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Issue Date: April 2013

Game Changer

Steve Gleydura

I have always been a bit superstitious — not Bud Light commercial crazy, but beyond lucky shirt nuts. Maybe it's because I played baseball for almost half my life or maybe it's because I've been a Cleveland fan for all of it that I look for any little extra luck from the baseball gods or whoever's holding the city's sports voodoo doll.

So I vividly remember the sinking feeling back in 2007 after the Indians had taken a 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series against Terry Francona's Boston Red Sox. I was driving home on the off-day before Game 5, and Mike Trivisonno declared on his radio show that the Indians were headed to the World Series. It was the karmic equivalent of packing up the equipment before the last out, from someone who knows Cleveland's jinxed sports history better than most.

Of course, I'm not so deranged to suggest it's the reason the Indians lost the series. But Boston outscored the Tribe 30-5 in the next three games and went on to sweep the Colorado Rockies for their second World Series Championship under Francona.

No, what actually altered the outcome of the ALCS was Francona's decision to stick with his normal pitching rotation, even when most of New England wanted him to throw it overboard like a modern day tea party. Instead, Francona relied on a lifetime of baseball experience that included tagging along to major league clubhouses with his father, Tito, and a once-promising career of his own.

"That was [Terry] at his best," recalls John Farrell, in Francona's recent book Francona: The Red Sox Years. (Farrell was Francona's teammate with the Indians in 1988 and a Red Sox coach during that 2007 season.) "He believes in a natural cycle to the game, and he really took exception when there was talk about changes in the rotation."

So when Francona signed on as manager of the Indians last fall, the mood began to shift among Tribe faithful. The rational fan loves Francona's pedigree, his baseball knowledge, his ability to attract players. The superstitious among us believe that if Francona was able to lift the Curse of the Bambino and deliver Boston's first championship since 1918, there might be a little good fortune left for us.

Either way, here's hoping it's enough to erase the bad vibes left over from that time.

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