Coming into this season, the Tribe were not the clear favorites to win our division. The Kansas City Royals, fresh off their World Series win, were seen as contending favorites. What’s worse was that the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers added some armaments in the offseason and the Minnesota Twins were expected to take the next step forward. So right off the bat, the Indians had some competition on their hands. Still, even with the tough opponents in our division, we also were not without improvements.
After treading some water for several seasons being a .500 ball club, it was time to take it to the next level. The way the Indians were going to do this was by bringing in several key position players to bolster the lineup, continue to develop the rising stars on the team, and supplement the bullpen with an influx of arms. All three of these plans worked flawlessly.
Key veteran leaders were missing from the squad, so during the offseason, the Indians brought in Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis. Both players were still capable of playing quality baseball while providing the additional leadership we needed to be a successful ballclub. What we witnessed was way more than I think anyone bargained for. The party started with Napoli, who, at 34 years of age, smashed his career high in at-bats, runs, hits, and homers. And I mean SMASHED. With 34 homeruns, tied for first on the team with Carlos Santana, was ten more than his career number set in 2012 with the Texas Rangers. Then, there’s the story of Rajai Davis. At the age of 35, you wouldn’t think someone could run as well as they did when they were, say, 25. Well, you’d be wrong. Not only did Davis create highlight-reel catches and contributed on offense, he lead the entire American League with 43 stolen bases. Not too shabby.
Our bullpen might be the strongest it’s ever been. While it looks a little different than when we started the year (Trevor Bauer is now starting, Joba Chamberlin and Ross Detwiler are no longer with the team), the bullpen is even stronger than ever. Two words: Miller time. A blockbuster trade deadline deal with the New York Yankees sent arguably the best reliever in all of baseball to the Indians to transform our pen into one of the deadliest today. The core of the pen is a well-oiled machined. Miller and Cody Allen close out the games, Jeff Manship, Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw and Zach McAllister are there for restoring order. If a team is lucky enough to get past our starters, they run into this gauntlet of doom.
Right off the bat you can tell this season was going to be special. A strong start to the season and several sweeps of the Detroit Tigers in, you knew the Indians were for real. We never seemed to lose more than three games consecutively. In fact, we didn’t! The only team this season to not lose four consecutive games were our boys We had a firm grip on the division lead for the majority of the season and to reward the team, the front office acquired pieces for a deep post season run. Andrew Miller, Brandon Guyer, and Coco Crisp were all traded for to bolster the post season roster. All have done exactly that.
Now is the real test: the Chicago Cubs. A team that has not been to the World Series since 1945 and a team that has not won a title in anyone’s lifetime. They are looking to finally end their drought and shed their negative image that has plagued them for over a century. We are also looking to end a drought. We are looking to win our first World Series since 1948. We are looking to avenge the fallen Indians teams of the 1990’s. We are looking to entrench our legacy upon Major League Baseball. This is not a series of animosity like what the Cavaliers had with the Warriors. This is an opponent we all have incredible respect for and are happy for their success. We would cheer for them any other year. But this year… this year belongs to the Cleveland Indians. I see the Cubs and I see a similar team to the Blue Jays: a high powered offense with a few respectable starters. We can take them. We can win the World Series and usher in a new era for the city’s oldest professional sports team. This is baseball’s battle of the century, quite literally. We will not fail.