Cleveland Indians: 2nd straight AL Central title a testament to organization’s strength

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 16: Carlos Santana
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 16: Carlos Santana /

Winning the AL Central title was expected of the Cleveland Indians, but don’t underestimate what this achievement means to strength of the franchise.

The Cleveland Indians clinched the AL Central Saturday night after the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins.

Everyone who follows baseball knew it was coming, but no one was around to celebrate. Earlier in the day, Cleveland earned its 23 win in 24 tries with a 7-2 victory against the Kansas City Royals.

The Tribe shot off fireworks at Progressive Field in front of an empty stadium to celebrate.

Francisco Lindor thought the media was a tad crazy after being asked if he’d dump champagne on his head at home, although he said maybe he’d dump a bottle of water, instead.

Clevelanders love reasons to celebrate, after all, Cleveland doesn’t win championships every day. Even division titles, which the Cavs have won countless time with LeBron James on roster, and those AL Central crowns won by the mid 90s Tribe. We don’t tire of it…We’ll all buy the merch. This town loves its sports, and we love wearing the proof.

Perhaps the under-radar clinching of a playoff spot is appropriate for this club. Last October, they played in Game 7 of the World Series. This team is chasing history, and if they reach their destiney, a Division title will just be a stop along the way.

With that said, the Tribe’s AL Central crown is nothing to scoff at.

The Tribe hasn’t won back-to-back Central championships since the 1998-1999 seasons.

A second straight crown speaks to how the Indians are one of the best organizations in baseball. The division title shows stability and consistency. Yes, boring themes, but absolutely necessary in the game of baseball.

Remember, the Indians enjoyed a couple winning seasons leading up to Terry Francona‘s hire before the 2013 season.

But the team lacked the depth, stability and consistency to stay a contender.

In 2005, the Indians were in the hunt for a playoff spot, but lost out thanks to miserable final week of the season. With expectations high in 2006, the Tribe floundered to open the season and never rebounded.

The Tribe won the Central in 2007 and came within a game of reaching the World Series. Expectations were high in 2008, but that team struggled mightily.

It turns out Fausto Carmona wasn’t gong to be a perennial 19-game winner. Grady Size more got hurt, and never became the Hall of Famer he should of been. Ryan Garko had a career year, the problem being he still had a lot of career in front of him.

Andy Marte wasn’t the answer at third, C.C. Sabathia and Victor Martinez were approaching free agency.

My, how times have changed.

Think about it. Who’s more stable than staff ace Corey Kluber? Carlos Carassco can be lumped into that group as well. He was pitching very well before he got hurt last season, and he’s kept it up in 2017.

Even Trevor Bauer, who’s had his ups and downs, has become a reliable arm. He’s made at least 26 starts in each of the last four seasons, and has started 29 games in 2017. He won 12 games last season, but turned himself into a 16-game winner in the current campaign.

Of course there’s  Francisco Lindor. He started off hot, struggled for a little while, but became red hot during “The Streak.” He’s a better player than he was a year ago. He’s a superstar in every since of the word and Tribe hasn’t a player like him, perhaps ever.

The same can be said for Jose Ramirez. The Dominican went from bring prospect to utility player to a guy who could start, to All-Star to potential MVP candidate. He gets better every year he plays.

He can play a good third base, and has been a Godsend at second defensively with Jason Kipnis battling nagging injuries most of the season.

All Carlos Santana does is hit around 25 bombs, drive in around 85 runs, and walk 100 times.

Cody Allen has been one of the best closers in baseball, and his poised to turn his third straight season or more saves.

And there’s the minor league system. Injuries have plagued the Tribe throughout the season. Bradley Zimmer was brought up to help a crippled outfield. He just didn’t contribute, he made a major impact. His defense is stellar.

Now Zimmer’s hurt, and Tyler Naquin‘s back up. He had a key hit that helped the Tribe extend its winning streak to 22 games.

Yandy Diaz is better than advertised defensively at third, and he’s hit at every level he’s ever played. He’s still got a lot to prove at the dish at the big-league level, but the promise is still there. His teammate at Class AAA Columbus for most of the season, Giovanny Urshela, is a human vacuum cleaner.

Even the catcher position, a spot shared by Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez and considered a weakness, has accounted for 85 RBIs this season.

And player acquisitions: Tyler Olson‘s been traded twice, waived twice, and is now a key component of a bullpen that managed to win 22 straight mostly without Andrew Miller.

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Speaking of Miller…is there anyone out there who still wouldn’t have made that trade. Clint Frazier may be a good one, but man. You can’t put a price on what Miller means to this pen.

Nick Goody went from a reliever with an ERA over 4.00 to a key part of the pen with a 2.58 ERA.

Lonnie Chisenhall went bust as a third baseman but made himself into a strong right fielder who was leading the team in RBIs before getting sidelined by a calf injury that’s still problematic. What’d the front office to remedy that problem? They got Jay Bruce. “Bruuuuuuuuuuuce.”

Austin Jackson was the lottery ticket that hit. Last season, it was Rajai Davis. The front office is building a strong track record of finding veterans who can play.

Heck, I haven’t even mentioned free agains signing Edwin Encarnacion, who now has 35 homers and 92 RBI.

Next: Remember 2004, the last time Tribe had 4 All-Stars

From ownership, to the front office, to Tito, to the players. Everyone is doing their jobs, and now, just one big job remains. Get that ring.