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Know your enemy: Cleveland Indians

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The Cubs and the Tribe have a history now.

One of the cool sights at Goodyear Ballpark, spring home of the Indians, is an airplane boneyard beyond the right-field wall
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — As every Cub fan knows, the Cubs extended the IndiansWorld Series drought to 68 years in 2016.

The Indians blazed through the 2017 regular season, winning a record 22 straight games in the process of winning 102 games, posting the best record in the American League and reaching the century mark for the first time since 1995 and just the third time in franchise history.

All that went for nothing after the Tribe blew a two games to none lead and lost their division series to the Yankees, extending that championship drought to 69 years.

Trust me, Indians fans. We know how this feels.

The Indians return the same team, or most of it, that’s won the A.L. Central two years in a row. They are led by Corey Kluber, last year’s A.L. Cy Young Award winner, and Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Danny Salazar make a formidable rotation. Cody Allen returns as closer, and of course Andrew Miller will mow through some setup innings behind Allen. Bryan Shaw, their setup man the last couple of years, departed to the Rockies via free agency.

So the Indians’ pitching staff, which was best in the A.L. in preventing runs in 2017, leading the league in that category by almost 100 runs, returns nearly intact.

What about the offense? It’s lost Carlos Santana to free agency; Cleveland hopes Yonder Alonso will pick up some of that slack. Alonso had the best year of his career in 2017, hitting .266/.365/.501 with 28 home runs split between Oakland and Seattle. The Indians signed him to a pretty reasonable dollar deal, if he can continue that production.

One of the majors’ best double-play combinations returns in Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis. The outfield’s a bit of a question mark, with Michael Brantley recovering from surgery with “no timetable” for his return:

Highly touted rookie Bradley Zimmer was sort of a flop last year, hitting .241/.307/.385, but it was still a 1.5 bWAR season. If he lives up to his minor-league potential, the Tribe has a keeper.

The rest of the A.L. Central is either rebuilding or unsure (will the Twins actually sign one of the still-free-agent starters?), so the Indians will likely cruise to another division title. The only question, then, is whether they can turn that into a drought-busting World Series championship. Of course, I hope this is the Cubs’ year to win again, but if they don’t make it to the World Series and the Indians do, I’ll be rooting hard for Cleveland to win.

The Cubs will travel to Cleveland for two games April 24-25, and I certainly hope it’s stopped snowing in Cleveland by then. The Tribe will visit Wrigley Field May 22-23 for a pair of night games.