CLEVELAND— In a new interview out today with Cleveland Scene, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis discusses the World Series, the locker room dynamics, and his own struggles throughout the 2017 season.
Kipnis sat down with Vince Grzegorek back in June to discuss all things Tribe, and the interview is incredibly honest and frank, even refreshingly so.
As the All-Star break lasts two more days, there’s plenty of news to unpack from this interview.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the conversation is the topic of the Indians’ locker room dynamic, post-World Series run, and with the loss of key veterans Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.
“People talk about missing Napoli or Rajai Davis, and we miss them and they are team guys,” Kipnis told Grzegorek.
He went on to say:
“Team guys just means you care more about winning than your own stuff. We still have all that, but my fear after last season was that everyone’s experienced everything now. You haven’t won a World Series, but you were there in Game 7 and there are no more surprises, even for the rookies. So there’s less you can say and it’s not like people are getting complacent, but they think that’s just how it is: We can win 14 in a row whenever we want, or we’re going to the World Series because we have the same team as last year. We’ve almost forgotten how hard it was to get there and how hard it is to get back. We’ve come out of the gate thinking the wrong thing and acting the wrong way.”
Kipnis also talked about his own role as a veteran now, along with Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley. From there, he went on to discuss his own battles with injury this season:
“The demographic right now is Brantley, Kluber and myself, we’re the veterans of the team. Those other guys had 10-plus years in, and when they spoke you knew it wasn’t coming from a place of opinion, it was from experience. You listen closely, because it was all backed up. It loses a little bit when I’m trying to tell a younger guy who’s been right next to me in the dugout something, it’s tough when we’ve both experienced it all together. With those guys, there were no Tito meetings — they did it themselves, which I’ve done in the past, but I started the season on the DL and, for the first three weeks back, it looked like I was still on the DL. Who am I to tell someone to do better when I can’t even put the ball in play right now? I got so caught up in trying to contribute something myself, I wasn’t fully on the pulse of the team. It took a little while, but I think we’re back on track and I think Brantley and Kluber have done a good job saying that’s enough of that, cleaning house basically. We’re going back to what works. If you don’t run it out, you’re going to hear about it. If you do something wrong, you’re going to hear about it. … But yeah, guys just haven’t been playing good. I’m not playing the way I want to.”
Along with talking locker room dynamic, Kipnis relayed that the team had a meeting after one of their losses to the Colorado Rockies, and said that Terry Francona got after them pretty hard:
“It was real quiet, I’ll tell you that. He’s installed a lot of trust in the older guys and doesn’t want it to get to the point where he has to say something. We police ourselves, we take care of things, so you know when he does speak you’ve reached a point where it’s gone too far. Rarely does he raise his voice or swear too much, but in this one he did both, and he wasn’t out of line. I’m not going to give you every detail, but it was basically a wake-up call. There’s no fight. We get down early and act like the game’s over, and that’s absolutely true. Last year we epitomized the theme of fighting back and rising up to the challenge, and there’s none of that this year. We’re too good to be wasting away opportunities or playing down to the competition. Half of these guys we think are below us have better records than us right now. There was a meeting before the Astros series and he was like, ‘Don’t forget who we are.’ And we cleaned it up and beat the best team in baseball three games in a row and we thought we were fine again, and then we got right back to all the bad things that were going on. This one was like, ‘You guys really f****** forgot who we are.'”
Another major topic of note was Kipnis’ comments on the race for the AL Central, saying that the Indians are “very fortunate” that no one has pulled away in the division:
“It’s a s***** division right now, to be honest, and everyone’s beating up on each other. We lose three out of four games and I’m like, ‘How far ahead are the Twins now?’ and it’s like one and half games, and I’m like, ‘What?’ And we go out and play in the division and we’re struggling to avoid being swept by the Royals twice and we’re like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ It’s like everyone’s waiting for us to make a run.”
Kipnis also hit on the attendance increase this year, saying that it has been fun for the team to see.
“We’ve noticed the uptick for sure, which makes it all the more frustrating for us because we’re spinning our wheels right now and we just want to get back there again,” Kipnis said.
He talked politics as well, saying that while he didn’t vote in the 2016 election, he doesn’t consider himself a President Trump supporter. Kipnis did say that while guys in the clubhouse may have different political views, it never affects their play on the field.
“I know some guys who are very pro Trump and some very against him, but at no point does that ever screw with anything or become a fight,” Kipnis told Cleveland Scene.
“It’s something you’re talking about at lunch or whatever, but then every conversation ends with, ‘You’re an idiot. Okay, let’s go outside and play catch.'”
Kipnis did let it be known that he thinks the Indians should “Keep the Chief” as well, saying “to me it’s not an offensive thing.”
“Again, I’m not Native American, and maybe they can tell me different. But it’s a logo I’ve come to wear proudly, that I embrace. I look at it with pride. I’m not in the demographic that it’s offending, if it is.”
Kipnis’ honestly and frankness makes this entire interview a must-read. The Tribe will be back in action on Friday in Oakland.