The blog title is tongue in cheek. I know, as a Cleveland Indians fan, that I’m not necessarily supposed to have an affinity toward Mike Hargrove, a former player and manager with the Tribe.
Yes, he was at the helm of Cleveland for two World Series losses, in 1995 and 1997. But do you know how many managers preceding Hargrove didn’t even reach the postseason? Hold on while I check baseballreference.com.
OK, I found it. The previous 21 Indians managers failed to reach the postseason, dating back to 1954, when Al Lopez skippered the Tribe to a World Series — loss. Some common themes for Cleveland sports are losing, heartbreak and despair. You know your city has it rough when another team has plays that have become so famous that they have names. Think John Elway’s “The Drive” and MJ’s “The Shot.” Both happened against Cleveland teams.
But Hargrove ushered in the glory years of Indians baseball and managed the early- and mid-1990s teams that were responsible for my being an Indians fan in the first place. He guided Cleveland to the postseason five years in a row before being fired after a 97-win season when general manager John Hart got tired of putting together the best team in baseball and seeing it fail in the playoffs.
So even though Hargrove’s teams are accountable for my first two heartbreaking experiences as a sports fan, I’ve let go of any hard feelings toward him. And to be honest, I don’t put those World Series losses on Hargrove, anyway. I put them on Jose Mesa. Both of them, even though he had nothing to do with the 1995 defeat. But “Joe Table” is so hated in Cleveland that I think I’m allowed to blame him for pretty much anything. It was his fault the Indians lost in the ALCS last year, too.
I saw Mesa in the Phillies clubhouse last year in Atlanta and I almost …. OK, I probably shouldn’t finish that sentence.
But I’m burying the lead a little bit here. Hargrove and his Liberal Bee Jays debut tonight at the National Baseball Congress World Series and I’m covering their game against defending champion Havasu tonight at 7:30. So I’ll be interviewing him, and I’m looking forward to it. Yes, it will be difficult to resist chatting him up about the Indians, but I think he’s probably over all of that.
And I am, too. At least for tonight. Wouldn’t want to make a scene.