Cleveland Indians: Some positives as we prepare for 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 04: Jose Ramirez /

The Cleveland Indians ended 2017 in upsetting fashion, but fans have a lot to look forward to heading into 2018.

Wednesday night was challenging for Cleveland Indians fans. Thursday morning’s news made it even worse. There is nothing worse than knowing that you’re the best, only to lose. Is this how Mike Tyson felt against Buster Douglas? The 2007 Patriots against the Giants? Probably not. And here’s why.

The historically good Cleveland Indians lost in five games to the also really good New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. After setting the modern-day record for consecutive wins, the Indians lost too early.

Peaking early is a real thing, and there’s a small chance that the Indians’ streak came at the wrong time. But this article isn’t about the collapse. It’s not about 1999, 2001, 2007, or 2016. This article is about the 2017 Cleveland Indians, and what we should celebrate about them.

A lot of amazing happened

Let’s set the record straight: The 2017 Cleveland Indians, by many measures, were a historically good team. As we’ve seen across sports forever, historically good teams don’t always win the title. Sometimes, they lose in the first round of the playoffs. That’s the beauty of sports.

Whether it was the 22-game win streak, a pitching staff that averaged over 10 strikeouts per game for the entire season for the first time, another Corey Kluber (presumed) Cy Young, or the growth of Jose Ramirez, Bradley Zimmer, Mike Clevinger, and Tyler Olson, the 2017 Indians were a hoot.

The Tribe improved almost every aspect of its roster from 2016 to 2017 after they went to the World Series and lost in seven games. Everyone presumed (myself included) that this would translate directly into another championship for Cleveland. Unfortunately, a lot of weird happens in professional sports.

A lot of weird happened

Bradley Zimmer broke his hand. Michael Brantley turned into Michael Brantley. Jason Kipnis‘ injury caused Jose Ramirez to move over, which made non-hitting Giovanny Urshela the starting third baseman for the playoffs. Lonnie Chisenhall had an incredible season before getting injured.

Austin Jackson was an amazing surprise. Mike Clevinger proved us right that he is an MLB top-caliber starter, only to falter in the bullpen when asked to change. Danny Salazar kept toying with our hearts.

The only consistency in the regular season was Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber, and Jose Ramirez, all of whom disappeared in the playoffs. You can’t make that stuff up. Thankfully, there’s a bright outlook ahead.

Brief outlook

Brantley is not coming back unless it’s free. Jay Bruce will find a bigger contract somewhere else.  Jackson’s renaissance will lead to lucrative offers elsewhere. Carlos Santana will probably come back on a team-friendly deal.

Joe Smith will come back because he’s a local. Bryan Shaw has been the epitome of a workhorse, and the Tribe would do well to keep him around. Boone Logan is expensive at $7 million for who knows what. The team will likely pick up Josh Tomlin‘s $3 million.

The Cleveland Indians are in good shape. Assuming Jason Kipnis moves back to second base, the Tribe’s infield and DH spot are set. The outfield will consist of Chisenhall, Zimmer, and a left fielder to be determined. Both Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez are back. The only hole is left field, and the Indians could easily bring back Brantley.

Next: The danger in expectations

On the mound, the Tribe is in even better shape. The top six starters are all back. Manager Terry Francona will have to decide on who’s the top five. The bullpen is almost set as well. Expect another 90+ win campaign in 2018 with more experience from some of the younger players.