Could it be déjà vu for the Tribe?
"So buckle up, Tribe fans, it's going to be special."
Those were the final words in my column a year ago when I predicted good things for the Indians during the 2016 season. And sure enough, the team delivered with a trip to the World Series – its first in two decades.
There’s an old adage in sports – and baseball in particular – which states that even though it’s hard to get to the top, it’s even harder to stay there. Baseball fans in Cleveland will be quick to agree with that argument, as the Indians have – over the last 116 years – never appeared in consecutive World Series.
A lot of stuff has to go right for a team to make it to the Series, and the 2016 Tribe had plenty of things go right for them. Jose Ramirez came out of nowhere and had a monster year. Carlos Santana had a career year, and Mike Napoli was a monster free agent.
Francisco Lindor played with the cool of a 10-year veteran, and Jason Kipnis had a great season. Then, in fairytale fashion, after Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were sidelined by injuries, Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer and Andrew Miller stepped up (Miller, in truly incomprehensible fashion) and went on a spectacular run which carried the Indians into extra innings of the seventh game of the World Series. So yes, a lot of things went right for the Indians last year, which begs the question: Can it happen again when (Indians) history emphatically says that it won’t?
The naysayers who think the Tribe will come back to earth in 2017 point to the fact that a key guy – Mike Napoli – is already gone. Napoli was seen as a leader both on and off the field; one whose absence is difficult to measure. They see Ramirez and Santana both returning to more typical performances, and that it will be impossible – even with a healthy pitching staff – to equal what they got from the pitching staff last year (especially Andrew Miller in the postseason) in 2017. They may be right, but I see things a little differently.
Sure, we lost Napoli, but signed Edwin Encarnacion. I don’t know about his clubhouse skills, but if he puts in season similar to those of the last five years or so, I guarantee he’ll be a popular addition. Santana I do see coming back to earth, but I also see Yan Gomes coming back and having a year like he did in 2015. And even if he doesn’t, Roberto Perez established himself as a bona fide major league catcher in Gomes’ absence last year. The rest of the team I see pretty much playing around the same level. No way will Miller have as spectacular a season as he did last year, but he doesn’t have to. The bullpen has plenty of talent and the starters – assuming they stay healthy for the most part – are second to none in the majors.
So mark ‘em down for 96 wins this year and – for the first time in history – an encore appearance in the World Series.
So buckle up, Tribe fans, it's going to be special. Again.
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!