For me there are basically two types of Cleveland sports fans: 1) This is the year--no matter how bad the last two decades have been (Browns—lately, Indians—‘60’s and 70’s) or how many tragic failings (Indians—lately, Browns—the fumble, the drive), this is the year we reach the mountaintop (for the Indians that means win the World Series, for the Browns that means finish above .500); and 2) This team will definitely break my heart. There are the rare fans that can combine the two, but I have generally been in category 2 since the year Sports Illustrated put Joe Carter and Corey Snyder on the cover of its baseball preview issue circa 1987?? Geez, I am old.
This year feels like when you ate that carry-out even though you probably should have thrown it out sorta year. Gone are the bats of Encarnacion, Brantley, and Alonso, and bullpen arms Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. I'll admit I'm not going to miss Encarnacion--his numbers look good, but it always felt like his homers came when we were already up 5 runs and struck out when the game was on the line. It also feels like Miller and Allen's best years are behind them--like 2016 when we should have beat the Cubs in the f-ing World Series. Brantley is going to have a big year. Hidden somewhere in the middle of the Astros lineup, he probably ends up having champagne poured over his head as the Astros win the World Series. Alonso seemed to have a lot of big hits, but my guess is the return of Carlos Santana will be about a wash at first base.
Other than bringing Santana back, the Indians have done little to improve their roster. The theory seems to be that the AL Central is so weak that they need to do little to solidify their position at the top of the division. This gives the Tribe the luxury to find out if some of their young players are ready to be every day contributors or go out mid-season and find a piece or two for the playoffs. I trust the front knows stuff I don't about the make up of this team, but I thought the half burrito in the fridge from last week was still good and I was wrong, very wrong.
Lindor and Kipnis won't be available opening day. And although, the Indians survived most of last year without Kipnis (and could again this year), we need Frankie. It's not just his bat (he is a fantasy stud) or his glove (at least above average--he's no Omar), but mostly it's his smile. He is the leader of the team along with Tito and makes sure everyone is loose and having fun. He is a joy to watch and it's clear his joy is infectious for both his teammates and the fans. Then this week Jose Ramirez gets carted off the field. Thankfully, the injury seems minor, but the Indian’s prospects change in a heartbeat if Jose isn't in the lineup.
The bright spot should be starting pitching. Apart from the Tribe shopping Kluber and Bauer this offseason (what the hell was that about) and Bauer's dissatisfaction as to how he was treated in arbitration, the rotation looks to be perhaps the best in baseball. Let's just hope Tito can save them so they have something left for the post-season. The bullpen was shaky at best last year, doesn't feel like they added much to improve, but my sense is they won't be any worse than last year.
Couple of guys I see stepping up this year: Leonys Martin and Greg Allen. Not totally sure why I feel this way, but tried to pick them up late in my fantasy draft and missed on both, so that tells me others might be thinking the same thing.
It's spring--let the games begin. Go Tribe. Oh, and did you here the Browns got Odell….