The times that try Tribe fan’s souls

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It’s one thing to have your heart ripped out by your favorite sports team. But to lose your soul …

That’s exactly what will happen tonight when Cleveland fans watch CC Sabathia pitch against Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the World Series — if they dare. You know who they’ll each be pitching for. (Hint: It’s not the Indians.) Just two years ago they were both ours, on the cusp of winning Cy Young awards and heralding a bright future for the Tribe. Now it’s just one long, dark winter.

We used to have both those guys. Now we have Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Jason Knapp. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh.

Sabathia went 19-7 for the Indians in 2007, pitching a league-leading 241 innings while posting a 3.21 ERA. He won the Cy Young. Then he lost Game 5 of the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox when the Indians had a chance to clinch the pennant. Sabathia won only six more games in an Indians uniform. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on July 7, 2008 for LaPorta, Brantley, Bryson, and the since-departed Zach Jackson. Then he (of course) signed with the Yankees for the 2009 season.

Lee, meanwhile, was an Indians for barely another year. The Tribe traded him to the Phillies on July 29 of this year, receiving Carrasco, Marson, Donald, and Knapp. Fans are still howling.

Sabathia was a foregone conclusion to leave. His contract was up at the end of 2007. The Indians weren’t going to be in on the bidding. They had missed their chance years earlier when they chose to give the money Sabathia would have commanded to Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner. Once Sabathia hit free agency, his marriage to the Yankees was inevitable. His seven-year, $161 million contract was the richest ever signed by a pitcher. It’s the Yankee way. It will be heartbreaking to see Sabathia in Yankee pinstripes for Game 1 of the World Series.

Watching Cliff Lee oppose him, though, will be soul-sucking. It didn’t have to be this way. The Indians didn’t have to trade Lee. The 2008 Cy Young winner (22-3, 2.54 ERA) was under contract via a 2010 club option for a very reasonable $8 million. You might as well have asked Indians owner Larry Dolan to pick up Terminal Tower with his bare hands and carry it to Euclid. The Indians traded Lee (and Victor Martinez), didn’t call it payroll shedding, and marched to a tie with the Royals for the worst record in the American League.

When the Yankees finished off the Angels in Game 6 of the ALCS Sunday night it put Sabathia’s name on the marquee across from Lee for tonight’s game. For Cleveland fans, it was like receiving an invitation to you ex-fiance’s wedding. Do Tribe fans REALLY want to subject themselves to this?

Let’s face it, if someone told an Indians fan at the beginning of the season that Cliff Lee would be pitching in Game 1 of the World Series, the reaction would have been, “For what team?” Now we know the answer: The Phillies. Against CC Sabathia and the Yankees. These are the times that Tribe fan’s souls are extinguished.

——

Lorain Morning Journal Tribe beat writer Jim Ingraham thinks Cleveland fans have suffered enough.

Indians GM Mark Shapiro is one part excited and one part bitter.

Cleveland.com offers fans a chance to vote on who they will root for, who they believe will win, and whether they’d prefer to poke their eyes out with a sharp stick.

Kevin Kernan of the New York Posts writes that it’s not easy for Indians fans to watch this World Series. Really, Kevin?

Rich Hoffman of the Philadelphia Daily News says it’s only Tribe fans who could hate Game 1’s pitching matchup.

Carl Willis tells Yahoo.com’s Tim Brown all about Sabathia’s ascent.

CBSSports.com’s Scott Miller can see Cleveland cringe.

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