For now, Bieber insists, he has not thought much about it.
“Not too much, honestly,” he said. “I like to keep things pretty simple. I try and never look behind me and always look forward. Baseball is a humbling sport, so as soon as you start thinking about accolades and this and that, I feel like it’s going to come and bite you.”
With the Indians, it is always best to take nothing for granted. The team has not won the World Series since 1948, the majors’ longest active stretch of futility. Cleveland’s best teams — the 1990s juggernaut that won five division titles and two A.L. pennants — could have used a pitcher like Bieber.
“We didn’t have guys over and over like Kluber and Bieber and Clevinger and Bauer; we had to fight it out from 1 to 5,” said Alomar, the catcher for that team. “We didn’t have a No. 1 guy, per se, other than Charles Nagy when he was in his prime. We competed mostly with the bullpen, a few No. 3 or No. 2 starters, and a great offense.”
In the 1995 World Series, Alomar recalled, the Indians had the majors’ best offense, and the Atlanta Braves had the majors’ best pitching staff. The Braves won in six games, suffocating the Cleveland hitters.
“It’s not a guarantee; you’ve got to score some runs, too,” Alomar said. “But it’s always good to have a great pitching staff on your side when you go to the postseason.”
These Indians often struggle to score, but they will take their chances this fall with a pitching staff that has a 3.25 E.R.A., second lowest in the majors (trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers, at 2.98) through Thursday. If Bieber starts the opener of the new best-of-three first-round series, he could easily push a team to the brink of elimination.