By: Sam Gagliardi
The Cleveland Indians are headed to the playoffs, again. For the third straight year, the Tribe clinched the AL Central crown, beating up on the worst division in baseball and one of the worst divisions in all of baseball history. For most baseball aficionados this day was always coming, all the way back to Spring training. The players, however, still celebrated like it was their first ever champagne bath, and for some it was. Even for most who have been through it before, they know, like most Clevelanders know, opportunities like this are rare and especially for a small market franchise like Cleveland they don’t come around very often, since the 1990 circuit baseball-mashing Indians in fact. That is why it is so important this team capitalize on this opportunity.
After the season, Michael Brantley, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Lonnie Chisenhall, Josh Donaldson, Melky Cabrera, and Rajai Davis will all be impending free agent, and most, if not all, will not return for next season. The players themselves know this as Allen said during their celebration, "This could be my last year here. It could be a lot of guys' last year here. You don't take this for granted. The city of Cleveland and this organization will, no matter what happens, hold a special place in all of our hearts.”
In order for this team to seize the moment, this is what they must do. First, the Tribe needs to get healthy. Every team preaches health come October, but ever since All-star and Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer went down with a broken leg on August 11, this team’s number one goal — because they practically had the division under wraps — has been health. Miller has come back and is pitching ok, he should be revved up and ready to go in a couple more weeks. Same with Donaldson, he has come back and already hit a home-run for the Indians. In a couple more weeks, they believe Donaldson will be ready for the heavy workload and the bright lights of October. Bauer, though, is the key to the clubs October chances. All year the Indian's hitting has been streaky, either scoring 10+ runs a game or going an entire week without scoring more than 10 runs. The most dominant and consistent part of this team is their pitching, namely their starting pitching. If Bauer can come back and pitch like he was before the injury and Corey Kluber can be his dominant self, those two alone can win the Tribe a playoff series or two.
Terry Francona will do the rest. Maybe it's my bias showing through, but he’s a bona fide Hall-of-Fame manager, and this team would not remotely be what is has been without him. He has molded this once young team into a clubhouse that loves to play for him and for Cleveland. Players like Bauer, who was ostracized from his previous team for his quirky personality and non-fundamental training habits, have found a home here in Cleveland and flourished to meet their once unlimited potential. While players like Allen have sacrificed stats to help the team reach October.
But all of that is for not if the Tribe can’t secure their first World Series since 1948, and all the players know it, especially Allen, “we have our sights set on something bigger.”
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