What If, Re-imagined

A few seasons ago, the Cleveland Indians moved through the season with the tagline, “What If?”. What if the team excelled to unexpected heights? What if they made it into the postseason? What if everything fell into place just right for a monster season?

Unfortunately, “What If” didn’t have the fairy tale ending that everyone had hoped for.

“What If”, however, seems to fit perfectly into the Indians’ current predicament. They have had a surprisingly strong end of the season and have played with a new energy in the second half (it seems, actually, they have had a new fire ever since Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn found their way to a new team). What if that energy had been there always? What if the team had played this way from the start of the season? There’s certainly a chance that they could be much closer to – or even have secured – a playoff spot than they are now.

What if Francisco Lindor had been called up sooner?

Lindor’s ascent to the Majors has been a talking point for Indians fans for a number of seasons now. It seemed to be common knowledge that his debut season would be this year, but the exact date of when he would appear was tossed around and hotly debated. He apparently had a lot of improving to do during Spring Training before he could possibly be ready for Major League play. His bat wasn’t all that hot in Columbus to start off the season, so he couldn’t possibly be promoted with that hanging over his head. He’s still young, he needs more time to develop, so his debut needs to wait.

Eventually, the reasoning turned into what seemed to be excuses. The team was struggling and needed something – anything – to get them back on top. When Lindor was called up, a switch didn’t flip right away, but his presence certainly did rejuvenate the team in some way. He has been strong in his Major League debut season, with a campaign that could easily award him Rookie of the Year status. He has an upbeat personality on the field, as well, which could inspire a more relaxed attitude amongst the team as a whole.

What if Lindor had made an appearance earlier in the season? Would there have been a quicker turnaround for the Tribe after their struggling first part of the season? Would the negative energy have been lifted at a different time? Would the Indians defense not have been a problem for so many games?

But the turnaround couldn’t all be attributed to an earlier Lindor call-up. What if Bourn and Swisher had been traded earlier?

There’s no doubt that Swisher’s attitude was the opposite of infectious. His constant bro-ing and cheerleader act, even during immense periods of poor play, did not act as a pick-me-up as much as it grated on the eyes and ears of those who witnessed it. With Swisher’s lack of production, his constant optimism was not only wearing, but appeared put-on. Bourn didn’t have the same attitudes as Swisher, but he certainly brought the same lack of production to the field. Their hefty contracts made them necessary to have on the field every day, but their performance levels were hardly of that caliber.

What if they had left sooner? Would the air in the clubhouse have changed as it did once they left at the beginning of August? Would the team have played with a newfound ease at an earlier time?

And what if Josh Tomlin had been named to the rotation earlier in the season when the Indians were cycling through Toru Murata and T.J. House? What if Trevor Bauer had moved to the bullpen after his first few struggles in a starting role?

What if the Indians had played the way they were now all season?

There will always be what ifs. For the Indians, though, the what ifs can almost turn into whens. The Indians are ending this season with more energy and a younger team than that which they started with, and that means that their 2016 core could be just as exciting as they are at the end of this season.

What if 2016 starts the way this season is ending?

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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