Once the champagne and beer dried and the celebration of winning a division title few thought they could win subsided, the Guardians made their way back to Cleveland and were greeted at the airport by a crowd of fans.
The division was won. The first accomplishment completed. But the Guardians went on such a torrid run through September, winning 18 in a 21-game stretch that left the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins lapped, that the entire nine-game homestand to close the season became meaningless.
The Guardians now have nine games with nothing to play for, nothing on the line. Along the way, a youthful roster will slowly get its first taste of a national media stage as the postseason draws near. The Guardians can spend the next nine games giving players a rest and lining up their pitching for Games 1, 2 and 3 of the Wild Card Series, which is set to begin Oct. 7. The Guardians will likely play either the Seattle Mariners or Tampa Bay Rays.
With a young team about to embark on a new journey to the game's biggest stage, manager Terry Francona held a team meeting to ensure everyone's on the same page.
"It was more kind of almost housekeeping," Francona said. "Just want to make sure there are some things we talked about that maybe they weren't expecting. … I'll grab guys more one-on-oneish."
One idea is to remain grounded.
"That's why we met today a little bit, just to remind them of who we are and because there's going to be some more media than we've had in the past, maybe national media," Francona said. "And good, they deserve that. Just don't want them to forget who we are and how we do things. That's why we're here. If they've made it through 153 games, I think they're going to be OK."
The Guardians will be able to balance some rest for some regulars, like they did with All-Star second baseman Andres Gimenez Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays. But for those who do play, Francona's message is that they need to play as they have leading up to this point — no letting off the gas heading into Game 1 on Oct. 7.
"Just thought it would be good for [Gimenez] to hit in the cage. … We have the luxury of doing that,'" Francona said. "But saying that, whoever plays, we're going to play the way we play. It's not like 70 percent. We're going to make sure we line up our bullpen the best we can. But when you play, you play."
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read more about the Guardians at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/cleveland-guardians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Guardians hold team meeting after clinching 2022 AL Central title