Tito has already been quoted as saying the season could go two ways. Make that 250 ways, Mr. manager.
He knows that, we all know that, but the point is clear as is the question: what will last year do to this year.
Using the Cavs as an example, they rode Kevin Love's and Kyrie Irving's injury to the NBA finals in 2015, actually and unlikely, winning two games from the Warriors. Did they use that in 2016 when they came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the whole thing? I think so. Don't know so but I think so.
If the Indians do the same thing it will be a very powerful force this year. It will be that way for two reasons:
1. Because no team is without injuries. St. Louis has already lost probably the brightest pitching prospect and a guy who likely would have slotted into #3 in their rotation, Alex Reyes, to TJ surgery before the first full team workout. Injuries happen and most teams can't stockpile enough talent to totally overcome those injuries. The Indians learned last year that they can win without their entire team being healthy and, given how frequently injuries happen, that was a good lesson.
2. The Indians are thin offensively but, nevertheless, strong on paper in their starting lineup. If Brantley comes back at full strength, playing like he did before the shoulder injury, this should make the team feel even better about itself. Winning games isn't all about pitching or all about hitting or all about defense. The Indians have the combination of talent to win with pitching one night and hitting the next. That will be important if we have pitching injuries and have to rely on young guys.
3. The season is a grind. As LeBron and company are finding out, you have to find different ways to win depending on your team situation that day. Different guys have to step up. The Indians are set to be able to do that. They really need only two things: a shut down righthanded reliever now, and a 3B or OF bat in July. They could get hurt if they have a lot of injuries but this team is set to compete over the season in a situation where the season would become a grind.
4. Some fans are worried about a let down after last year or that it was just a mirage that can't be sustained. Such is true with the bookies, as well. What no one is talking about is that there are likely to be guys who break out this year. I would love to see guys like Trevor Bauer and Bradley Zimmer break out and Yan Gomes return to his form of a few years ago. I would love to add Brantley's bat back to this lineup. As we look at this season we can't be thinking that we are talking about the WS team plus Carrasco and Salazar and substituting Encarnacion for Napoli and Davis. I think it could be much more than that and, in my heart, I feel it will be much more than that.
5. The ONLY thing I see going wrong with the Indians this season is post-season cockiness. What do I mean by that? I think the 1996 Indians were a perfect example. I don't think they thought they could be beaten in the AL playoffs but they were. If we make it to the playoffs is where we have to turn up the heat. Again, using the Cavaliers example, they know that losing some regular season games happens but that they are really preparing for the playoffs. The Indians need to adopt that mentality. They have to battle through the regular season and focus on turning it up in the playoffs. No post-season cockiness, please! I don't see that happening with this group but, to me, it is the biggest fear I have going into the Indians' season. I am counting on Tito to take care of preparing his team for both the regular season and, if we get there, the playoffs, too.
So, my bet is for Tito to do what he does and manage this team to win no matter what the cards are that he is dealt. I think they make the playoffs again and if things fall right for them they make it back to the WS again. Once you get to the Series it is how things break for you. I believe in Tito and I believe in this team and I believe they can win the series this year. Let's go Tribe!