When Mike Napoli signed a minor league deal with the Indians during spring training, it was thought that he could be a valuable clubhouse presence in camp and even an insurance policy if the team needed some right-handed pop or a replacement for Yonder Alonso or Edwin Encarnacion for some reason during the year.
Instead, Napoli’s season is over, and there is a chance that his career could be, too.
The Opening Day roster for the Cleveland Indians continues to take shape. Another puzzle piece fell into place on Thursday when manager Terry Francona announced that Rajai Davis would break camp with the club as a reserve outfielder.
While the offseason has been historically slow and the winter has crawled along at an even slower pace, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night look ahead to the warmer days of the 2018 season by remembering Tribe players past and present.
Countdown to Opening Day – 26 days
In this decade, the number 26 has found a home in Cleveland with veterans newly added to the roster.
He may have been on to something.
The Cleveland Indians welcomed another old face back home on Tuesday, coming to terms on a minor league contract with free agent first baseman Mike Napoli. The deal, which is pending a physical and includes a Major League non-roster camp invitation, will return the 36-year-old slugger to Goodyear, his home during spring training prior to the 2016 season.
Join Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to Opening Day!
Countdown to Opening Day – 26
Mike Napoli‘s yearlong party at Progressive Field came to an end over the offseason, as the free agent slugger was replaced in the Cleveland Indians lineup by a younger, more consistent power hitter in Edwin Encarnacion.
Napoli’s departure marks the end of one of the more impressive contributions by a player to spend just one season in northeast Ohio. While his bat cooled off in the final two months of the season and his impact in the postseason as a whole was minimal, the Indians would not have reached that pinnacle without his presence in the middle of their lineup. It was little surprise that with an additional threat in the Cleveland batting order that guys like Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez had career years hitting behind him. Napoli’s watchful eye at the plate and the fear instilled by him in opposing pitchers of giving up a majestic moonshot seemed to provide plenty of protection for those around him in the lineup.
A general manager’s job is never done. After the final out of Game 7 was recorded, Indians GM Mike Chernoff had to go back to work. He had no time to celebrate the Tribe’s amazing postseason run that saw them come one run short of a championship. He could not rest because of two simple words: qualifying offer.
For five days after the World Series, and probably a few months before, teams must debate whether or not they should extend a qualifying offer to their players who will become free agents. It’s a contract offer for one year worth the average salary of the highest-paid 125 players in the majors, which is $17.2 million this off-season. If the player declines the offer and signs elsewhere, his former team gets draft pick compensation after the first round and his new team loses their first round pick.
Mike Napoli was the only player on the Tribe roster who management probably thought about extending the offer to (Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis were also eligible). When the 5 p.m. deadline passed yesterday and the Tribe declined to submit the offer, Napoli became a free agent with no strings attached.
Did Tribe management make the right choice? No doubt they did.
Six RBI from shortstop Addison Russell and another strong pitching performance from Chicago’s Jake Arrieta helped the Cubs force a Game 7 in the World Series with a 9-3 win over the Indians at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on Tuesday night.
A return home for the Indians was not enough to clinch the club’s first title since 1948, even with the last living member of that season’s team, Eddie Robinson, in attendance at Game 6 of the World Series. Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin was rocked for six runs in the first three innings and the Indians once again failed to answer the call when opportunity knocked.
The Chicago win forces a winner-takes-all showdown on Wednesday night for the title of World Champions.
After taking two of three in Chicago at Wrigley Field over the weekend, the Cleveland Indians returned home needing just one more win in the final two games of the Fall Classic to give the Tribe their first World Series title since 1948 while ending the hopes of the Cubs’ faithful for their first championship since 1908.
The Indians will look to give the Cubs another year of agony and torment on Tuesday night as the two clubs meet up in Game 6 of the World Series. The Cubs avoided a dreaded sweep on their home field on Sunday night, holding on for a 3-2 win by taking a page out of Indians manager Terry Francona’s postseason playbook and using closer Aroldis Chapman for two and two-thirds innings to secure the one-run win. Backs against the wall, Chicago manager Joe Maddon pulled out all the stops and made a three-run fourth inning stand up, despite several scoring opportunities squandered by the Indians.
Now, the American League’s best home team will host the Cubs, who won 46 games on the road during the regular season for the second-best mark in the Majors. The Indians are 5-1 at home in the playoffs, while the Cubs are 4-3 on the road. Cleveland will look for more dominant pitching at home, bringing in a 1.50 ERA and 1.06 WHIP to match an offense that boasts the top home run hitting numbers at home in the postseason.
For the second time in four months, the city of Cleveland stands on the doorstep of history.
Opportunity is knocking loudly, and the Indians are poised to answer the call.
Game 5 of the 2016 World Series is set to take place Sunday night shortly after 8:00 PM ET from Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The beloved classic baseball home of the Cubs has become a home away from home for the Indians through two road games in the best-of-seven series, as the underdog Clevelanders invaded Chicago and have taken two from the friendly confines of the Cubs.
Now, the Indians will look to do something that they have done just twice in their history – win the final game played of the Major League Baseball season and come home to a celebration unlike anything seen in Cleveland…in four months. The Cubs will be fighting for their lives, backs against the wall, nothing left to lose but their closest opportunity in 71 years to end the suffering and a World Series drought 108 years in length.
The Cleveland Indians’ team approach and mentality has gotten the club to the World Series for the first time in 19 years. That win-as-a-team mentality is costly when it comes to arguably the most prestigious individual honor a player can win – the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
The Tribe will likely have top three finalists or winners of the other three major pieces of hardware that get handed out at the start of the offseason, honoring a player’s or coach’s regular season work. Terry Francona is a good bet to win the A.L. Manager of the Year, Tribe ace Corey Kluber has a decent shot at his second league Cy Young Award and outfielder Tyler Naquin is a likely top three contender for Rookie of the Year honors.
However, when it comes to A.L. MVP recognition, Cleveland does not seem to have a big enough dog in the race. The MVP winner usually comes from a playoff team and leads his league or is near the top of a couple of the major offensive categories. Another big thing MVP voters like to see is a player that carried a large burden and put his team on his back for much of the season in getting to the playoffs.
Chicago starter Jake Arrieta froze the Cleveland bats, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and his offense jumped on Trevor Bauer and the Indians bullpen to even up the World Series at one win a piece in a 5-1 Cubs win on Wednesday night.
With rain in the forecast throughout the day in Cleveland and a cool fall feel in the air, the Cubs and Indians played Game 2 from Progressive Field as the Chicago bats woke up while those of their opponents slumbered.
All eyes were on Bauer in the first, waiting for the stitched together right pinkie finger of the young right-handed starter to hemorrhage blood as it had done in the second game of the American League Championship Series against Toronto. The finger held together just fine, but Bauer’s command was not nearly as crisp as the air and Chicago touched him up for a run in their first at bats of the night.
Dreams became reality on Tuesday night as the city of Cleveland hosted one ring ceremony and raised a championship banner while playing for another title next door.
A strong start from Corey Kluber set the tone in Game 1. He worked into the seventh inning, giving up four hits while striking out nine in a performance rivaled by only Bob Gibson and Allie Reynolds before him. Despite the high strikeout rate, Kluber was economical with his pitches overall, needing just 88 to get through the six-plus innings while conserving his arm some in the event that manager Terry Francona would turn to Kluber in a Game 4 situation on short rest as opposed to working him on normal rest in the Wrigley finale on Sunday.
The Indians now lead a World Series for the first time since winning Game 7 of the 1948 season, a memorable year for Tribe fans who can recall that season and hold it high as one of two years in franchise history that the team claimed the championship of the world. A win by the Indians would give them a two-game advantage or better in the World Series for just the fifth time in franchise history (Games 6 and 7, 1920; Games 4 and 6, 1948).