Baseball has a problem staring it in the face and no more obvious is that dilemma apparent than at the downtown Cleveland offices of the franchise soon-to-be remembered as the Indians.
Plenty of uncertainty loomed over the state of the Major League Baseball landscape with the persistent public squabbles that put the 2020 season in jeopardy due to the safety and logistical concerns created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic plaguing the country beginning ten months ago. While owners and players were ultimately able to get in 60 unattended regular season games at a financial loss, the ramifications of the lost revenues cast a gray cloud over the game as teams have had to adapt and adjust to the changed marketplace. The disjointed relationships between owners and players and the fiscal damages sustained, plus the wrecking ball smashed into the minor league system, all spell some unpleasant feelings about how negotiations may transpire as time ticks away on baseball’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, set to expire on December 1 of this year.
As for the Cleveland baseball club, the efforts of the front office this offseason seem to spell out both doom and gloom as the perennial playoff contending roster has been systematically dismantled for cheaper alternatives while once again putting the organization in a negative spotlight. Most recently in the news for its decision to rebrand for 2022 in the sake of political correctness, now the Dolan-led front office group is being criticized for having an active team salary base that is less than individual one-year commitments that teams have made to several dozens of the game’s brightest stars. Thursday’s trade of future big earner Francisco Lindor and moderate investment Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets further highlighted the Indians’ extensive cost-cutting efforts.
If the team was looking to roll out “Pennypinchers”, “Scrooges”, or “Misers” as its new moniker moving forward, it has hit the ground running in embracing the name.
The Cleveland Indians have already brought home some hardware this offseason, but two of the biggest remaining awards left to be acknowledged for play this past season are coming up this week.
With Major League Baseball set to announce four sets of awards this week, the Indians have a pair of big nominees in the running for two of baseball’s top honors. While the team does not have any representatives in the running for the Rookie of the Year and the Manager of the Year awards, pitcher Shane Bieber is the frontrunner for the American League’s Cy Young Award and third baseman Jose Ramirez is confirmed to be one of the top three finishers in the AL’s Most Valuable Player contest.
The offseason award tour has been fruitful for the Indians thus far.
November historically marks the start of offseason activities around baseball and this year is no exception, even with the delays and issues created this season by the coronavirus.
The Major League Baseball free agency period kicked off over the weekend, with all teams also needing to come to terms on roster option decisions and qualifying offers for the handful of viable candidates on the new $18.9 million one-year tender. With that out of the way, the league can now look back and recognize its best and brightest during a season devoid of a midseason All-Star nod for those excelling at their craft.
Finalists for Major League Baseball’s four major awards will be announced on Monday night in a live MLB Network broadcast beginning at 6 PM ET. The top three finalists in each league will be announced for the Most Valuable Player Award, the Cy Young Award, the Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year.
Even with the shortened 60-game regular season and a brief two-game playoff stint, I needed a break from coverage of the Cleveland Indians (also, some grueling hours at the job that pays the bills over the last couple of weeks made time for writing minimal). An underwhelming offseason the winter before, mixed results during the 2020 campaign, and an abysmal showing in the expanded playoff format a few weeks ago piled on to make it tough to put my thoughts into appropriate family-friendly terms. The step away helped to give me some prerogative on what transpired over the course of the last couple of months, but does not give me a lot of happy vibes about what is in store for the Indians’ organization in the months and years ahead.
Obviously, the 2020 season didn’t go as planned for anybody. Spring Training ramped up in February and was near its conclusion in March when the coronavirus began to truly run rampant across the United States, slamming the door on nearly all non-essential activities. After an uncomfortable amount of bickering as to the length of a shortened schedule shined an unpleasant light on future labor negotiations in the not-so-distant future between players and ownership, baseball returned for Spring Training 2.0. The shortened 60-game slate of games was pulled off, with only a handful of glitches in particular hot spots across the MLB landscape. Playoff bubbles were implemented to help conclude play and, shockingly to some, the World Series started Tuesday from Arlington, Texas, where the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers began the final leg of their championship pursuits, one which may come with an asterisk next to it in the annals of baseball history.
As for the Indians, this season is another “what if” story in the 120-year history of American League play on the shores of Lake Erie.
Burn on, big river, burn on.
In what will likely be his final inning in an Indians uniform, Brad Hand blew his first save of the season and handed the Yankees a pair of runs in the top of the ninth as New York rallied in a messy, ugly, crazy game to defeat Cleveland, 10-9.
The city of Cleveland got 75 minutes of October baseball and was dealt a devastating first round exit for the third time in four years as the Indians could not hold off the pesky New York baseball team, which got healthy just in time to spoil any hopes for the Indians to end a 72-year championship drought in the realm of Major League Baseball.
The Cleveland Indians make their return to the postseason this week as the fourth seed in the eight-team format specially implemented for this pandemic-shortened season. The Indians will host the series in Cleveland for the only time allowed in the bracket system, with the rival New York Yankees coming to town for a battle to two wins in the three-game American League Wild Card Series.
The Indians (35-25) used some home field magic over the course of the last week of the regular season, jumping from the seventh seed to the fourth seed on the final day of play with a big come-from-behind victory on Sunday to take two of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the heels of a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox. The better results down the stretch earned the team the right to host the first round Wild Card Series from Progressive Field, as opposed to having to travel for road matchups in Chicago, Minnesota, or Oakland that may not have been as favorable for the Tribe.
There will be at least two more games at Progressive Field this season, as the Indians, using a pair of three-run innings in the sixth and seventh, rallied back to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the season finale from downtown Cleveland on Sunday.
Combined with the White Sox’s 10-8 loss against the crosstown Chicago Cubs (despite a large late rally that brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth), the Indians have clinched the fourth spot in the American League playoff bracket and will host the New York Yankees in the best-of-three AL Wild Card round beginning Tuesday.
Will these be the final three home games of the 2020 season for the Cleveland Indians?
The Indians (33-24) are playing their best baseball of the season and the timing could not be more perfect as the team prepares for a return to the postseason for the first time since 2018. The Indians have won five straight games and took a wrecking ball to the American League playoff bracket by sweeping four consecutive games from the Chicago White Sox during the week to knock them out of the top spot in the AL Central. The Indians will need some luck to claim the divisional crown as they would need to sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend while relying on the Cincinnati Reds, playoff bound themselves, to take all three games against the Minnesota Twins. The Indians enter the day two games behind the Twins, which holds the tie breaker between the two teams, while the Tribe sits one game behind the White Sox for the second spot in the division.
The Cleveland Indians continued to wreak havoc on the American League playoff bracket on Thursday, using a four-run outburst in the seventh trailing three runs to complete a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox in a 5-4 final from Progressive Field.
Four-game sweeps are hard to pull off under any circumstance, but especially against a division rival which entered the weekday series sitting in the top spot in the American League Central. The Indians pulled off another victory with more late inning heroics, using a big rally Thursday on the heels of back-to-back walk-off wins in the middle games of the series to deal a significant blow to the White Sox’s pursuit of the division crown.
In one of the most anticlimactic playoff pursuits in the 120-year history of the Cleveland Indians franchise, Jose Ramirez found a way to make it a little extra special on Tuesday night. Ramirez’s three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning capped a four-run frame and sent the Indians home a 5-3 walk-off winner on Tuesday night, reducing the team’s magic number for a postseason berth to zero in memorable fashion.
The Indians fell behind two runs in the top of the tenth inning as the White Sox knocked in a pair against reliever Phil Maton to break a 1-1 tie. Designated runner James McCann opened the inning at second and watched as Maton won an eight-pitch exchange with Luis Robert, punching out the young star for out number one. Adam Engel, better known for his defensive work than his bat, worked the count full before driving the seventh pitch of his at bat to the gap for an RBI-triple, putting the White Sox on top for the first time on the night, 2-1. Nick Madrigal singled through the pulled in infield to score Engel to make it 3-1 before Maton got out of the inning.
It was a nail-biting finish from the corner of Carnegie and Ontario on Monday night as the Cleveland Indians and closer Brad Hand held off the Chicago White Sox’s ninth inning threat to capture a 7-4 win in the series opener.
The Tribe’s All-Star closer came on as the fourth Tribe pitcher of the day looking to slam the door with a three-run lead. Rookie nine-hitter Nick Madrigal fought off several pitches to work the count back to even before dropping in a single to shallow center to lead off the inning. Tim Anderson launched a rocket deep to center; Delino DeShields raced back to the warning track and leapt, snagging the blast from the air at the top of the fence for the first out. Yoan Moncada grounded to Jose Ramirez’s left and off of his glove into left field for a fielder’s choice and error, bringing the tying run to the plate. James McCann, hitting for an injured Yasmani Grandal, fouled off several pitches before watching a high slider on the outside edge for a called third strike for out number two. Jose Abreu, the White Sox’s last hope and more than capable of tying the game up with one swing, left the bat on the shoulder for a called third strike on the outside corner to give the Tribe a big first win in the four-game set between the two clubs this week.
Seven games. Seven days. And just like that, the 2020 regular season will be over and the 2020 Major League Baseball playoff bracket madness will begin.
The Indians (29-24) have not punched their ticket to the postseason, but barring something horrific happening over the next week, it is almost a foregone conclusion. That said, it may seem highly unlikely given the way that the last few weeks have gone, but the Indians still could catch the White Sox (34-19) in the American League Central, although that has hardly been a topic of conversation over much of September given the inconsistent play of the Clevelanders. The Indians, after taking three of four from the Tigers in Detroit over the weekend, enter the four-game weekday set with the White Sox trailing by five games. While that task may be too steep a hill to climb in a week, the Indians could still catch up with the second place Minnesota Twins, which holds a three-game lead over the Tribe with five games left on its schedule.
The Indians come into the series with a magic number of two to ensure a playoff spot, with that number reduced at present by any combination of Cleveland victories and Seattle defeats.