I've been thinking about starting this thread for a long time but just haven't gotten around to it until now.
Being a lifelong Cleveland sports fan, I (we) probably have more "what ifs" than most sports fans, but I'd like to list some of them. I'm not going to list them all at once, but one at a time as they occur to me. The purpose isn't to start fights with the fans of the other teams involved, only to explore the possibilities of what may have happened if circumstances had been slightly different. Please feel free to discuss my "what ifs" or to state your own.
Let's go back to game 7 of the 2007 ALCS. The Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox were tied at three games each with the winner headed to the World Series to face the Colorado Rockies. It was the seventh inning and Boston led 3-2. Kenny Lofton, still one of the fastest and most savvy base runners in the game despite being 40 years old, was on second base. The batter hit a ball to short left field, which took a funny carom off of the left field stands. Manny Ramirez, playing left field, displayed his usual "hustle" as he jogged slowly after the ball. Kenny Lofton, who had left second base on contact, was already a third of the way down the line toward home plate and a 3-3 tie when third base coach, Joel Skinner, practically tackled Lofton in order to hold him at third base. (Yes, I'm exaggerating but not by much.) Lofton could have scored on that play running backwards with his eyes closed. God only knows why Skinner felt it necessary to hold Lofton at third, but he did. The end result was that Cleveland failed to score that inning and went on to lose the game 11-2.
I know most people will look at the final score and figure that one run wouldn't have made a difference. I disagree. Cleveland had blown a 3-1 series lead as Boston had won games 5 and 6 to tie the series at 3-3. Both games were blow-outs by Boston. But in the middle innings of game 7, the Indians had finally swung the momentum their way. When they started a mini-rally in the seventh, you could feel the emotion in the dugout as the Indians players began to believe that they could pull off the comeback win. When Skinner held Lofton up at third base, you could visibly see the air let out of the Indians players. The entire team had assumed that Lofton would score to tie the game and they still had chances to score more runs. After the inning ended without the Indians scoring, all of the emotion and momentum was drained from the team. Boston went on to score 8 runs in the final two innings to win the game 11-2.
Had Lofton scored on that play, at the very least, the ballgame is tied with the momentum belonging to the Indians. There was a very good likelihood that they could have scored more runs that inning. The Red Sox would have gone from playing ahead to playing even or possibly from behind, which would have changed everything. The Indians pitchers and players would have been pumped up. Instead, they had a huge letdown and the Red Sox crushed them in those final two innings.
I'm totally convinced that if Lofton scores on that play, the Indians go on to win the game, the ALCS and the World Series. No one will ever convince me otherwise. Before Skinner's gaffe, The Indians went from a team that had blown a 3-1 series lead and had been blown out in games 5 and 6 to a team that had (potentially) battled back in game 7 on Boston's home turf. The momentum had finally swung their way and every player believed they were going to win game 7. After Skinner's gaffe, the entire team was totally deflated and defeated. I know it's not a good excuse; the players have to be able to shake something like that off and keep playing with the same intensity, regardless of the circumstances. But you could see that when they went out in the field in the bottom of the seventh inning, their fire was gone.
Then, to add insult to injury, we find out that the two players who did the most damage during those final three blowouts, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, had been cheating by using PEDs.