COLUMBUS – So I’ll be straight with you. I’m an unabashed Indians fan. There is absolute bias in this post. But there is some fact to this as well.
I think the Cleveland Indians will win the World Series this year.
So why do I think that? Well, for many reasons. Let me list them.
1. Terry Francona
The Indians have the best manager in the game of baseball. No manager gets more out of his players and has more respect from his players than he does. The way he mixes and matches his lineups and bullpen is just short of genius. And his always-positive attitude along with his “one game at a time” approach keeps this team focused on the task at hand and never feeling like they are out of a game. There’s a reason this team led the majors with 11 walk-off wins. Francona never lets this team stop believing because he always believes in them.
2. Who needs a superstar?
You don’t need Mike Trout, Bryce Harper or Clayton Kershaw to win a World Series. Maybe more so than any other sport, you need a complete team in baseball to hoist that trophy in late October or early November. Yes, Francisco Lindor is a stud at shortstop and Corey Kluber won a Cy Young in 2014. I get that. But this team does not depend on just one guy. Maybe that’s a reason that in those 11 walk-off wins, 9 different players supplied the game-winning hit. Or maybe how when a guy like Marlon Byrd got suspended for violating the substance-abuse policy, a guy like Tyler Naquin stepped up. Or how Michael Brantley played just 11 games all season long and Jose Ramirez just produces like him in what is a career year. I could go on and on with the multiple contributions this team has gotten from the unlikeliest of sources (Otero, Guyer, etc…).
3. Switch things up
One of the reasons it’s tough to match up against the Tribe as an opposing manager is the amount of switch hitters they have. On any given night, they could have as many as 4 in the lineup (Santana, Lindor, Crisp, Ramirez). That makes it awful tough for a manager in late-game situations to go a matchup lefty or righty in the bullpen.
4. Platoon power
Yes, the names of the players in the Indians outfield aren’t the biggest names in the game. But man, are they effective, There are 5 on the playoff roster and all have contributed. Rajai Davis leads the AL in steals with 43 and hit a career high 12 homers this season. Lonnie Chisenhall hit a career-best .286 this season and is 17th in the AL with a .312 average with men on base. Coco Crisp is even better, 13th in the AL with men on base with an average of .319. Tyler Naquin in his rookie campaign hit .296 with 14 homers. And Brandon Guyer is one of the best against left-handed pitchers, batting .336. Depending on the pitcher and the situation, it just seems that Francona has the guy for the job.
5. Three’s Company
I hear the arguments about how the losses of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are devastating, And it’s true, they are. Those two guys are capable of greatness on the mound every night. But they’re not starting this October so let’s focus on who is. Corey Kluber is as steady, sturdy and consistently dominant as they come. He’s the definition of a true ace. Trevor Bauer has a lot of life in his arm and even more intensity in his body. If there is a guy who I think won’t be phased by the emotions of playoff baseball, it’s him. I think he’ll actually thrive in the atmosphere. And then, there’s Josh Tomlin, who seemingly has re-discovered himself since taking a couple of starts off. He has given up 3 runs or less in each of his last 4 starts. You can roll with 3 pitchers in the playoffs. I expect the Tribe to be able to do that.
6. Miller Time
The addition of Adam Miller was a stroke of genius by GM Chris Antonetti. Yes, they parted with some real young talent but in terms of a win-now move, this was it. Adding him to what was already a solid bullpen made the Indians a real contender. Why? Because you can ride a bullpen to a World Series. Just ask the 2015 Royals. With Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Miller and Cody Allen, all the starters have to do is get through 5 innings and let these guys take over. All four guys can go 2 innings too if necessary. If there’s a unit to have complete faith in, this is it.
7. City of Champions
It started with the Lake Erie Monsters winning the Calder Cup. Then, the Cleveland Cavaliers did what many thought was impossible, rallying from down 3-1 to win the franchise’s first ever NBA Championship. Yes, the Browns are still the Browns but at least they have a coach people believe in for once! The city has some real belief again in its sports team and it should. There is no curse. There’s been too much winning for that to be the case. If there were ever a time for the Indians to win their first World Series since 1948, this is it.
So there you have it. My take on why the Indians will be World Series champions. Am I confident? Yes. Am I nervous. You bet. No matter how this ends up, I’m just happy to have that anxious feeling back in my bones in October. Let’s go Tribe!