Tribe Bullpen Will Need Revamping

One of the strengths of the Cleveland Indians the past several years has been their bullpen, but right now it could have a revamped look in 2018.

Sure, the back end of the relief corps is still anchored by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, which means the 8th and 9th innings are taken care of.

The problem right now is the bridge between the starting pitchers and that dynamic duo for the last two innings.

Terry Francona has lost one of his main guys in rubberarmed Bryan Shaw, and another reliever who came aboard at the trade deadline a year ago, Joe Smith, will also not be back.

On a lesser note, Shawn Armstrong, who was kind of the swing guy between the big leagues and AAA a year ago, was traded to Seattle.

Francona said at the end of last season that it may take two pitchers to take the place of Shaw, who appeared in an American League leading 79 games in ’17, and has led the AL in games pitched in three of the last four seasons.

It is hard to see the replacements for Shaw and Smith on the current roster.

Nick Goody, picked up in a minor deal with the Yankees about a year ago, is probably the next hurler on Tito’s pecking order.  Goody was 1-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 54-2/3 innings in 2017.  He did strikeout 72 hitters last year, so he has swing and miss stuff.

Dan Otero is a guy Francona leans on early in games, so perhaps he could used in the 6th and 7th innings.  The righty was 3-0 with a 2.85 ERA in ’17, but he is more of a sinkerballer with only 38 whiffs in 60 innings.

Zack McAllister is another option, but Francona seems to be hesitant to use him in high leverage situations because he’s basically a one pitch pitcher.

Perhaps Danny Salazar, with his electric stuff and durability issues, can be moved to the bullpen, but no one knows how his arm will react to this change in roles, and can he be effective over the long haul.

There doesn’t seem to be any in the minor leagues ready to step in and contribute either, but then again, no one saw Goody as a legitimate option heading into spring training.

We are sure the front office is looking at either a deal or free agent options for the ‘pen too.

Since the current management team has been in place, the Tribe has found guys like Scott Atchison, Otero, and Goody in free agency or in minor deals, and they have provided great help in relief.

We mentioned former Indians’ farmhand Hector Rondon previously as an option. He had closer experience with the Cubs.

However, until the replacements have success when the games count for real in April, you have to wonder about them.

And you have to wonder if and when they gain Tito’s trust.  The skipper has a clear pecking order in his bullpen with certain guys pitching when the Tribe has a late lead, and the rest being relegated to pitching when the Indians are behind.

Based on the performance of the front office over the past five seasons, we have trust they will find arms to replace Shaw and Smith.

But there will certainly be a different dynamic in the Cleveland bullpen next season.  New relief toys for Terry Francona.

MW

 

 

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Tribe Gets Through August Challenge With Flying Colors.

The Cleveland Indians entered the month of August facing a stern test.

The schedule was full of post-season contenders, with home and home series with the Red Sox and Yankees, an 11 game trip to Tampa, Minneapolis, and Kansas City, and a couple of game vs. Colorado.

They started the month 10 games over .500, and they ended it 20 over the break even mark thanks to a 19-9 month.

What is more remarkable is Terry Francona’s squad had several important players missing time with injuries.

Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Andrew Miller all missed most of this important stretch of games with injuries.  And yet, the Tribe rolled on.

They did it first and foremost with incredible pitching, mostly from the starting rotation.

After allowing 12 runs to the Red Sox on August 1st, in what should be the Major League Baseball game of the year, gave up more than four runs in a game just five times the rest of the month.

Three of those games came consecutively in home series vs. Boston, and Cleveland won the last of those games, a 13-6 win over Sox ace Chris Sale, a day after the Tribe went through a two game stretch where the offense couldn’t buy a hit.

The staff had a streak of 30 straight scoreless innings, which ironically ended with ace Corey Kluber on the mound.

Despite all the injuries, the offense pitched in too, scoring five or more runs in half of the 28 games.

The hitting was revitalized with the addition of Jay Bruce, acquired from the Mets.  Upon arrival, Bruce hit in his first 11 starts, contributing four home runs and 13 runs batted in.

The injuries to Brantley and Chisenhall necessitated the deal, and give the front office and ownership a gold star for seeing the club needed a boost.

Depth in the farm system paid dividends with Giovanny Urshela, Erik Gonzalez, and Yandy Diaz contributing to the Indians’ success.

Among the position players, these are the standouts–

Carlos Santana:  997 OPS, 7 HR, 15 RBI
Edwin Encarnacion:  Batted just .220 for the month, but belted 10 homers
Francisco Lindor:  9 HR, 17 RBI
Diaz:  8 for 20, 5 RBI

Pitching wise, there are more exceptional statistics–

Kluber:  5-1, 1.96 ERA, .146 batting average against
Trevor Bauer:  5-0, 2.31 ERA, 44 strikeouts in 39 innings
Ryan Merritt:  2-0, 1.15 ERA
Joe Smith:  9 appearances, 8 of them scoreless
Tyler Olson:  8-2/3 scoreless innings

What does this period of great play mean for Francona’s club?

When Brantley, Chisenhall, and Kipnis come back, it could be a lethal batting order, one that has Chisenhall and maybe Santana hitting as low as seven and eight in the lineup.

It also buys more time for Miller to rest his knee.  It wouldn’t bother me if the lefty wasn’t held out until September 15th, giving him two weeks to get ready for what seems like an inevitable post-season berth.

Same with Brantley.  He hasn’t started baseball activities yet, but as long as he can get two weeks of play under his belt, he should be ready for the playoffs.

Will this mean another World Series berth for the Indians?  We can’t say that, baseball is not that kind of sport.  However, as usual, a Terry Francona led team is playing better ball in the second half of the season.

They passed their toughest test of the season with ease, and the magic number (right now 24) countdown can start right now.

MW

 

 

 

Tribe Needs Bullpen Help To Ease Miller’s Workload

Terry Francona likes to say when you think you have too much pitching, you go out and get more.

That holds true today, because even though the Indians lead the American League in team ERA, team president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff are probably looking for more arms before tomorrow’s trading deadline.

The return of Danny Salazar to form should ease the need for another starting pitcher, and eventually, either Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, or Mike Clevinger will go to the bullpen, but another top notch bullpen arm would help the Indians going forward.

It is pretty obvious that when the Tribe has the lead, Francona has confidence in just three guys, closer Cody Allen, rubber armed Bryan Shaw, and the ultimate relief weapon, Andrew Miller.

Two games this week demonstrated this.

Thursday, with Miller and Shaw unavailable due to usage over the past few days, the skipper went with Trevor Bauer for eight innings and over 110 pitches rather than bring someone out of the group that includes Zack McAllister, Nick Goody, and Dan Otero.

And Bauer was pitching in a 2-1 game.

Bauer thrives on throwing so the pitch count wasn’t the issue it might be for others, but it is hard to imagine Tito staying with his starting into the 8th had Miller or Shaw been available.

The next night, Cleveland had a 9-2 lead after six when Salazar was removed from the game.  The Tribe won it, 9-3, but McAllister (7th), Goody (8th), and Shawn Armstrong (9th) all had difficulty recording outs, and the latter two ended the inning in bases loaded situations.

Look, the Indians have post-season aspirations, and they currently lead the AL Central by three games, the concern is keeping the primary relievers fresh for September and October, and that’s why they could use an extra arm in the ‘pen that Francona will trust.

Shaw leads the AL in games pitched with 49.  This isn’t a shock, as he routinely is in the top five in the league in appearances.  He is blessed with that kind of arm, and in spite of the social media critics when he fails, which isn’t often, he gets the job done.

Allen has made just 42 appearances and usually pitches one inning. He has the traditional closer role, and does it quite well.  He has only 19 saves, because the Indians win a lot of games in blowout fashion.

The concern is Miller, and Francona is always talking about reducing his work load, but then he can’t help himself.  The guy is that good.

He has been in 45 games, pitching 53-1/3 innings, ranking 5th in the AL in innings for relievers.

Last night, he threw almost 30 pitches, and our guess is he will tell Tito he can go today, but with a tough schedule coming up this week (at Boston for three, New York at home for four), he should get the day off.

That’s why the Indians needs another arm out there, to lessen Miller’s load.

With Boone Logan likely out for the year, the Indians need another southpaw.  They also need a reliever that can get right-handed and left-handed hitters out.

That would also allow Francona to shorten games even more, particularly in the post-season.

We believe getting another reliever is the primary goal of the front office before tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM.

It could make all the difference going forward for the Cleveland Indians.

MW

Why Tribe Will Repeat As AL Central Champs

A year ago at this time, we predicted an American League Central Division title for the Cleveland Indians.

After consecutive third place finishes in 2014 and 2015, that pick was a little more out on the edge as this year, but we will go ahead and say it anyway, the Indians will win the division title for the second straight year.

It’s not hard to see that Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff, and Terry Francona have put together a helluva good baseball team, and they complement that with a farm system that seems to be churning out major league ready players.

The first thing people want to bring up when talking about the Indians is their pitching led by staff ace Corey Kluber, one of the game’s best starters, and the bullpen trio of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw, which was dominant for most of the post-season.

Indeed, Cleveland finished second in the American League in staff ERA in 2016, one of only two AL teams (Toronto) with an ERA of under 4.00.

Besides Kluber, Danny Salazar made the All-Star team a year ago, and Carlos Carrasco is capable of dominating any big league lineup.  Consistency and injuries have been an issue with both hurlers in the past.

Trevor Bauer is the wild card.  There doesn’t seem to be any reason he shouldn’t be able to win 15 games, but he has gone through long stretches of seasons where he pitches poorly.  If he can avoid those, and he’s only 26, he could be an elite starter too.

Josh Tomlin is a solid fifth starter, and in most rotations would be a three or four.  If any of the starters falter, Mike Clevinger and Ryan Merritt can step in.

With the trinity of late inning relievers the Tribe has, most nights, it’s a six inning game for the opposition.

Because of the pitching reputation, people forget the offense, which scored the second most runs in the AL behind Boston.  They did it without Michael Brantley, one of the league’s best hitters.

And this off-season, the front office added perennial 30+ home run, 100+ RBI man, Edwin Encarnacion to the lineup.  After searching for a right-handed power bat for many years, Cleveland now has one of the best in the game.

They also have one of the best and most exciting young players in the sport in SS Francisco Lindor.  If the Indians win the division in 2017, Lindor will be an MVP candidate.

Even if Brantley has a set back, an offensive led by Encarnacion and Lindor, with support from Carlos Santana (34 HR last year), 2B Jason Kipnis, and 3B Jose Ramirez should score a lot of runs.

Kipnis will start the year on the disabled list with shoulder soreness, however.

Francona is a master at using platoon advantages, so even though there aren’t big names in centerfield and rightfield, the Tribe will get production out of those spots.

And behind them in the minor leagues, poised to help in the majors are OFs Bradley Zimmer and Greg Allen, 3B/OF Yandy Diaz (if he doesn’t open in Cleveland), and C Francisco Mejia, who will start the year in Akron.

They also have Francona, one of the game’s best leaders, and a master at handling the roster and the clubhouse.

In a long term view, the Cleveland Indians are on the precipice of a good run at the top of the AL Central.  In the short term, they will win the division again, and hope to end what is now the longest World Series winning drought in the sport…69 years.

MW

Spring Training Is Here!

People who aren’t baseball fans just don’t get it.  We heard a few times on talk radio this week that hosts didn’t understand why baseball people get so excited over camps opening, when the regular season is still six weeks away.

It’s pretty simple.  First of all, baseball is the one sport that occurs pretty much every day.  To be a hard core supporter of the grand ol’ game is to make a daily commitment, 162 games played over 180 days.

Since it is played each day for the most part, it is missed when it isn’t here.  So Tribe fans, still dealing with a heart breaking loss in game 7 of the World Series, haven’t been able to lick their wounds with action on the field since November 2nd.

Second, it’s an early sign of spring, the promise of warmer weather to come, looking forward to warm, summer nights at Progressive Field.

We don’t believe any other sport can offer the regeneration of warm weather to follow.

And Tribe fans are even looking forward more to the beginning of spring training this year because of last year’s success, but also because of the tremendous off-season Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff had, signing perhaps the most prominent free agent this winter in 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion.

They also added to an already strong bullpen by inking lefty Boone Logan as a free agent.  They did have to say goodbye to two large contributors to last year’s success in Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, but overall it appears the Indians are stronger than they were when they ended the season.

Baseball fans will be awaiting the first pictures from Goodyear, Arizona, particularly pics of the newest Indians, seeing Encarnacion in Tribe togs for the first time.

We also want to see how our old favorites look in camp, even through many of them were just in town for Tribe Fest at the end of January.

And we are all very anxious to see reports on those players recovering from injuries, mostly Michael Brantley, who missed virtually the entire regular season with shoulder issues.

Brantley’s recovery would be huge, adding another solid bat to an everyday lineup that finished 2nd in the American League in runs scored in 2016.

We will also be interested in the progress of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, two stalwarts of the starting rotation, who missed most of  the post-season fun with injuries.  Neither should be a problem long term, but until they are on the mound in exhibition games getting hitters out, you can’t be sure.

It is also fun to follow the progress of the top prospects in the organization, to get your first look at catcher Francisco Mejia and outfielder Greg Allen, both of whom should get some “A” game at-bats.

And we will get a newer look at OF Bradley Zimmer, who will likely start the season in Columbus, and should be on track to make his big league debut this summer.

Those are just some of the reasons why baseball fans look forward to hearing “Pitchers and catchers report”.  It’s the beginning of eight months of a commitment to the sport.

It’s a sign that winter will soon be over…baseball is back!

MW

 

A New Era For The Tribe?

Are we looking at a new era on the corner of Ontario and Carnegie?

Rumors out of baseball’s annual winter meetings have the Cleveland Indians talking to the agents of free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion about coming to the Tribe on a multi-year contract.

Encarnacion is one of the game’s premier sluggers.  He led the American League in runs batted in last season, and his OPS hasn’t been below 886 since 2011.  His lowest home run total over the last five years was 34.

In short, he is an upgrade, at least on the field, from the player who filled his position in 2016.

According to reports, the Indians are one of three teams considered favorites to sign him, along with Boston and Texas, so it should still be considered a long shot for him to join the American League champions.

It has been reported that the Tribe paid a very handsome profit from last season’s playoff run, and remember that John Sherman was brought in as vice chairman and minority owner last summer, so it is very possible that Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have some extra cash to spend this winter.

And obviously, if you lose the World Series in game seven, and in extra innings, you are in win now mode.

If ever there was a time to throw a little caution to the wind and “go for it”, it is the 2017 season.

Especially when it appears that your competition in the AL Central are in flux.  The White Sox look to be in sell mode.  The Tigers are aging and have been said to be interested in lowering payroll.  The Royals have several key players eligible for free agency after the ’17 season.  The Twins lost 100 games a year ago, and shouldn’t be a factor next season.

That doesn’t mean the Indians’ front office will go crazy, handing out huge amounts of cash on long term deals to players decidedly on the downside of their careers.

If the team is able to strike a deal with Encarnacion, we would image a two or three year deal, as he will turn 34 years old in January.  Mike Napoli is a year older, and hasn’t shown the consistency in his career as Encarnacion.

Also, the reason Cleveland can even think about this is the low amount of money committed to their starting pitching staff, which is a sink hole for most other major league teams.

Heck, the Dodgers yesterday gave Rich Hill, who was pitching in an independent league in 2015, $48 million over three years.  The Tribe doesn’t have to commit that kind of cash to their rotation.

Even if the Indians don’t reach an agreement with Encarnacion, this sends a signal that the front office is ready to spend money on the right player and in the right situation.  That’s all fans want, and it should keep the momentum from last October going for the local baseball team.

So, the Indians may make a big splash this off-season, something not thought possible a week ago.  Getting this close to a World Series title for fueled this.

It could also mean that the Antonetti led front office is more aggressive than the Mark Shapiro led one.  There could have been many reasons for Shapiro’s conservativism, but we doubt he makes the Andrew Miller trade, and it doesn’t seem signing a big time free agent is something he would have done either.

Right now, circumstances have the Cleveland Indians in a win now situation.  It’s been 20 years since we could say that.

MW

 

Tribe Trade Miller? We Say No Way

Since the World Series ended, there have been several national baseball writers who have speculated that the Indians might try to move their post-season star, Andrew Miller, during the off-season.

We feel this should be filed under the same grouping as writers saying the Cavaliers are going to move Kevin Love, and the Browns will fire all of their coaches again this winter.  Meaning, it’s a reflex move for writers, low hanging fruit, if you will.

Look, anyone can be traded.  We love when Tribe fans will say to us things like the team will never trade Jason Kipnis or Jose Ramirez.  Our response is always, if the Angels called and offered Mike Trout, a deal would be reached pretty quickly.

When Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff acquired Miller from the Yankees at the trading deadline last July, one of the reasons he was so appealing, besides that he may very well be the best reliever in the game, was he was under contract for two more years.

That’s the biggest reason the Indians were willing to move two of their top ten prospects.

The national media speculates in this way because they can’t believe the Tribe would be willing to pay $9 million for the next two seasons on a relief pitcher, and combine with a likely $6-7 million payday for Cody Allen, there is certainly no way Cleveland, little small market Cleveland, would spend close to $20 million on their bullpen.

They forget that the Indians are in a win now mode.  Most of their key players are in their prime, and they have a very good starting rotation that is paid well below market value compared to their ability.

And yes, we have been critical of the franchise’s spending habits over the years, but with post-season ticket revenue and an expanded season ticket base, we think the front office won’t be as frugal this winter.

When you get to the seventh game of the World Series, your organization has to think they can win the world championship the next season.

Also, the Indians’ farm system is in pretty good shape right now.

When they made the deal with the Yankees, they had two top outfield prospects in Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier.  They still have Zimmer poised to be in Cleveland by the end of the 2017 season, and Greg Allen keeps getting better and better too.

They also moved Justus Sheffield, a top starting pitching prospect.  Mike Clevinger is the next man up if an injury occurs next season, and the organization has Ryan Merritt and Adam Plutko in the upper levels of the system, and Triston McKenzie, Juan Hillman and others in the lower levels.

So, Miller will be an Indian on Opening Day, 2017 in Texas unless the front office is absolutely blown away by a trade offer, which we doubt will happen.

The Indians intend to get back to the post-season next fall, and if they do, what better weapon to have than the guy who was this fall’s ultimate weapon…Andrew Miller.

On the other hand, if something happens and the season goes south, Miller could be on the move in July, and then, and only then, will Antonetti and Chernoff consider making a deal and will command the same kind of haul Cleveland gave to New York.

That’s the only scenario where Miller gets moved.

MW

 

Tonight Could Be The Night For Tribe

We have been fans of the Cleveland Indians as long as we can remember, which is 1965.  That means we’ve been waiting for 51 years for what may or may not happen tonight at Progressive Field.

The Tribe has a chance to be World Champions.

Think about that for a second.  It’s only happened twice before, once in 1920 and again in 1948.

And that’s it.

We have written about this before, but for a long time (from ’65 through 1994) the Cleveland Indians were for the most part a terrible, perhaps mediocre squad, where an above .500 record was celebrated, not expected.

But we still had our favorite players.  Sam McDowell, Chris Chambliss, Buddy Bell, Dennis Eckersley, Len Barker, Joe Carter, Mel Hall, and Tom Candiotti.  Many of those guys got to experience winning elsewhere.

We also had the great stars who came to Cleveland at the end of their illustrious careers, like Hawk Harrelson, Boog Powell, Frank Robinson, and of course everyone’s favorite, Keith Hernandez.

Contending for a division title?  That was a pipe dream, something other franchises thought about, not Tribe fans.

There were four 100 loss seasons in that time span, amazingly, the franchise bottomed out in the last 1980’s, losing more than 100 games three times in a six season span (1985, 1987, and 1991).

Right around then, Hank Peters was brought in to run the franchise and surrounded himself with two young executives, John Hart and Dan O’Dowd, and rebuilt the moribund Indians by a forgotten (at least around here), but tried and true method.

They developed a fruitful farm system.

Suddenly, the Indians developed into a powerful club, with the foundation being home grown players like Albert Belle, Jim Thome, and Manny Ramirez, with great trades bringing in Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga, and Kenny Lofton.

Also, they sprinkled in some key veteran free agents like Eddie Murray, Dennis Martinez, and Orel Hershiser.

Sounds familiar, right?

This Tribe squad is centered around players originally signed and developed by Cleveland, like Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Roberto Perez.

President Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff traded for guys like Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and of course, Andrew Miller.

Add in free agents Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, and you have a team on the brink of something not done in baseball here in 68 seasons.

This isn’t talking about a coronation, because there is still a game to win and the Cubs are throwing last year’s Cy Young Award winner in Jake Arrieta and a candidate for this year’s award in Game 7 starter Kyle Hendricks.

The Tribe pitching staff has been so outstanding this post-season, holding down the powerful offenses in Boston and Toronto, and what they have been able to do thus far to Chicago.

They may need two more games of that kind of pitching.

Having a 3-2 Series lead doesn’t abate our nervousness, our sense of anticipation, and even though the Cavaliers won a title just four months ago, our sense of upcoming doom.

Allowing ourselves to think about a fourth win against the Cubs gets the goosebumps going, and emotions flooding our senses.

We’ve waited 51 years for this night.  Yes, we had a Game 7 moment in 1997, but perhaps then we were just happy to be in a World Series twice in three years after so long without being in one.

Now the thirst needs to be quenched.  The Cavs, the Monsters, Stipe Miocic gave our town a taste of what a title is like, and now Indians’ fans want the same.

Tonight could be that night for the Cleveland Indians.

MW

 

Another Uphill Fight For Tribe

Some team’s World Series victory drought will come to an end this year.  Either the Chicago Cubs, who haven’t won since 1908, or the Cleveland Indians, whose lack of a title is a rather pedestrian 68 seasons, will put an end to their lack of baseball’s World Championship.

Make no mistake, the Cubs are very worthy of being here, having the best record in baseball with 103 wins.

They have the National League’s best offense that doesn’t play in hitting friendly Coors Field, and they have the league’s best ERA too.

They lead the NL in on base percentage and OPS, and rank 4th in the Senior Circuit in slugging.  They do not run much, as they were 4th last in the NL in stolen bases.

And they actually hit better away from the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field than they do at home.  In fact, the park on the north side of the Windy City, actually played as a pitcher’s park this season.

Joe Maddon, one of the game’s best skippers (along with Terry Francona), has the likely NL MVP in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, both of whom have OPS over 900.

Leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler has a .393 on base percentage, while Ben Zobrist and Wilson Contreras both are very good offensive threats.

The Cubs do have some swing and miss bats in their order though, they were 5th in the NL in that category.

Pitching wise, Game 1 starter Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and their closer, Aroldis Chapman all have ERAs under 2.00 at Wrigley Field.

Their other three starters (Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel) are all under 3.00, very formidable indeed.

However, on the road, both Lester and Arrieta, presumably the game two starter, are both over 3.00, and Lackey is over 4.00, although his start appears to be a home.

The former Angels and Red Sox hurler is 8-9 lifetime vs. Cleveland with an ERA approaching 4.

And then we have the American League’s best baserunning team, the Indians, vs. Lester, who has a known “phobia” about throwing to bases.

If the Tribe can get on against the southpaw, they need to run and run and run some more.  Take advantage of every little thing possible against one of the game’s better pitchers.

And last, we will hear plenty about Francona and his relationship with Cubs’ president Theo Epstein, and how they ended the “Curse of the Bambino” in Boston and repeated with another title in 2007.

This series features two of the best managers in the sport, two outstanding young executives, one (Chris Antonetti) looking to win for the first time, and two teams with a sordid past, although with three AL pennants in the last 21 years, the Indians are the franchise with more recent success.

There is no question the Cubs are very good.  Their run differential this year is the highest in the National League since 1906.

On the other hand, they played in the National League, the inferior league in our estimation.  Outside of the Twins, you can argue that the five worst teams in baseball played in the NL (Reds, Braves, Diamondbacks, and Brewers).

Can the Indians pull it off?  Of course, but the bats need to wake up.  You can’t expect the pitching staff to continue to perform as they have thus far in the playoffs.

MW

 

Tribe Goes To Series, Thankfully It Didn’t Take 41 Years Again.

For just the sixth time in franchise history, which spans 116 seasons, the Cleveland Indians are American League Champions!

For most of our life, at the beginning of baseball season, we would buy the Street and Smith’s Baseball Issue, and look at the composite World Series standings.

Every year, it would show Cleveland:  2 wins, 1 loss.

In those days, and we are talking the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, we wondered what it would be like to get to the Fall Classic and change those numbers.

Then came the 90’s and Jacobs Field, and the Tribe got to two Series in three seasons, but they couldn’t get it done.

The composite standings changed to Cleveland:  2 wins, 3 losses, and will have stayed that way until the end of this year’s World Series.

It been 19 years since the heart breaking loss to the Florida Marlins in the seventh game.  However, for fans of our generation, it is pretty damn cool that the Indians will be in their third Fall Classic in the last 21 years.

That may sound odd, but when you go 41 years between appearances in the Series, not having to go through another drought that long is great.

And although the players celebrated the six pennant in club history with gusto, to a man, and not surprisingly, they know they haven’t accomplished anything yet.

Terry Francona all but clinched a spot in the Hall of Fame as a manager, winning his third American League title, and doing it with two teams.

He did it losing two key pieces of his starting rotation, the strength of the team coming into the season, in September.  He lost another starter to a drone injury just prior to the first game of the League Championship Series.

Tito did it because he managed unconventionally, particularly with the use of his bullpen, although part of that is due to the unselfish nature of the LCS MVP Andrew Miller and the Tribe’s closer Cody Allen.

Both told the skipper to use them whenever he needed them, and that speaks to the ultimate trust the players have in their manager.

The Tribe doesn’t have the big names of the Red Sox and Blue Jays, the two teams they defeated to get to the Series, nor are they known nationally like many players on the Cubs and Dodgers, the two teams who are playing to face Cleveland next week.

It was fitting that Miller mentioned Francisco Lindor after game one, saying he deserves more notice nationally than he’s been getting.  The young Tribe shortstop is one of the up and coming stars in the sport.

And speaking of Miller, the best deadline trade acquisition we can think of in recent years, we wonder if the man who used to run the Indians, current Blue Jays’ president Mark Shapiro, would have pulled the trigger on getting the big lefty.

Our guess is he wouldn’t have, because he never had made a move that big.  Perhaps that’s due to the barren nature of the Cleveland farm system (which falls at Shapiro’s feet), but it doesn’t feel like Miller would be an Indian.

Which leads us to a tip of the hat to president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff.  Besides Miller, they went out and got Brandon Guyer (three hits in ALDS Game 2), and Coco Crisp, who has been all over the post-season, including homers in both clinch games and a great catch in game three of the LCS.

So, this team, which has overcome injuries to perhaps its best player coming into the year in Michael Brantley, their starting catcher in Yan Gomes, and the aforementioned two starters, needs to win four more games to break its own 68 year world title drought.

It will no doubt be difficult, but we wouldn’t bet again another title for the Cleveland area, just four months after the Cavs broke the 52 year span without one.

MW