In the late hours of July 31st, 2016, Andrew Miller was sitting at an airport in Cleveland, where an enthusiastic team driver greeted him. He had just been traded to the Indians from the New York Yankees that morning.
For a team that was 18 games over .500, the Tribe’s success had been overshadowed by the incredible seasons put together by the Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, and of course, the even-year Giants. Very few believed that the Indians would be a team to be reckoned with in the postseason.
Miller, however, knew that there was something special about this team and this city in which he would be spending his next couple of years.
In a Player’s Tribune article, he described that very night: “The driver told me all about the way the city had embraced the club — they had recently reeled off a 14-game winning streak, and everything seemed to be clicking. His enthusiasm made me eager to get to Progressive Field the next day.”
Miller and the Indians would run away with the Central Division title, and advance all the way to Game 7 of the World Series before falling to the Cubs.
Yesterday was 2017’s trade deadline, and the déjà vu is beginning to set in. At around 3:00 PM EST, the Indians acquired Joe Smith from the Toronto Blue Jays, who is a familiar face to Tribe fans. Smith played in Cleveland from 2009-2013. Smith is a solid reliever that will ease the workload on Shaw, Miller and Allen.
No, the front office didn’t trade for a big name like Sonny Gray or Zach Britton, but with the injury to Boone Logan, they got what they needed most: another solid reliever. Cleveland’s biggest strength in the playoffs last season was the performance of their bullpen. They are looking to repeat the same winning formula in 2017.
Today, the Indians are two games up on the division and are flying under the radar once again. Overshadowed by the success of the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Indians have the second best record in the American League and have seemed unstoppable over the last two weeks; recording 9 straight wins while scoring 7.3 runs per game over that span. In addition, the pitching staff has held the opposition to 3.6 runs per game in July, which gives the team a spectacular chance to win almost every contest.
The late summer months were when the Indians came together and became a contender last year, and the team is looking just as powerful as we head into the home stretch of the 2017 season.
Yes, the front office could have done more to help compete for a championship this season, but the reality is, the Indians are in a great position to contend for years to come. Centerpieces of the team like Corey Kluber (2021), Edwin Encarnacion (2019), Francisco Lindor (2021), Andrew Miller (2018) and Jose Ramirez (2020) are under club control for years to come, and top prospects like Francisco Mejia and Bobby Bradley weren’t given up for talent that would be able to leave after the season. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that the Indians aren’t title contenders now, they certainly are. This team is arguably better on paper than the team that went to extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series last year. The key is health, which was not in the Tribe’s favor last season.
With good starting pitching, an excellent bullpen, and an offense that is starting to come around to its strengths, The Indians will be in it to win it again in the 2017 postseason.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.