Titletown, USA, could be claimed to be located in New York, Boston, or even San Francisco. One city that has not claimed that title is Cleveland. The Indians have not been to the World Series since 1997, and they haven’t won a title since 1948 over the Boston Braves.
This could be the season that updates the record books. Cleveland holds the second-best record in the American League at 60-42. They have a 4.5 game lead over the division rival Detroit Tigers and look poised to make a playoff run. With all of the off-season and pre-season hype surrounding the up and coming Chicago Cubs, Cleveland is looking to end its own title drought this season.
The Indians last post season berth came in 2013 as the top wild card, yet they lost at home 4-0 to the Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tribe could face Maddon again this year if both teams continue winning all the way to the World Series. Such a matchup would be hugely hyped and give two cities each a monumental chance to end their losing ways.
On paper, the Indians do not have the star power that is abundant in Chicago. That’s why they don’t play games on paper; that’s also why Cleveland traded for All-Star reliever Andrew Miller before the trade deadline. They gave up top prospects Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield in return for the coveted setup man in Miller. Such a move leaves no doubt that the Indians are all-in for 2016. But why would a team who hasn’t had much success, all of a sudden risk a future star outfielder and starting pitcher for a reliever?
LeBron James is why. James brought the Cleveland Cavaliers its first NBA title in 2016, and the city’s first championship in over half a century. He created something out of nothing. And that something is hope.
With the immense hype surrounding the city of Cleveland after the NBA Finals, it isn’t surprising that the momentum has carried over to the baseball diamond. The defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals have not been as dominant as the past two seasons and find themselves on the outside of the playoff race. The Chicago White Sox made off-season moves and in-season trades to try to bolster their roster, but have not seen the likes of first place like the Indians have.
Of course the Cavaliers’ success is not a direct correlation to that of the Indians, but it’s funny the way things like that work in the sports world. Especially when an entire city is now on a sports high, the wins should keep piling on for the Tribe. The only pressure is to match the success of the Cavs. Even if Cleveland does win the World Series, LeBron will still be the face of the city.
Cleveland: Who are these guys?
The biggest names on the Indians’ roster include Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, and Francisco Lindor. Napoli is known for his success with the Red Sox and Rangers, Kluber won the AL Cy Young in 2014, and Lindor is only in his second season but was an All-Star this season. Santana and Kipnis are two of the more successful veterans on the team, but are still mostly unknown outside Cleveland.
All of the baseball headlines will continue to surround the Cubs for the rest of the season. Even the New York Yankees might get more coverage than Cleveland because of trades to get younger for the future. The Indians won’t be the center of attention unless they actually win the whole thing. Every other playoff team would have more coverage than the Indians. This bodes well for teams that are able to fly under the radar and keep taking their opponents by surprise.
Nobody in the AL Central will be taken by surprise the rest of the season though. Nor in the playoffs. This may not be the “Major League” version of the Tribe, but the Indians have set themselves up for a chance at a ring this season.
Do you want a World Series prediction? The Indians take the Cubs to a Game 7. Andrew Miller is pitching for Cleveland, while Aroldis Chapman is on the mound for the Cubs. Former Yankees’ teammates square off in the last inning. Chapman will give up a go-ahead home run to Jason Kipnis. Miller comes in and notches the save to win the series. Chicago’s drought continues, and the rise of Cleveland continues.