Let's Do This, Cleveland

Apr 3 2017
Jason Kipnis
Cleveland Indians
Apr 3 2017

My body shut down after we lost Game 7 of the World Series.


It was a physical thing. I just kind of got sick. I actually had to wake up that next morning after we lost and head back over to the field to have a fluids IV put in.

But even before that, things had started happening so fast after the game ended that it was tough not to be a little thrown off by it all. You hear about what it might be like after a World Series–deciding Game 7 from players who have experienced it before. And you think you understand what they’re saying at the time, but when you lose Game 7 of the World Series, at home, after being up three games to one, there’s a lot to process.

Going into that game, you know it will be the last one of the year no matter what, so there’s no taking it easy. You leave it all out there on the field. You exhaust every last bit of energy and willpower you have.

And then … you lose.

When you walk back into the clubhouse, you’re just so emotionally and physically spent. And almost immediately there are people telling you that you have five minutes to get your act together before the media arrives.

Five minutes. Five.

At the time, I distinctly remember thinking, How am I possibly supposed to do this? But that obligation comes with being a professional. So you decompress as fast as you can and take a second to think about what you might want to say to get your words right.

And before you know it … you’re giving an interview while your mind is still trying to process the whole situation.

But everything moves so fast, and things begin to overlap. While I was answering the first few media questions shouted my way, I remember doing my best to give my responses, but my mind was somewhere else.

I was thinking, Holy crap, I can’t believe we just did that. I can’t believe that we had a 3–1 lead in the World Series and we didn’t win.

Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune

It probably sounds weird, but I almost feel like my body knew I was in the World Series last November, and as soon as there were no more games left it just kind of collapsed on me. I had these crazy stomach pains that started the morning after Game 7 and wouldn’t go away, so that’s when I headed back over to the field for the IV. I also became sick the following few days as well.


And, you know, that’s just the physical side of it.

After a series like that, you need to kind of take some time to mentally regroup — just for your own sanity. While you’re trying to do that, though, you can’t help but think back and second-guess certain things. You think, What if I would’ve hit that one pitch that I let pass? Or, What if I had shifted a step or two more to the left?

It’s tough to get your mind off it, in all honesty. And everywhere you go, you’re reminded of that series, which makes it even tougher to get back to normal.

It also doesn’t help when you were born and raised in the city of the team that just cost you a world championship.

Chicago’s my hometown.

It’s where I live when I’m not playing baseball.

So, yeah, tough break.

People would joke with me, saying, “Admit it, you’re kinda happy the Cubs won!”

Are you out of your damn mind?

Be that as it may, there was no way I was going to head back there right away. Are you kidding me!

For those first few days, I holed up at my town house in Cleveland and just laid low in the man cave. It’d be: movie, TV, order food, movie, movie, movie, order food, TV. There was no way I was watching sports. I didn’t leave that room except to go to the bathroom and to grab my meals.

When I finally did head back to Chicago, it was different. In past years, I’d go out and have fun on the weekends — meet up with friends, have dinner, maybe hit a bar. This offseason, I just couldn’t do it. I knew I was gonna see that blue W everywhere, and now that I’m a little more recognizable, it was a given that I would have to deal with hecklers.

I knew I didn’t need some drunk idiot coming up to me and talking s*** about something he watched on TV when he doesn’t understand how much that series meant to me … how much I had put into trying to win it all.

No thanks.

I think I went out maybe three or four times all offseason.

And when I did, or when I was on social media, or at the gym, it seemed like the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was how we lost after being up 3–1.

As much as you prepare yourself for that, and plan out in your head how you’re going to handle it, sometimes it just doesn’t happen the way you think it will.

After I had been home for about a week, I needed to fly out of O’Hare on a super early flight, and this guy at the airport screamed at me, “Go, Cubs, Go!” It wasn’t a big deal, really. But I’m not a morning person, and it was 6 a.m. You’re not gonna get my PC response to say the least. Nor is that guy going to get an apology from me.

I just didn’t handle it well. I think I may have cursed at him. I’m not proud of that, but I’m a human being. You know? And that was my response at the time.

After it happened, I was like, If that’s how you’re gonna handle it, it’s probably better just to avoid people altogether.

So I went out a few times during the winter with family and good friends — who were always super supportive and showed me love — but that was pretty much it. Other than that, I kept to myself a lot this offseason. And, of course, when I was alone I found myself constantly thinking about what had happened in that series.

If I’m being honest, there is something different about being up 3–1 in a series. Usually players don’t want to talk about this, but there’s something there.

Jason Kipnis

As thousands and thousands of “super intelligent and highly respected” Internet trolls have reminded me during the past six months, my team blew a 3–1 lead in the World Series and lost Game 7 at home.

At this point, “3–1” is thrown around like some sort of punch line, but if I’m being honest, there is something different about being up 3–1 in a series. Usually players don’t want to talk about this, but there’s something there.

Until that point, you’re so locked into playing each individual game and winning as many of the early ones as possible, that there’s really not too much distraction. You’re just kind of grinding, and keeping your head down, and doing your job.

But after you go up 3–1, it’s just … different.

To some extent, I almost feel like we thought, Oh my God, we have three chances to win one last game. Three chances! This is awesome!

When you go up 3–1, I think that’s the first time when you start to actually kind of come up for air and think, like, Holy crap, we might actually do this! So there was some of that. I could try to pretend there wasn’t, but I’m just being honest. We aren’t robots. We’re human beings, and I think it’s human nature to sometimes start looking ahead at the big picture.

I mean, come on … how could you not get at least a little bit excited in that way being up 3–1? How could you not start thinking about what might be?

I don’t think it changed the way we played. We knew that last win was going to be the hardest one to get. We didn’t coast. We didn’t get careless. And we definitely didn’t talk about it with each other — we’re just like the fans when it comes to worrying about jinxing things. We continued to fight as hard as we could. It just didn’t break right for us.

And, by the way, if you ask me … it wasn’t due to some 17-minute rain delay. Because of how the game turned out, there’s been so much discussion about what those guys in the other clubhouse did during that time. But in our case there was no big team meeting where we said we loved each other or anything like that. Maybe we should have, who knows.

I mean, credit to them if that’s what they needed, because they got it done in the end. But for us, guys were still just running off the momentum that had shifted in our favor after Rajai’s home run. So our players were taking swings in the cages, stretching, staying loose — just doing what you normally do during any rain delay.

We felt like the game had swung in our favor at that point. And, sure, when you look back at it now, that break in the action definitely cost us momentum. It seemed like after Chapman gave up that bomb, they were kind of in shock. Maybe they were back on their heels a little bit, and I’ve seen it happen to teams that I’ve been on. You’re almost in so much shock that you’re numb the rest of the way, expecting to lose. We knew Game 7 would be a reason enough for them to stay in it, though.

It certainly wasn’t a great break for us. But we had our shot to win it just like they did.

It didn’t work out for us. But, you know, that’s all in the past now.

And thinking about the past isn’t going to help us bring a world title to Cleveland this season.

I feel like this team is really just getting started.

It’d be one thing to lose a World Series like that with a team of mostly older guys or players who were about to become free agents — kind of knowing that your window of opportunity is closing. But it’s different when you’re a younger team, or when you’re actually in the process of adding pieces for future seasons.

Make no mistake about it, as players, we’re never going to fully get over that loss. Everyone on that team is going to remember last year for as long as they live. But I do think it helps you to move forward when you know that there’s a bright future ahead.

And, believe me, Tito is making sure we’re looking forward. As soon as we all arrived in Arizona, he brought us together for a team meeting. The first thing he told us was how proud he was of the run we made last year.

“It proves that you guys have what it takes to win a world championship,” he said, before telling us to turn the page. “I don’t want to be a team that’s sitting around in the middle of June talking about how we let a World Series slip away from us last year.”

We’re all professionals. We got the message.

This is a new season. A new team.

And, to be honest … we’re a better team this year than we were last year.

The possibility of having a full, healthy lineup this season is really exciting to me. (I say that as I start out on the DL. *Sigh.) Getting Michael Brantley back, adding Edwin Encarnación, there just aren’t any easy outs on this team. Then you think about our rotation with a healthy Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, a drone-free Trevor Bauer … we have a team that could push some people around this year.

Now, of course, that means there are some expectations for this year. And you know what? Great! We wouldn’t want it any other way. We want to be mentioned among the best teams in the game. We invite that kind of pressure. And we’re going to do everything in our power to show the world that we belong with the big boys. But to take that next step and bring a World Series title back home to Cleveland, we’re going to need some serious help from Indians fans.

We saw a ton of blue shirts, and hats, and jerseys — especially during Game 7. And I’m not going to lie … it hurt a little bit.

Jason Kipnis

We’re a better team when our fans are behind us 100% — when Progressive Field is packed to the gills, and when that place is LOUD!

It’s as simple as that.

We feed off our fans. We rely on you guys to have our backs and to lift us up when we need a little something extra to get a W. When that stadium is vibrating and everyone’s out of their seats, screaming their heads off, we can feel that energy. And it makes a world of difference. Ask any athlete. The fans are the key ingredient to home field advantage!

But the opposite is true, too.

During the World Series last season, a lot of Cubs fans made it into our stadium.

A lot.

As players, we saw a ton of blue shirts, and hats, and jerseys — especially during Game 7. And I’m not going to lie … it hurt a little bit. When you get to a Game 7, you definitely want to have a really solid home field advantage. And for that last game, it almost seemed like it was 50-50.

Now, that kind of thing happens all across the country — especially when the Cubs are the opposition. And you’d expect die-hard fans of a team that hadn’t won the World Series in 108 years to buy up lots of tickets for the deciding game.

And don’t for a second think I’m trying to tell you how to spend your hard-earned money, or don’t get how important that money might have been to your family. You guys are absolutely in your rights to do that. I can’t even sit here and say I might not have done the same.

For the longest time, all I would hear about were the ’90s teams and the consecutive sellouts. Some of the older guys that I was fortunate to play with would tell me how much they hated coming to Cleveland as a visiting player because of how tough it was then. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. You guys came with it during the playoffs! And all I want is for us to get back there together. Let’s make sure that Progressive Field is the loudest stadium in the league this season from the home opener on. Let’s make it impossible for fans of other teams to infiltrate our place. Every time an opposing team comes to Progressive, I want them to know they’re a long way from home!

And let’s do big things this year together!

The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. That’s a long time to wait. It’s too long. I have old-timers coming up to me all the time telling me how much it would mean to them if we could win it all. And as someone who was around for some lean years early on in his career, I’d love nothing more than to help make that happen — for us to be the team that brings joy to all the fans who have been waiting decades to celebrate a world championship on the shores of Lake Erie.

I’m hoping all of Cleveland feels the same way, and is ready to make a run at history this year … starting today. Don’t wait until September, or the playoffs. Come along for the ride from the very beginning.

I promise you … if we do what I think we can do this season, it will be all the more sweet to look back on and tell your grandkids about if you were a part of this thing from Day One.

Because when it happens, and it will happen one day, I don’t want to say the Indians did it. I want to say Cleveland did.

Jason Kipnis
Cleveland Indians