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After a slow offseason, Indians don't see reason for pessimism ahead of 2018 season

Ryan Lewis, Akron Beacon Journal on

Published in Baseball

Terry Francona dropped the line of the winter this week.

The Indians manager guaranteed that once spring training begins next month, the Indians will come back "with a vengeance" in the wake of a disappointing, early exit from the 2017 postseason.

It's a line that sort of goes without saying, but it certainly fired up some Indians fans on social media ahead of Saturday's TribeFest at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. On Friday, though, Francona mostly laughed it off.

"I just got on a roll the other night," Francona said. "I was tired. I thought everybody was ready to go. Whatever it takes, whether guys use that for -- I don't care what they use. You hear it all the time. Every team that wins is like, 'Well, nobody believed in us.' That's the silliest thing I've ever heard.

"But if that's what guys use, good for them. That's OK. We have an obligation as a team to take whatever we can and use it to propel us to be as good as we can be."

The Indians turned in a 102-win season that included the second-longest winning streak in baseball history. That regular season followed their oh-so-close loss in extra innings of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series to the Chicago Cubs. The momentum was there, and the expectations were World Series Or Bust.

Thus, the disappointing, early exit from the American League Division Series to the New York Yankees last October was enough to leave a bitter taste. With many players in town for TribeFest and the start of spring training creeping closer, the Indians are welcoming a chance to find the mouthwash and start anew.

"To get so close in '16 and to watch it go away, to lose, you look back on it as a successful season, a lot of great memories from it, but you still have that hunger and that taste in your mouth of getting back there to try to win," Josh Tomlin said. "Obviously, that's everybody's goal to start spring training. A handful of teams can't say they're in a position to win a World Series, and we're very fortunate to be in that position.

"We enjoy the expectations -- it means we're doing our job. A lot of teams maybe might not like the expectations or the weight on their shoulders, but this team relishes that and enjoys that."

To this point, the Indians haven't made the kind of headline-stealing moves other contenders in the American League have, like the Yankees trading for Giancarlo Stanton or the Houston Astros dealing for Gerrit Cole.

 

If there is pessimism from any Indians fans at TribeFest this weekend, those in the clubhouse don't feel it.

"They're looking too short-sighted and they'll realize as soon as Opening Day comes around, the lineup we're putting out, 'Oh, yeah, we've won a lot of games with these people,' " Jason Kipnis said. "It wasn't one person who won 102 games. It wasn't one person who won the 22-game winning streak. It was a group effort there, and this group is still capable of everything we want to accomplish."

According to Trevor Bauer, the mistake being made is that too much focus in on the players who left Cleveland in free agency this winter -- Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith -- instead of on those who are returning.

"You can focus on what we've lost all you want, but nobody seems to be focusing on what we're bringing back, which is the best pitching staffs in the big leagues last year on the starting side -- one of the best starting staffs of all time, actually, if you look at WAR and stuff like that," Bauer said. "Largely the same offense. Hopefully, guys are healthy this year. We had a lot of injuries last year that people don't talk about. Kip was banged up quite a bit, (Michael) Brantley was banged up quite a bit. When you're banged up like that, it's hard to have the offensive season you're capable of."

Jose Ramirez added a message for fans clamoring for some type of a major move.

"I'd tell the fans that they need to trust us, and trust those of us who are here," Ramirez said. "We're going to keep on giving our very best and we're going to come out every day to win, for ourselves and also for our fans, because they're so important. They're the ones out there supporting us every single day. So trust in us -- we're going to do our best for you all."

(c)2018 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com

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