CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians were close, very close to winning their first World Series Championship since 1948 last season, but an 8-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs in Game 7 at Progressive Field proved to be the difference in a series that went the distance.
As the team prepares to start the 2017 season tonight against the Texas Rangers as the reigning and defending American League champions, second baseman Jason Kipnis has designs on writing a much different ending for the Indians.
In an essay on The Players’ Tribune website, Kipnis explained the motivation from the Game 7 loss, and how he wants to win a World Series for the city of Cleveland.
“The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948,” Kipnis said in the piece. “That’s a long time to wait. It’s too long. I have old-timers coming up to me all the time telling me how much it would mean to them if we could win it all.
“And as someone who was around for some lean years early on in his career, I’d love nothing more than to help make that happen -- for us to be the team that brings joy to all the fans who have been waiting decades to celebrate a world championship on the shores of Lake Erie.”
Currently, Kipnis is on the 10-day disabled list because of a shoulder injury, but is expected to be back in the lineup soon.
Over 156 regular-season games in 2016, Kipnis had a .275 batting average with 168 hits in 610 at-bats. Of those 168 hits, 68 went for extra bases, as Kipnis clubbed a career-high 23 home runs, 41 doubles and four triples while driving in 82 runs and scoring 91.
In the postseason, Kipnis delivered 14 hits, including three doubles and four home runs, with eight RBI for the American League Champion Indians.
While everyone appreciated the fan support on the run to the AL pennant, perhaps it meant the most to the longest-tenured members of the team, including Kipnis, who played in plenty of half-empty ballparks in his early days with the Indians.
“I think the fan base is starting to notice what they’ve got here, finally, and it’s a pretty damn good ball club,” Kipnis said early in spring training. “It’s guys with personalities, guys that are fun to root for, guys who want to play for Cleveland.
“When I walk around Cleveland, even after the World Series, it wasn’t like they were mad at us or mad that we lost. It was literally nothing but handshakes and ‘thank yous’ from the fan base, and that meant a lot to us as players.”
During the offseason, the Indians’ front office focused on bettering a team that was so close to the World Series Championship, and that included the signing of free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion to the largest contract in club history.
In 12 years at the Major League level, Encarnacion has a .266 batting average with 1,439 hits in 5,409 at-bats over 1,513 career games. Of those 1,439 hits, 629 went for extra bases, including 311 doubles and 310 home runs. Also, Encarnacion has driven in 942 runs, scored another 829 and drawn 662 walks.
“You always want a deep lineup, and by deep, you mean how far back one through nine it goes where there’s still a threat to the pitcher,” Kipnis said. “If there’s a break for them, it might be in the back of the order, and you look at ours, there’s no break.”
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