Past downfalls fueling potential final ride for old guard

Indians 2016, 2017 finishes at opposite ends of playoff spectrum

Alex Hooper
September 15, 2018 - 9:35 pm
Sep 15, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Jason Kipnis (22) pumps his fist as the Indians defeat the Detroit Tigers to clinch the American League Central Division at Progressive Field.

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The last time Mike Clevinger walked into the Cleveland Indians clubhouse while attendants were lining the lockers with plastic and wheeling in champagne, he would not get to pop any of the bottles.

After his sixth and final inning of work on Saturday, the breakout pitcher walked back into the bowels of Progressive Field again to see what reminded him of the ill-fated Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.

A year removed from being bounced in the American League Division Series, Clevinger couldn’t help but think of that night, albeit on a positive day.

“It literally made me -- I don't want to say this and have it taken the wrong way, everyone's going to -- but I got sick to my stomach, because the last time I saw them doing that here, we ended up losing that Game 7 and being sent home,” he said. “That's why I was like, 'Oh my God.'”

That day, along with their early exit in 2017, will predictably serve as motivation for the club, Clevinger said. As it should. The core that the organization has invested in so heavily is yet to see anything but disappointment.

With another year of potentially heavy departures – Michael Brantley, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and more are all unrestricted free agents – a fourth shot at a World Series title is not as much of a foregone conclusion as 2018.

“We look at this, this could be my last year here. It could be a lot of guys’ last year here,” Allen said. “You don’t take this for granted. The city of Cleveland and this organization will, no matter what happens, hold a special place in all of our hearts. We just enjoy it now, but we’re going to get ready for tomorrow when we get there.”

Every player was willing to admit that they were ready to celebrate the moment, but what ensued was a much more mild party than the one that happened a year ago. It was standard fare for a division clinching day at the ballpark, but one that led with a sermon of sorts.

More a leader by example than of the vocal variety, Edwin Encarnacion addressed the club before things got wild to preach that things are far from over.

Clinching a weak division was step one in a four-step process, and one that took 148 games. The next three could happen in as many as 19 games, or end as soon as 3. More reason to celebrate now, yet more reason to be ready for what happens after the next 14 contests.

Those 14 games, while ultimately inconsequential, provide another form of the buffer room that the hapless Central has provided them all year. The preparation for the ‘old guard’s’ potential last run together is still very much in flux.

Jason Kipnis is still adjusting to center field. Andrew Miller is still getting his footing. Trevor Bauer and Josh Donaldson are each at different stages of their recovery processes.

September has been referred to by multiple members of the organization as another Spring Training, an opportunity to work out the kinks before the ‘new season’ of October.

The Indians core pieces will get Saturday night to celebrate what they have accomplished, Sunday to sweat it out while the kids and call-ups take over, and Monday to recover. When the final home stand resumes on Tuesday, Manager Terry Francona says his team will be back to their usual ways.

Manager Terry Francona said his stars will get their requisite rest down the stretch, while looking to get in a groove just in time.

“So, enjoy the heck out of it,” the skipper said. “We’ll let them blow off some steam tonight and we’ll probably have a little bit of a different lineup tomorrow. We got a day off Monday and then we’ll get back to work, and I think it works out well that way.”