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.
The last time Rajai Davis played a game that mattered for the Cleveland Indians, it was Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. He hit an eighth-inning, game-tying, two-run home run that sent Tribe fans into a frenzy and the shot is considered one of the greatest home runs in the more than 100-year history of the franchise (imagine if the Indians had actually won that game). Obviously, the team went on to lose the game and the Fall Classic, both considered among the greatest in baseball history, by an 8-7 margin in 10 frames.
Cleveland was not able to wrap up its unfinished business in 2017, despite a 102-win campaign that included a historic 22-game winning streak. Perhaps the club needed Davis in the fold to finish what it came so agonizingly close to doing two years ago.
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 – 20 days
Last May, the Cleveland Indians retired the jersey number 20 in honor of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, adding it to the growing list of digits taken out of circulation by the organization and making it the first player number since Bob Lemon‘s 21 was de-listed in 1998. In addition to Lemon’s number, the numbers 3 (Earl Averill), 5 (Lou Boudreau), 14 (Larry Doby), 18 (Mel Harder), 19 (Bob Feller), and 42 (Jackie Robinson) are also unavailable to future members of the Tribe.
The number 20 made its final and memorable appearances on the diamond for the Indians on the back of Rajai Davis, whose heroics in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series nearly brought an end to the Tribe’s excruciatingly long title drought. One magical swing in the eighth inning of Game 7 brought the game to a tie and permanently etched his name into Indians lore.
When you take a different approach to something and it does not work, sometimes it is best to go back to what worked before.
After being spotted at spring camp in Goodyear, Arizona, during the day on Saturday, the Indians announced the signing of free agent outfielder Rajai Davis to a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation to spring training. The move reunites the Indians and Davis, whose last hits in a Cleveland uniform came during some of the more gripping moments in the city’s sports history in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
As Lonnie Chisenhall stated on Saturday, “We’re getting the band back together.”
Join Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to Opening Day!
Countdown to Opening Day – 20
Rajai Davis might not have been the longest to wear 20 for Cleveland and was hardly the best to do so, but with one magical swing in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, he permanently etched his name into Indians lore.
The veteran outfielder provided a surprise jolt to the Indians lineup last season and his absence will be felt in the coming season as no player on the roster currently will replace his league-leading 43 stolen bases and electric attitude and effort that he provided the club, both on and off the field during the Indians’ run to the final moments of the 2016 season. His high-flying high-fives with teammates after wins became a common sight as the season went on and the team kept winning. He brought with him years of experience, including years of struggling to latch on to roster spots in the early portions of his career.
Rajai Davis and his 43 stolen bases have gone off to Oakland. Superstar left fielder Michael Brantley is not a 100 percent guarantee to rebound from multiple shoulder surgeries to regain his form that made him an MVP candidate in 2014.
Cleveland, looking to bolster its outfield depth, could end up with a major steal – pardon the pun – in this free agency class. Veteran outfielder Austin Jackson was inked to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training on Wednesday. If he can rebound from a knee injury that cost him the second half of the 2016 campaign with the White Sox, he will be a fine replacement for the 36-year-old Davis.
Jackson, who will turn 30 on Wednesday, does not steal quite as many bases as Davis, but has proven to be good for 20 or so per season throughout his seven-year career. He has exhibited a little more power and ability to get on base than the elder Davis. An ability to play all three outfield spots, as he showed in 2015, makes him a great fit in an outfield that will see a lot of platoon play, regardless of whether or not Brantley is fully healthy all year.
The Indians are saying “goodbye” to a pair of popular veterans who played integral roles in helping the Tribe reach Game 7 of the the 2016 World Series. It was the first Fall Classic for the Tribe in 19 years. Gone are the power-hitting Mike Napoli and base-stealing Rajai Davis. Both veterans were signed to one-year deals before last season and both proved there was still a little something in the tank.
Napoli has yet to sign on the dotted line with another team. However, Cleveland’s big free-agent addition of first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion means there is no room for Napoli. Encarnacion, who is a more consistent hitter over his career, is an upgrade there. The middle of the Tribe’s batting order got better on Thursday with the official announcement of the contract agreement.
Davis and his 43 stolen bases are also gone. The Indians did not sign an upgrade or a similar player as they did for the first base/DH job. Instead, the speedy 36-year-old shortstop inked a one-year, $6 million pact with the Oakland Athletics last week. Unlike Napoli and his power, it is unlikely the Tribe will reach outside the organization for a replacement to Davis’ feet.
The 2016 Major League Baseball season is over and the Chicago Cubs are World Champions as they defeated the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in a dramatic Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night from Progressive Field.
It’s heartbreak time in Cleveland once again as the Indians were up three games to one before the effects of an injury-depleted starting rotation finally surfaced against the top team in baseball. The Indians battled down to the wire with the Cubs in a Game 7 that will go down as one of the all-time greatest games in the history of the national pastime.
For the Cubs, their 108-year title drought is over. For the Indians, the void in the baseball championship landscape will grow to a 69th year.
With their 103-win season and 108-year championship drought at stake, the Chicago Cubs outlasted the Cleveland Indians by a 3-2 final in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night in the final game at Wrigley Field in the 2016 season.
The Cubs, who have made fans wait a long time for a return to glory, waited until the third and final game in Chicago to get their first World Series win secured at Wrigley Field since 1945. They avoided a home field sweep by the Indians, who had their sights set on clinching the championship on the road in dramatic fashion. The win keeps the hopes alive for the Chicago media darlings, who now trail the best-of-seven series, 3-2. The Fall Classic now returns to Cleveland for the remaining games, as necessary.
The Indians pitching staff contained the Cubs lineup once again, limiting the power-packed bunch to just three runs on the night. The bigger story line for Cleveland, however, was the team’s inability to deliver in the clutch as they missed countless opportunities throughout the contest, all of which loomed large in the one-run defeat for the Tribe.
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.
Just two more wins.
Say it again. The more you say it, the more you can believe it. The Cleveland Indians are just two more wins away from winning the World Series.
Cleveland has become the center of the sports universe in 2016, first raining destruction on a 52-year championship drought when the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in June. Now, the Indians are looking to end a four-month title hangover and their own 68-year drought by supplying the city of Cleveland and its fans with another championship parade.
In Friday’s 1-0 Game 3 victory that gave Cleveland a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series over Chicago, the Indians used some clutch hitting and some dynamite pitching from all four men to step on the mound against the Cubs to quiet a Wrigley Field crowd hosting its first game in 71 years. But the offense had its struggles, leaving base runners all over the place through the first five innings. The team needs to play more consistent and complete games if it wants to leave the Windy City up in the series or even with the Commissioner’s trophy.
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).