Cleveland Indians: Just let the Tribe play ball without the expectations

Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

After Sports Illustrated picked the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series last year, is it any comfort to be most people’s “dark-horse” candidate? No, just stop America, and let them play.

I think I like it better when fans outside of a team’s city know nothing about their potential. Yeah, it might be considered “sneaking up” on opponents, but once the word gets out expectations–and pressure–rise on said team. I think a little bit of that might have gotten to the Cleveland Indians last year, and this year as a darkhorse? Is this any better?

We’re all very aware of what this pitching staff could be. The results haven’t come together in a single season, but even without knowing who the No. 5 starter is–this rotation could easily be one of the best in all of baseball. Granted, things would have to fall into place–meaning Corey Kluber gets some run support and Trevor Bauer finds his way back to his potential of what we believe him capable of.

The issue was, is, and will be once again the offense. The Indians have new faces in camp–another promising rookie in Tyler Naquin–and enough outfielders to field three separate teams. But can they all come together to support the pitching in 2016? Yes, but it’s a “soft” yes.

We know what the history has been with free agents. I’m not doing my job if I don’t mention Brandon Moss, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourne..but maybe things will be different this year. Mike Napoli is having a monster spring (.467, 3 HR, 11 RBI), but he’s shown he’s capable of big things in small sample sizes. Can he keep this up all year?

I don’t expect to believe he will, but if he can even mirror his spring in the slightest of ways the Indians may have finally broke the free agent curse. And while we wait to see what Napoli can do you’ve got players like Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis who could platoon to help provide whatever the offense needs.

Francisco Lindor “wowed” us last season upon being called up, and Naquin may be giving us an indicator it’s his turn as well. Sometimes you just have to get that one break to prove yourself, and Michael Brantley being out (maybe at least) could give Naquin that chance.

More guardians: Naquin looking for more than just a roster spot

I don’t want to see the Indians as a favorite or a darkhorse. I just want them to go out and play ball. No lofty expectations–not that things like that are all bad–but this team doesn’t need all of that right now. Lace up the cleats put on the cap and let’s get to it.