The Tigers are taking the show on the road this weekend with a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians. The odds-on favorites to take the American League Central—and many prognosticators pick to take the World Series—the Indians are off to a slower start than some might have expected. This is not something that bothers Matt Lyons, Managing Editor of SB Nation’s outlet for all things Indians, Let’s Go Tribe. He was gracious enough to tell us why, and answer a few more questions along the way.
BYB: After the big off season signing of Edwin Encarnacion you must be feeling strong and good. What does his addition do for the team?
Matt: I am feeling very strong and good. The Indians were already a great offense last season, better than many expected, and Edwin only makes it better. He's older, sure, but his consistency over the last half-decade makes me think the Indians can at least get a season or two of greatness out of him. He hasn't had a great start, but it's clear he's pressing. When he settles in, he'll be carrying that Edwing around the bases a lot.
BYB: Which Tiger are you least excited to be facing in this series? (It is perfectly acceptable to admit that it's Andrew Romine)
Matt: Miguel Cabrera. He's a great player who always seems to find a way to be even better against the Indians. Also, Andrew Romine.
BYB: How does it feel to get owned by the Diamondbacks, and to phrase the question a little bit more diplomatically, are you concerned with the Indians current slide after opening the season so strong against Texas?
Matt: Listen here you little... oh, sorry, family website. Yeah it wasn't fun. Just about every aspect of that series was awful to watch. But the Indians were swept last season and still managed to get to the World Series. I blame the state of Arizona, personally. It's too damn hot to play baseball there and are we really sure Arizona is a state? I don't think so.
I'm not concerned with the slide one bit. The Indians still haven't lost four games in a row dating back to 2015, so it's been a while since we saw a real "slide." It'll happen eventually, I'm sure, I'm not worried about a couple losing streaks in April.
BYB: How are you feeling about Jason Kipnis, his shoulder injury, and his most recent brush with potential injury in Akron?
Matt: Shoulder injuries will always worry me, especially after the Michael Brantley fiasco over the last year. But Kipnis appears to be fine already. He was hit on the hand Wednesday night, though, and replaced in the game. So that's not great either. Luckily, the Indians have a ton of depth and they've been able to cover up the lack of Kip. Jose Ramirez is better defensively at second base and rookie Yandy Diaz has very large biceps and can occasionally hit a baseball. Even if Kipnis is out for longer than his initial timetable, it won't doom the Indians season.
BYB: You have Michael Brantley back after missing the vast majority of 2016. What are the expectations for him and how do you think he'll perform this year?
Matt: He's already swinging and missing a lot more than previous seasons, so that's a little concerning considering his greatest strength was making contact. If he can get that under control he has a real chance to get back to the Doctor Smooth that Indians fans know and love. His swing is clearly back, at least, he just needs to see the ball better.
BYB: How many times a day are you thankful for Terry Francona?
Matt: There are 86,400 seconds in a day. So roughly that.
BYB: The Indians are known for the guy who plays the drum in the bleachers. How many years does it take to actually start liking that thing?
Matt: I imagine if you're not an Indians fan you never start liking it. But as an Indians fan, it's the absolute best. The guy who bangs it, John Adams, is the nicest guy in the world and late rallies at other stadiums just aren't the same without the constant drumming. He sometimes plays it when the Indians are winning blowouts too, so maybe you guys will hear it this weekend. (Ed: fire emojis redacted)
BYB: Francisco Lindor is nothing short of amazing. What do you think the chances are that he wins the AL MVP this year?
Matt: We talked about this on our podcast (Let's Talk Tribe, the official Let's Go Tribe podcast find us on iTunes, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter likecommentandsubscribetellyourfriends), and I said he could probably be in the top five. Unless he hits a ton of home runs, I think he'll always be outpaced in terms of MVP votes because voters lover dingers.
Once again, a big thanks to Matt Lyons for answering our questions. Make sure to check out Let’s Go Tribe all season long for the very best Indians news coverage and analysis!