|CLEVELAND -- After falling short of the playoffs by one game in 2000, the
Indians rebounded in 2001 to take back the American League Central Crown,
which has been theirs for six of the last seven years.
With the many Division titles has come an abundance of postseason
experience. Over 15 Indians on the postseason roster have already tasted
Only four current players (Kenny Lofton, Paul Shuey, Jim Thome, and Omar
Vizquel) played on the 1995 team that began the era of championships. In
that breakthrough season, the Indians dominated the AL by winning 100 games
and losing only 44. In the team's first playoff game since 1954, Tony Pena
hit a game-winning solo home run in the bottom of the 13th inning. The homer
set the tone as the Indians cruised to the AL pennant.
They faltered, however, when they ran into the Atlanta Braves' pitching
staff in the World Series. The Indians fell in six games, but they would be
back for more chances at the elusive ring.
In 1996, the Indians banged out 99 wins in the regular season, but were
stunned in the opening round of the playoffs, losing to the Baltimore
Orioles in four games. Orioles second-baseman and current Indian Roberto
Alomar hit a 12th-inning home run at Jacobs Field to eliminate the reigning
The 1997 campaign saw a letdown in the regular season, but overachievement
in the postseason. The Tribe lost slugger Albert Belle to free agency, and
traded Lofton to the Braves for David Justice and Marquis Grissom. The two
former Braves helped greatly in a memorable playoff push.
With a record of just 86-75, the Indians weren't expected to go far in the
October. But they shocked the defending World Series Champion New York
Yankees in the Division Series. They then knocked out the Orioles, who held
the best record in the AL, in six games. Free-agent pickup Tony Fernandez
hit a solo home run in the 11th inning to send the Indians to the World
Series. Grissom won the ALCS Most Valuable Player award.
The Indians faced the Florida Marlins in one of the more dramatic World
Series of the past decade. In the seventh game, the Tribe was one out away
from becoming World Champions, but the bullpen faltered and the Marlins
snuck out a victory in 11 innings.
The Indians haven't reached the World Series since. The postseason run in
1998 was cut short when they took on the unstoppable record-setting New York
Yankees, who won 114 games.
In 1999, the Indians jumped out to a 2-0 series lead over the Boston Red
Sox, but the pitching crumbled and they lost the final three games.
Manager Charlie Manuel took over in 2000 season and was faced with a
mile-long list of injuries. Despite a strong September push, October
couldn't be obtained.
Despite the lack of last season's postseason and a couple new faces on the
squad, the Indians have deep postseason experience.
Jim Thome, for instance, is third on the all-time postesason home run list
with 16. He has played in 10 postseason series and compiled a .538 slugging
percentage. He became the only player to hit two postseason grand slams in
1999, when he hit a fourth-inning grand slam off Boston's John Wasdin in
Game 2 of the ALDS.
Roberto Alomar has also played in 10 postseason series. Alomar, however, has
something Thome doesn't have -- World Series rings. Alomar won two World
Championships when he was with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993. He made the
playoffs with the Orioles in 1996 and 1997 before joining the Indians in
1999. He carries a lofty .325 average in the playoffs.
Omar Vizquel and Kenny Lofton have played in 10 and nine postseason series,
respectively. Neither, however, have been very productive in the postseason.
Vizquel holds a .238 average in the playoffs, while Lofton has batted .229.
Both players have made the highlight reels for their defense in the
playoffs, but the 2001 team will need both of them to be table setters.
First-year Indian Juan Gonzalez has been to the playoffs three times, all
with the Texas Rangers. In 1995, Gonzalez had a sensational playoff series.
He batted .437 with five homers and nine RBIs. But playoff pitching got to
him in the last two series, as he went a combined 3-for-23 in 1998 and
Another Indian newcomer, Ellis Burks, also brings playoff experience to the
team. However, he has yet to win a playoff series, losing all five in which
he has played. The losing hasn't been through any fault of his own -- he
holds a .270 playoff average with two homers and 10 RBIs.
The Indians pitching staff doesn't have nearly as much experience as the
offense does. Rookies C.C. Sabathia, Danys Baez and David Riske have been
integral parts of the staff. But some of the pitchers who have been part of
the staff for the last couple years have some experience.
Ace Bartolo Colon has made four postseason starts. He is 1-1 with a 4.18
ERA. The ERA is misleading because of one poor outing he had in 1999. Three
of his four outings have been strong, and one was a complete game victory
over the Yankees.
Veteran Dave Burba, who has struggled all season, will be making his sixth
postseason appearance. He has a very strong postseason record. He is 3-0
with a 2.25 ERA.
Reliever Paul Shuey has had mediocre success in the postseason. He either
has everything together, or he doesn't. In 1997 and 1998, he threw three
scoreless innings and 6 1/3 scoreless innings, respectively. But in 1996, he
had a 9.00 ERA in two innings, and in 1999 he had an 11.25 ERA in four
innings of work.
John Rocker has had a phenomenal postseason career. In 19 2/3 innings, he
has yet to give up a run. He has 25 strikeouts in his 19 appearances. He
played in six postseasons with the Braves.
Although Chuck Finley is a 38-year-old veteran, he has only been to the
postseason once: his rookie year. He threw two scoreless innings for the
California Angels in 1986.
John Benander is site manager of Indians.com.