Time For Tribe Front Office To Recover From “Slump”

Perhaps the executive branches of professional sports teams have hot streaks and cold spells just like players.  If you agree with that premise, then the front office and management of the Cleveland Indians is in a bit of a slump.

It started in the off season, when the team predictably lost two relievers, Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith in free agency.  However, president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff didn’t really address the losses in the winter.

Sure, they brought in a collection of guys on minor league contracts, but no one with a proven track record.  Because of Andrew Miller’s injury, this has resulted in having the statistically worst bullpen in baseball.

Miller being out has caused Terry Francona to have no bridge to Cody Allen for much of the season.  Only in the last month have Neil Ramirez and Oliver Perez, released by the Yankee organization, stepped up to give the Tribe some relief in the 7th and 8th innings.

Worse, the bullpen situation, or lack of it, have caused Francona to extend his starters, and Corey Kluber is already having some knee issues.  Hopefully, that’s the extent of the effect as the season continues.

Austin Jackson was also a free agent not pursued by the Indians after a season where he hit .318 overall, and torched left-handers to the tune of a .352 batting average and 1.013 OPS.

Look, we agree that Jackson was unlikely to produce the same way in 2018, but the issue was the front office wound up picking up Rajai Davis to take his spot with the team.  Unfortunately, Davis has never been outstanding vs. lefties, a career 759 OPS against southpaws, and this year that figure has dropped to 523.

Spring training also caused some curious decisions, most notably not making Yandy Diaz more versatile.  Diaz played 21 games in LF and nine games in RF last season in Columbus, but in the spring, they focused him at third base, a position he was never going to play in Cleveland with Jose Ramirez there.

Diaz has little to prove at the AAA level after hitting .350 there last season, and this season has a .415 on base percentage in Columbus.  The Tribe could use some outfield help, and they could also use someone at the bottom of the order who doesn’t make outs.

It doesn’t seem like the organization has any plans for Diaz, despite hitting .263 last year and getting a lot of time down the stretch last season.

These aren’t second guesses, either.  Most fans of the team wondering aloud during the winter and throughout spring training just what was the front office doing.  Most felt because of the weak AL Central, the brass had until the end of July to fix things.

Well, that date is drawing near, and the fear is there are too many holes on this roster to fix them all within two weeks.

But the front office has a chance to redeem itself after the slump that has continued since the end of last season.  The time to strike is now.

The bullpen is the glaring need and we do not believe it will be fixed simply with Andrew Miller’s return.  Hopefully, Ramirez and Perez keep pitching well, but holdovers Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, and Tyler Olson aren’t inspiring any confidence.

The offense could be solved by simply bringing up Francisco Mejia (who was recalled yesterday) and perhaps Diaz as well and putting them into the lineup.  On the other hand, neither are proven at the big league level, and the Indians need to correct the current top heaviness in the batting order.

If the front office pulls off a couple of solid moves that work within the next two weeks, no one will remember the past eight months.  However, they can’t just ignore the issues this team has despite a big division lead.




Why Tribe Shouldn’t Move Top Prospects

The Cleveland Indians seem to have a firm hold on the American League Central Division, leading by 7-1/2 games mainly because no one else in the division can play .500 baseball.

Coming into this season, winning the Central was kind of a foregone conclusion, and no doubt the organization feels like it has bigger fish to fry.  This makes the July 31st trade deadline very important.

What kind of splash can president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff make by that date?

While many fans feel the window of opportunity is closing on the Indians, we do not feel that way.  As long as you have Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, etc, you will have a chance to compete for a championship.

We all know the Tribe cannot spend money like the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, or Dodgers.  That doesn’t mean they can’t compete for free agents, but it does mean they aren’t going to have a $200 million payroll anytime soon.

If you want to keep players like Lindor and/or Ramirez, who the organization drafted or signed as a free agent, develop them, and watched them turn into among the best players in the sport, and still be competitive, you must have a productive farm system.

That’s why we would be very careful about trading valuable prospects for players who could leave after two months.

It’s also why we would not want to move Francisco Mejia, who we believe will be an outstanding big league hitter, perhaps on the level of Lindor, Ramirez, or Michael Brantley.

To have a player like that, under club control for six years before free agency, helps you spend the money you will need to come up in a few years to keep Frankie Lindor an Indian for the majority of his career.

That’s why prospects are perhaps more important to the Indians than they are to many teams also looking to add pieces at the deadline.

This does not mean Cleveland will not make a deal.  Two years ago, they moved one of their top prospects, OF Clint Frazier, to New York for Andrew Miller, who was not eligible for free agency for 2-1/2 years.

That’s why relief pitchers like San Diego’s Brad Hand (signed with a club option through 2021) or Baltimore’s Mychael Givens (not a free agent until 2022) make sense for the Tribe.

They would be willing to move a good prospect for either, but we still wouldn’t include Mejia or starter Triston McKenzie because they have the potential to be elite performers.

The Indians still have some good prospects that would make sense for them to deal, most notably three guys whose primary position is shortstop:  Erik Gonzalez, Yu Chang (22 years old–715 OPS at Columbus), and Willi Castro (21 years old–670 OPS at Akron).

This trio isn’t playing in Cleveland any time soon with Lindor on the roster.

Yandy Diaz, an on base machine, is another potential trade chip, although we would prefer that the Tribe find a place for him on the big league roster.

One of the trio of Shane Bieber, Adam Plutko, and Shao-Ching Chiang could be moved, so could slugging 1B Bobby Bradley.

The point is the Indians have prospects to offer without giving up their two best guys.

As we said before, the front office might be willing to move one of these top prospects, but it should be for a player they will be able to have on the roster for more than the last two months of the season.

In our opinion, the Tribe need to hold on to players like Mejia to control the future payrolls.




Tribe Looks To Be Waiting For July To Make Moves

With spring training starting in two weeks, it would be fair to say the Cleveland Indians have had a very quiet winter.

Sure, they’ve been in the news in terms of losing players, as Carlos Santana signed as a free agent with the Phillies, Bryan Shaw went to Colorado, Jay Bruce to the Mets, and Joe Smith departed for Houston.

The front office did sign Yander Alonso to replace Santana at first base, banking that Alonso’s power surge last year is sustainable.

After never reaching double figures in home runs during the first seven years of his career (his high was 9 in 2012 with San Diego), Alonso crushed 28 dingers in 2017.

He slugged .501 last season after never reaching the .400 mark during his career.

If changing the launch angle of his swing can be carried forward, then the Indians have Santana’s replacement, at least vs. right-handed pitching, against whom he had a 900 OPS a year ago.

President Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff obviously feel the platoon of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer or perhaps Yandy Diaz can handle rightfield, after all the Tribe was in first place before they dealt for Bruce.

In the bullpen, the organization is banking on Nick Goody to step up and hoping perhaps a non-roster invitee such as Alexi Ogando, Preston Claiborne, or Neil Ramirez can emerge like Jeff Manship, Ryan Webb, or Scott Atchison have in recent years.

We believe the Indians feel comfortable in their place in the division, after all they won the American League Central Division by 17 games a year ago, and will use the first three months of the 2018 season to see what they will need for the stretch drive.

This means the July 31st trading deadline will be more important to Cleveland than the off-season was.

Management is banking on a return to form from Jason Kipnis to boost the offense, and this is a solid move.  The second baseman has had an OPS over 800 in three of the four years prior to last year’s injury plagued campaign.

If Kipnis has was is an average season for him (.268, 17 HR, 74 RBI, 762 OPS) that will add offense for Terry Francona.

Don’t forget Chisenhall was having an outstanding season before missing most of the last two months.  The former first round pick was hitting .288, slugging .521, and had a career high OPS of 881.

We are unsure about replacing Austin Jackson, who had a rebirth in Cleveland (.318, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 869 OPS in 89 games) with Melvin Upton Jr., who didn’t play in the big league during 2017.

Upton does have a career 760 OPS vs. southpaws, but hasn’t hit over .250 in the bigs since 2008, and is prone to striking out.

As for the bullpen, we think Antonetti and Chernoff will do what they did in ’16 and see what relievers come available as the season progresses.

Remember, that’s how Andrew Miller came to the Tribe.  If you can get a bullpen piece of that magnitude to go with Cody Allen and the big lefty, you will be well suited for an October run.

This strategy also will show what you have in players like Diaz, Upton, Kipnis, and Francisco Mejia and Triston McKenzie.

And who knows, another minor leaguer may emerge as a piece other teams will covet.

Remember, the Cleveland Indians didn’t squeak into the playoffs last year, they had the best record in the AL.  Even a slight regression puts them in a great position going into 2018.



Kipnis Back To Second Makes Sense

The news didn’t make a lot of headlines, but the Cleveland Indians announced over the weekend that Jason Kipnis would likely be the Opening Day second baseman in 2018.

That puts the infield alignment, save for newcomer Yonder Alonso at first base the same as the one the Tribe used in the 2016 World Series, with Jose Ramirez moving back to third, and of course, Francisco Lindor at second.

It does weaken Cleveland’s up the middle defense.  Ramirez is a far better defender at the keystone than Kipnis, including turning the double play.

However, we never liked the idea of trading Kipnis after last season’s injury plagued season in which he hit .232 with 12 home runs and 35 runs batted in (705 OPS).

We understand the veteran’s salary takes a huge jump this season, going from $9.2 million last year to $13.7 million in ’18, making him a candidate to be moved if Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff wanted to create payroll space for another player.

And another off-season would make Kipnis virtually untradeable going into the 2019 season, with his salary jumping again to $14.7 million.

But, the second baseman should be a good candidate for a bounce back season coming up, if he remains healthy.  Keep in mind he suffered a shoulder issue during spring training and then had hamstring woes as the season came to a close.

Although Kipnis turns 31 in April, last season saw him have the lowest OPS of his career (640 in 2014).  Three of his five full campaigns have resulted in OPS over 800 for the season.

You would have to figure he would come close, if not surpass, that mark again in 2018.

This move also clears up one of the question marks the Indians still had as spring training approaches, who will play third?

So, the biggest question now becomes whether or not Michael Brantley can open the season in left field, and if he can’t who plays there?  Also, how does Yandy Diaz fit on the roster?

Our guess is the organization will take it slow with Brantley, so as to not cause any setbacks with the ankle, and they would be fine with a debut around May 1st.

As for Diaz, who really needs and deserves a chance to get extended playing time in the big leagues (after all he hit .350 with a 914 OPS in AAA last season), perhaps he fits in as a platoon partner at first base, as Alonso has struggled vs. southpaws, or in the outfield.

Remember, the Indians still have Brandon Guyer and Abraham Almonte on the roster too.

Don’t forget Guyer has an 828 OPS for his six year career vs. left-handers.

Even with Kipnis moving back to second, the Indians are still missing a power bat in the lineup.

Santana has been replaced by Alonso, but who replaces Jay Bruce?  Lonnie Chisenhall had an 881 OPS in half a season with the Tribe, compared to Bruce’s 808 figure.  But Chisenhall isn’t a guy who gets pitched around often.

We would classify the Opening Day lineup for the Cleveland Indians right now as still fluid.  However, deciding Jason Kipnis is returning to second clears it up a little bit.

Even if they stand pat on position players for the rest of the winter, there will still be tough decisions for Terry Francona, particularly in the outfield.




Slow Moving Player Market Frustrating Tribe Fans

Spring training opens in about six weeks for the Cleveland Indians, and there are still questions surrounding the roster of the defending American League Central Division champs.

Off-season transactions throughout the sport are moving at a snail’s pace, except for relief pitchers, and the Tribe has lost two of them, Bryan Shaw to Colorado and Joe Smith to Houston.

A third, southpaw Boone Logan is rumored to be heading to Milwaukee, although the Indians probably believe they have filled that spot late last season with Tyler Olson.

So, the front office needs to find some bullpen help for a manager who loves plenty of arms in the ‘pen in Terry Francona.

There are still some options on the free agent market, but none are as accomplished as Shaw and Smith.  So, creativity may be needed by GM Mike Chernoff and president Chris Antonetti.

The bigger hit to date may be offensively with the loss of Carlos Santana to the Phillies, and an impending departure of late season hero, Jay Bruce.

Will the slow market allow the Indians to retain Bruce?  The longer he stays unsigned, you have to believe his demands will come down.  Will they come down to an area where the Tribe is comfortable?

When you are a contending team, you can’t have a lot of unproven players in your everyday lineup.

Right now, third base is a question mark and so is centerfield, despite Bradley Zimmer’s debut a year ago.  Zimmer has no track record, and had some swing and miss issues in 2017, so to say the team doesn’t need a back up plan is a big mistake.

We would like to think Yandy Diaz is the frontrunner at the hot corner, but the skipper frequently makes comments about his glove (despite good defensive metrics in the minor leagues), and he loves the defense of Giovanny Urshela, whose bat is suspect.

Right now, the lineup just isn’t long enough, but there is still a long way to go before the players start arriving in Goodyear.

We understand fans don’t like the inactivity, but really, outside of the bullpen movement and the Yankees trading for Giancarlo Stanton, what teams in the AL have done anything?

That’s right.  Nobody else has made a significant move, at least among the upper echelon of the Junior Circuit, and that’s where the Indians live right now.

Even though the Tribe has Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion, besides the questions we already listed, they still have Jason Kipnis coming off an injury plagued, off year for him.

Michael Brantley didn’t play for much of the second half, and is coming off surgery on his ankle.

Lonnie Chisenhall missed a good portion of the season after the All Star Game, and Brandon Guyer was pretty much a non-factor either.

And don’t forget last year’s big surprise, Austin Jackson, is a free agent, and may not be back with the team.

Remember, this winter, player movement is moving at a glacial pace.  At some point between now and the middle of February, that will pick up.

With the slow movement could come bargains, which is to the advantage of the Cleveland Indians.  Something to keep an eye on in the next six weeks.







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.




Doesn’t Look Like Tribe Did Enough In Trade Market (At Least For Now)

The Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went yesterday, and the Cleveland Indians did make one trade, sending two minor leaguers to Toronto for reliever Joe Smith, who will be making his second stint with the Tribe.

Smith, who played for the Indians from 2009-13, compiling a 2.76 ERA and three saves in that period, is a quality relief pitcher.  His lifetime ERA is under 3.00 (2.95), and he is having a great season, with 51 strikeouts in 35 innings this year.

However, being a sidearmer, he is extremely effective against right handed hitters, holding them to an OPS of 588 and a .215 batting average.

Against left-handed hitters, the OPS against is 708, and this year that figure is 749, so he is more like a ROOGY, which will benefit the bullpen, but is that the biggest need for the relief corps.

Our biggest concern, which we discussed in the last post, is the overuse of Andrew Miller, and we don’t see how getting Smith remedies that.

When Smith was a member of Terry Francona’s bullpen in 2013, the only year they were together, he drew the later inning work, with Bryan Shaw working earlier.  Basically, Shaw took Smith’s spot when he departed in free agency following the season.

So, will Francona trust Smith is late inning situations again?

If he does, that will ease the burden on Shaw, Miller, and Cody Allen in the late innings of close games that the Indians are winning.

Francona can say anything he wants, but it is clear there is a pecking order in the bullpen, and when the Tribe has the lead late, he goes to that trio, pretty much on an exclusive basis.

There still is a pressing need for another left-hander, and perhaps Tyler Olson can fill that bill, but do you really think Tito would trust him to get Eric Hosmer out in a key game against Kansas City later this month?

Another factor with Smith is the health of his right arm.  He spent some time on the disabled list earlier in the year with inflammation in his shoulder.

The trust factor is another reason we are surprised GM Mike Chernoff didn’t strengthen the bench as well.

Right now, with Jason Kipnis on the shelf, Francona’s options are Erik Gonzalez, who has a terrible strikeout to walk ratio, or Giovanny Urshela, who is struggling to hit at all.

When Kipnis is back, Gonzalez will return to his utility role, but would the skipper and/or the fans feel comfortable having to put him in to pinch hit if the need was there?

We are all for playing young players, but in a pennant race, wouldn’t you rather have an experienced guy who can hit and can handle the strike zone?

We understand that it takes two to tango, and the Cleveland front office could’ve been eager to make a move, but if other teams were steadfast in wanting Francisco Mejia or Triston McKenzie, we would have passed as well.

Still, it seems like the organization is putting a lot of faith in the return of Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall.  Unfortunately, Kipnis has struggled all year and quite frankly, we don’t know what he will do when he returns.

They also seem to be putting a lot of faith in Danny Salazar’s last two starts.

You try to eliminate as many of the possible weak spots on your roster when making a playoff run, and we aren’t sure the Indians did that.

Hopefully, there are some moves to come in August.



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.


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.


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!