There are a few different terms used to discuss the progress of a baseball team from rebuilding to dynasty. Generally a team will go from rebuilding, where they will sign young players and work in the minor league system for the future, to a veteran team, just on the edge of the play-offs. After this, lucky teams will hit a peak where they will go deep into the play-offs for a few years. Finally, a team can gradually fade off or push the button and blow everything up in preparation for another rebuild. With a short entrance into the 2013 play-offs, the Cleveland Indians are into the veteran stage and nearing their peak.
The Indians are currently in their fifth revolution since 1975, each time having it's highs and lows. Here's a handy chart to show the cyclical nature of baseball success.
The chart is based around winning percent, but also included are the points in time when the overall feel of the team changed from rebuilding to a mostly veteran team to their peak. Also included are the major explosion events with the major players jettisoned listed.
Interestingly enough, the Indians have had almost exactly a decade for each era and are currently in the fourth year of the common era (that really started mid-season in 2009 when Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta all were traded). While the addition of other team's veterans (Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn) helped move the Indians to the next level, the real advancement had more to do with the development of internal players like Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis. Each of these players is just beginning to enter their prime and will be under team control for years to come.
While it may be disappointing that the Indians lost their only play-off game to Tampa Bay, the fact that next year's roster will look very similar to the past season, only better, should give the Indians a lot of confidence going into 2014. Of course, things can go either way as shown by the big disappointment in the late 1980's (especially 1987) and the success in 1999 and 2001 when the team was far past it's prime.
One big positive about the current team is that the success is occurring much earlier in the cycle than in previous years. Since players like Justin Masterson, Kipnis and Brantley are still in arbitration, there are at least a few more years where these players are guaranteed to stay around. If the Indians decide to go the route they did in the 1990's and sign these players long term, this could be one of the longest and most successful eras in team history. Even with the powerful 90's teams, it took until five years after the acquisition of Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar and Carlos Baerga to make the play-offs. This time, it took just three years after the demolishing that destroyed everything Mark Shapiro and Eric Wedge had built together to get back to the biggest stage.
While there are no guarantees that this Indians team will ever get back to the play-offs, the window is open. This particular window looks like it should be open at least until 2017, when Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall will be entering their final year of arbitration and Santana, Bourn and Swisher's contracts will run out. Contract extensions and future signings to extend the window, while trades could shut it, as has happened the last three times around. The time is now for the Indians to end their 65 year streak and finally win their first World Series since 1948.