Cleveland Indians

MLB on Sling: This Streak Is Gonna Propel the Indians to the World Series, Terry Francona to the Hall of Fame

Tenth months after losing one of the greatest World Series ever, the Cleveland Indians are the hottest thing this side of the Sun.

Francisco Lindor has been the MVP of the Indians winning streak, and he came through again today, going 2-for-4 and scoring a run in a 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers. It was Cleveland’s 21st win in a row, setting an AL record for the longest* streak since the advent of the World Series. Winning streaks of this length all but guarantee a trip to the World Series, and another Fall Classic would surely punch manager Terry Francona’s ticket to Cooperstown.

*Yes, the 1916 New York Giants are recognized as having the longest winning streak of all time at 26, but in the midst of that streak they played the Pirates to a 1-1 tie. For reasons that aren’t clear, MLB doesn’t consider ties to be games when it comes to winning streaks, but the things that happen in those games count toward a player’s career statistical record, which is stupid. Also, it’s called a “winning streak” as opposed to a “not losing streak,” so the ’16 Giants (and the ’06 White Sox, winners of 19 “in a row”), can pound sand.

Let’s look at the fate of the other teams who’ve won as many as 18 in a row since 1903:

  • The 1935 Chicago Cubs finished 100-54, before falling 4-2 to the Detroit Tigers in a World Series, despite Detroit losing Hank Greenberg to a broken wrist in Game 2.
  • The Oakland A’s 2002 streak of 20 wins was so magical they wrote a book about it, which was late turned into a movie. But the A’s turned back into a pumpkin come October, falling 3-2 to the Twinkies in the ALDS.

  • The 1947 Yankees won 19 straight, finished 97-57, and then beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Series in seven games.
  • In 1953, Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra would again lead the Yankees to an epic winning streak, this one “just” 18 games, and a World Series win over the Dodgers.
  • The 1904 New York Giants went on an 18-game tear, and took the NL pennant by 13 games over the Cubs, but were still so humiliated by their World Series loss the previous season to the Boston Red Sox that they chickened out of a rematch with the repeat AL champs.

In sum, of the five other teams to win 18+ in a row, two won the Series, one lost it, another wussed out, and the A’s, well, Billy Beane’s “sh*t doesn’t work in the playoffs.”*

*If you must know, the 1935 Giants didn’t even make the playoffs, but the 1906 White Sox won it all.

As for Francona’s destiny, Sunday win was his 1,468th as a manager, leaving him just two victories short of Hall-of-Fame manager Earl Weaver. His .537 winning percentage ranks 25th among men with 1000+ wins, right between Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre. His coming eighth playoff appearance will move him into a tie for seventh-most all time. He’s one of just 23 men to win two World Series titles, if the Indians return to the Series, it will be Francona’s fourth, good for 15th all time, and if they win, it’d tie him for sixth all time with three rings.

Yes, after a miserable start to his managerial career in Philadelphia, Franconca’s been lucky to steer some very talented teams, first the Red Sox, and then the Indians. But he’s gotten the most out of his guys, the only black mark on his record being Boston’s historic collapse in 2011, when they went 7-20 in September to blow a 9-game lead in the Wild Card race and miss the postseason. But the bulk of the blame surely belongs to the fried-chicken-and-beer pitching staff that had a 5.84 ERA in the final month of the season. But Francona also led the Sox to the greatest comeback in baseball playoff history while at the same time ending the team’s epic title drought.

The Indians have two of the AL’s best starting pitchers in Cy Young-in-waiting Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, a potent lineup powered by Jose Ramirez, their run differential of 207 is the best in the game by 49, and at the helm is a future Hall-of-Famer in Terry Francona.



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