Indians not ready to celebrate season yet

CLEVELAND – Sometime in the future, once the biting sting of defeat eases, the Cleveland Indians will look back on a 2007 season that began in falling snow and ended with a stunning collapse.

They’ll savor all the good moments.

Not just yet.

“Maybe in a week or so I’ll be able to reflect back and be like, ‘Wow, we had a pretty good season for a team that’s come a long way,'” Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia said. “But right now it still hurts.”

Yesterday, just hours after their October odyssey stopped one win shy of the World Series with a Game 7 loss in the AL championship series at Boston, the Indians gathered for the final time at Jacobs Field.

Silence replaced the usual laughter in the clubhouse, where teammates spent six months playing cards, dueling each other in video games and hanging out. The screech of packing tape was the prevailing sound.

But as they boxed up belongings and headed separate ways, the Indians, who won 96 games during the regular season, captured an AL Central title, knocked off the New York Yankees in the playoffs and pushed the Red Sox to the brink of elimination, reflected on progress and possibilities.

“We’ve got a lot of great young players,” first baseman Ryan Garko said. “We have a lot of kids. This is our first full season, myself included. We learned a lot about ourselves and what it’s like to play in the big leagues.

“We could be having games and seasons like that for a long time to come. Hopefully, we can keep getting back to the playoffs and Game 7s – and win a few.”

Looking for its first World Series trip since 1997, Cleveland was beaten 11-2 on Sunday night at throbbing Fenway Park, which swayed after the final out as some of the Red Sox danced an Irish jig in the infield.

The kick-in-the-gut ending could have been avoided. The Indians held a 3-1 series lead and had their top starters – Sabathia and Fausto Carmona – on the mound in Games 5 and 6. But the Indians’ aces folded under pressure, and went a combined 0-3 with a 12.56 ERA in the series.

Two of Cleveland’s biggest bats, DH Travis Hafner (.148) and center fielder Grady Sizemore (.222), fell silent, too. After hitting a homer in the first inning of Game 1, Hafner went 3-for-26, and struck out 10 times in one 16 at-bat stretch.