CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – 22 straight wins is unprecedented, at least in the American League. That much we know.
As the Cleveland Indians turn the page towards the post-season, the next step is something different entirely. Of the three teams other than the 2017 Tribe to win 20-straight since 1900, only the 1935 Chicago Cubs faced a similar post-streak predicament as the Indians.
How does a manager transition from a historic run of wins to managing a combination of rest and consistent playing time to effectively prepare a team for the playoffs? Terry Francona’s quandary in 2017 is in fact unprecedented.
The 2002 Oakland Athletics, winners of 20 straight, had 20 more games to prep for the playoffs following their streak. The A’s even found themselves tied for the AL West lead as late as game 152 of the season and did not clinch the division until September 27th, the date of game 160.
The 1916 New York Giants finished their streak in game one of a September 30th double-header against the Boston Braves, losing the second game and having already been eliminated from playoff contention. The Giants finished 4th in the National League, 11 games behind the Brooklyn Robins in a time when the winner from each league got the only postseasons berths.
That ’35 Cubs team finished their 21-game run, falling in the penultimate game of the season, while already up six games. Charlie Grimm opted to play all of his starters in the final game of the season.
Both the Cubs and A’s failed to win a playoff series in those years, something the Indians are obviously focused on avoiding, and always have valued more than a win streak.
With the streak in the rearview and the magic number at two, the Indians are the first team to come off of a massive streak with upwards of 10 games to play and virtually nothing to play for. The best record in the American League and in all of baseball are still on the table, but how much will Francona chase home field advantage?
With the first game post-streak, it seems as if Francona will err on the side of caution, announcing that MVP candidate Jose Ramirez will get Saturday off, and most likely Sunday as well. There is a slight hamstring issue with the infielder, but nothing that warrants extreme caution.
“I mean, you can tell by the way he’s playing. But I’d rather wipe it out completely,” Francona said. “So, there’s a chance he doesn’t play tomorrow either. We’ll see.”
The skipper called their streak ending loss on Friday ‘a jumping off point,’ potentially indicating that the push will continue, but likely indicating nothing at all. No manager ever wants to lose.
It would make sense for Francona to be extremely cautionary, especially at the rate he is losing defenders. With Michael Brantley already on the shelf for an increasing and indefinite amount, Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer each picked up re-aggravations of previous injuries since Thursday.
The team already has Greg Allen, a perfect prospect to groom and fill innings, and Jason Kipnis will have plenty of innings to play if he wants to get acclimated to center field before October.