Cleveland Indians Thriving on Postseason Doubters
Few among the national punditry gave the Cleveland Indians a chance of even winning against the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Now the Tribe is one win away from playing for a trip to the World Series, and using the doubters to fuel their run.
If you’ve followed along with the Cleveland Indians and their field analyst Andre Knott during games on SportsTime Ohio and social media this season, there’s a word that may have seemed to pop up frequently: Respeck.
The spelling is a bit of an inside joke, but underlies the fact that despite 94 regular season wins, an American League Central Division championship, and home-field advantage against the Boston Red Sox in the Division Series, the Tribe has received little respect, let alone praise, from the national, and in some cases local, baseball media.
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The club was almost unanimously believed to stand no chance at all of even winning a game, let alone the series, against Boston. And that lack of respect is something that the players for Cleveland have taken note of.
Infamously, a beat writer for a local Cleveland newspaper pronounced the team’s postseason dreams dead after starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco had his season ended thanks to a comeback line drive to the mound against the Detroit Tigers on September 17th. Several members of the team took to social media at that point to call out said beat writer, and the team used his column as fuel to lock down its first division title since 2007.
More recently, though, it has been the national outlets that have provided fuel to the fire for the Indians and their fans, who have been so loud at Progressive Field in the first two games of the ALDS it has given this author flashbacks to his teenage years in the mid-1990s. As LeBron James said to the sold-out crowd before Friday afternoon’s Game Two, “It’s Cleveland against the world.”
Second baseman Jason Kipnis, one of the more vocal leaders of the team, and one of the players who voiced his displeasure on social media with the Indians’ season being deemed hopeless in mid-September, had several comments after the club’s 6-0 Game Two win over the BoSox that display how the doubters and haters are actually helping.
“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t extra motivation,” Kipnis said after Friday’s win. “I don’t think anybody picked us to come out of this series. They’re surprised that we even had home-field advantage. They’re surprised that we’re even standing on one leg with all of the injuries that we’ve had.”
“I don’t think anybody picked us to come out of this series. They’re surprised that we even had home-field advantage. They’re surprised that we’re even standing on one leg with all of the injuries that we’ve had.”
In addition to Carrasco, the Tribe is without Danny Salazar in the starting rotation and has played all but 11 games all season without all-star left fielder Michael Brantley. Every team endures injuries, of course, but few have suffered so many to such key pieces and continued to persevere.
“People forget there’s a reason we opened up in Cleveland and not Boston,” Kipnis said. “We have a pretty good team here that doesn’t rely on one guy. We find ways to win ball games and we put together good runs. Right now, you’re seeing one of them.”
In the postseason, a club needs a rallying cry, and the lack of respect Cleveland has been shown is providing just that. But two games do not a playoff run make, and Cleveland isn’t allowing early success against Boston to float it into complacency.
“That’s not a monster you want to wake over there,” Kipnis said of the Red Sox. “That offense can be scary and intimidating even when they’re not getting hits.”
The Indians won’t be sneaking up on anyone anymore in October after two impressive victories, and the narrative surrounding the team is also going to begin to shift. If the Tribe can land a knockout punch at Fenway Park, the pundits and columnists will be forced to give the club their due. But Kipnis knows there’s still work to be done.
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“When you have a chance to knock out a team early, you don’t waste any time,” Kipnis said. “You do it. You don’t want to let them get their footing or let them feel at home. If you get a chance to end it, you end it.”