CLEVELAND — For the third consecutive year, the Indians watched another team celebrate on their field. Three postseason trips, and three times the Indians had to feel the pain of an unwanted ending.
The 2016 run to the World Series came with a bitter end, but it also featured a large dose of pride for a team that proved the baseball world wrong and pushed its limits to the very edge. Last year’s American League Division Series collapse to the New York Yankees was rife with disappointment and left a bad taste in the mouths of all those in the clubhouse.
This one was, more simply, over almost before it got started. The Houston Astros ran through the Indians in so many ways, sweeping them out of the postseason.
“They’re all different. They all hurt,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said on Wednesday. “We set out to start the year to try and win the World Series, and that didn’t happen. And so regardless of how that comes to an end, it’s painful, and this year is no different. It hurts a lot.”
“It’s always abrupt, too,” general manager Mike Chernoff added. “Even in Game 7 in the World Series it felt abrupt when you’re just going as fast as you can and as hard as you can and it just ends. That’s part of what is so painful about it.”
The Indians were left with a quiet clubhouse and a lot of packing to do as the Astros advanced to the American League Championship Series to play the Boston Red Sox. There exists a great deal of frustration in another year in which they didn’t get it done. But as the club holds exit meetings with players, time is needed before any decisions are made. Deciding someone’s future within a cloud of disappointment can be counterproductive.
“You know, it’s hard to compare [the last three postseason exits] because what’s fresh always seems like the most,” manager Terry Francona said. “Like Chris said, when you set out for a goal and you come up short, it stings. So you have emotion for a while and that goes away after a little bit and then you try to get a perspective of, ‘Where are we? Legitimately what can we do better?’ Because if you make decisions when you’re emotional, then you blow the whole place up, and that’s not healthy.”
In many ways, the Indians were overpowered by the defending World Series champions. The lineup hit .144 (13-for-90) in the series, as Astros starters Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel — three current or former Cy Young-caliber pitchers — mowed through one of the best lineups in the American League.
Indians ace Corey Kluber, meanwhile, was roughed up in Game 1. Andrew Miller and Trevor Bauer were knocked around for key hits in Game 3. Jose Ramirez was silenced at the plate. And thanks to a few self-inflicted miscues by the Indians, the Astros poured it on in Game 3, leaving a previously raucous Progressive Field sounding like a library in the later innings.
What’s left, then, is a proverbial punch to the gut and a long winter of tough decisions.
“It’s really important to separate the feelings from the process,” Antonetti said. “The feelings hurt a lot. It’s disappointment, it’s frustration, it’s a lot of things. But what we need to do and what we always do is we always reflect back organizationally and think about what were the things within our control and what can we do better."
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.