With MLB’s spring training in full swing and the mound of postseason signings finally nearing its end, many teams are gearing up for what looks to be a competitive season. The Cleveland Indians, however, are not going to make much of a difference.
The Indians have been the dominant team in the AL Central for the past three seasons. Then again, it’s the AL Central, the MLB’s equivalent of a four-way slow-motion car wreck. It’s not hard for the Indians to top a division in which they were the only team with a winning record last year. The Indians strolled into the AL Division Series last season as if they owned the place and got stamped out by the Astros, a team who had to face actual competition within their division in 2018.
Unfortunately, there haven’t been any major shake-ups coming from any of the teams in AL Central besides the Indians, who decided to trade half their team away and release the others. Yan Gomes, Yandy Diaz and Yonder Alonso all hit the road, and now fans are wondering why.
It doesn’t matter if Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer stay in Cleveland, or if Carlos Santana made his very welcome return. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez can continue playing offense like they have a danger of missing the playoffs. The Indians will choke because that’s all they’ve done the past three seasons. Once they face a team that poses a challenge in a time where it matters, they collapse.
Teams that went deep into October, such as the Astros and the Red Sox, did so for reasons beyond having a good lineup. They also had strong, competitive divisions where it was sink or swim. The Indians did not have this. Cleveland could tread water all season and still take the division. A weak AL Central has plagued Cleveland’s abilities to perform past late September.
The window of opportunity is closing fast for Cleveland. Lindor’s contract will expire within the next few years, and the trade talks regarding Kluber have only sped up since the offseason. Bauer only wants one-year deals, and the farm system is young at this point. Terry Francona is gunning for 2019 to be Cleveland’s year because he realizes this may be one of their last chances for some time.
For better or for worse, Cleveland is more than likely going to the postseason this year. They have the resources, the lineup, and the drive to get there. The only thing standing in their way are the top-of-the-league teams who have been in and out of the race throughout the whole season. If the Indians can’t take these threats seriously, they may be looking at another short October.
Jack Gleckler is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What do you think? Tell Jack by tweeting him at @thejackgleckler.