chicago Cubs and their curse, but these people should also pay attention to what's going on in Cleveland. Who knows? Maybe the Indians and Cubs will meet in the World Series. That way, it'll be a battle between "The Curse of Rocky Colavito" and "The Curse of the Billy Goat".

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