does this team seem to get the jitters and just miss the brass ring when it comes close? The classic case was 2005. Now, I forget the particulars but the Tribe had played itself back into clear contention with 7 games to go. What did we have to win...two of those games? Three? We win one and get swept by the Chisox.
Last year, of course, was a complete disaster but one can argue that it was a season-long version of what I'm talking about...good hitting, good pitching, a bullpen expected to do reasonably well...but it didn't.
This year seems more of the same. We lose series to the likes of Cinci and the Nats, a time when we're supposed to be putting a little daylight between us and the rest of the pack. We make a comeback against a good Oakland team and a bumbling bunch of D-Rays. We're back in it. Three games against our recent archrival. First game, fine. Second game, an honorable loss. Rubber game, our best against, their best. Just what baseball is all about. Except our best don't bother to show up and we lose a laugher. Whatever the stats say and whatever place we're in, it just solidifies the view that this team is going to trip over it's laces in games that matter. I know, I know...they all matter and it's just one game of 162. But it wasn't just any game. It was supposed to be the zenith of good baseball, mano a mano, nose to nose, two heavyweights punching it out to get a lead after that round. And we crept out of the ring, whipped like a stray pup.
A chance to make it up against a mediocre Jays squad. Except we go into the break scoring no runs off of...who was that again?
I know..."the sky is falling" theme gets old but I think this team begets it. The team seems to play just well enough to be in the race (when it plays well at all) but never well enough to break the tape. Those of us who follow the team know that we've got some positions players and certainly some RP's and SP's that are as good as any we had in the '90's. But the typical fan is only aware of a team that is always just falling short (again, when it isn't miserable).
I think that, if we had taken two of three of each of the last two series, the park would be full for the first games after the break. And there's no particular reason why we shouldn't have. We were playing good ball. As it is, I think there will continue to be lots of fans disguised as empty seats.
The question often gets asked, "What does this team have to do to get the fans out?" They gotta show more grit and win when the spotlight is on them. Win when it's crunch time. Give us the idea that they can get the job done. Right now, I don't think the everyday fan has that notion.