CLEVELAND – The Indians made some extraordinary runs in the 1990s and 2010s. The club has two world championships, six American League pennants and 10 AL Central division titles. So, what seasons stand out as the best? Let’s take a look:
It’s not one of the two years the Tribe ended with a World Series victory, but it was a season that still holds a record today. No other team has posted a higher winning percentage (.721) than the Indians did in ’54. It was a team led by Larry Doby, Al Rosen, Bobby Avila, Bob Lemon and Bob Feller. After Cleveland secured the AL pennant, besting the Yankees’ 103-win season, the club was swept in the World Series by the Giants. But that certainly doesn’t take away from the regular-season efforts.
Forty years had gone by since the Indians last clinched a postseason berth. It was their second 100-win season at the time (they now have three) in franchise history, along with 1954. The club also posted its second-best winning percentage (.694) that season, trailing just the ’54 team. The Tribe finally got a taste of playoff baseball once again and made it all the way to Game 6 of the World Series before falling just short of its ultimate goal to the Braves.
It’s impossible for this list to be complete without the first championship season. Players like Tris Speaker (who was also the manager) and Stan Coveleski helped lead the Tribe to its first World Series victory in franchise history. Ray Chapman played a vital role on the roster until he died later in the season after being hit by a pitch in August. Cleveland finished two games ahead of the White Sox in the regular season before defeating the Brooklyn Robins in the World Series.
While we’re talking about championships, let’s throw the Tribe’s second -- and most recent -- World Series victory season on the list. Lemon threw a no-hitter in June and Negro Leagues star Satchel Paige provided a boost to the pitching staff when he was signed later in the year and owned a 2.48 ERA in 21 regular season games (seven starts). Cleveland defeated the Boston Braves in six games to become World Series Champions for the second time.
Just reading that year may cause some fans’ stomachs to still sink. But nobody expected the Indians to do what they did in 2016. The team didn’t win the most games in club history, but it was the Tribe’s first division title since 2007, following a season in which it came in third place, 13.5 games out of first. It was the first full season for shortstop Francisco Lindor and a key pickup of reliever Andrew Miller at the Trade Deadline took the bullpen to the next level. Cleveland went all the way to Game 7 of the World Series before falling just short in an extra-innings loss to the Cubs after Rajai Davis provided the electric game-tying homer in the eighth.
2017: Coming off the high of the 2016 season, the Indians won the second-most games in franchise history (102-60). The team’s .630 winning percentage still stands as Terry Francona’s best as the manager of the Tribe. But the Indians were eliminated from the postseason after losing to the Yankees in five games in the AL Division Series.
1996: The Indians came just shy of what would’ve been the fourth 100-win season in franchise history. Led by Jim Thome, the Tribe followed its stellar performance in ’95 with a first-place finish in the division (99-62) once again. But this time, Cleveland came up a little shorter in its postseason run, dropping the ALDS to the Orioles in four games.