Andre Knott is probably best known as the better-looking half of the A to Z Podcast, proudly brought to you by Scene, of course. But when he's not podcasting he moonlights as the Tribe in-game reporter for Fox Sports Ohio. We caught up with Andre before the Indians opened the season against the Rangers to pick his brain on the 2017 season.
VINCE GRZEGOREK: You told me a great Tito story after the season. Tell it to our readers, because if this team meets expectations this year, a lot of that is going to have to do with Francona.
ANDRE KNOTT: There was a really tough series in Kansas City in the summer (June 13-15). The weather had changed and it was hot. Tito made batting practice voluntary that series. They ended up getting swept. He didn't like how they played. I'll never forget, postgame, he told the guys, "I put this series on me." It was pretty obvious he wasn't happy. Whether it was said at the onset or not, everyone knew KC had done some great things the previous two seasons, and to go in there and get swept, it was a punch in the gut. They felt they were on the same level as the Royals and that series showed they weren't, that they were far off. It's a 162-game season. On most flights, it's kind of like, we lost, we won, whatever, let's move on.
But coming home from Kansas City after that series it felt different. Tito basically told the guys, I believe in you, but we have to do things the right way; we can't play like that. And he put it on himself.
Then, of course, they win 14 in a row. No one knew going in that's what was going to happen, but they got hot, and the city started coming to games. And you get to Toronto, and people may not realize this, but it was basically their Fourth of July weekend. It was Canada Day, the crowds were festive — they were hockey crowds, to put it that way. The best way to put it was that it was like a Browns/Steelers game when it mattered. They let us know they were there. It was a playoff atmosphere in the summer. And it was capped by a 19-inning game no one will ever forget. Tito was like, "Hey, we bounced back from something. I told you we could be something special." And I want to say the next time they went to KC, it was like 100 degrees, and they took two out of three. And I remember telling my producer I think this was the Tribe burying KC. You could tell the temperament had changed.
VG: Are you as sick of the unfinished business narrative as I am? I get it, spring training is long and you gotta say something, but it's not going to matter when they start playing ball.
AK: It's an easy narrative. I get it, it's great for T-shirt companies in Cleveland, it's great for TV and radio scripts, but the Indians have to forget that. That narrative has to go, because it's not going to win you one game. They gotta come back hungry, and it's going to take a big step. I was talking to Napoli two weeks ago. Now Nap, I'm not going to say he's emotionally hurt, but he invested a lot in the team and they invested a lot in him. It's hard for him. He said, "Tito's always going to be family to me." He brought up leadership. Now, that can be oversaturated and we talk about it too much for sure, but there's something to it. What Nap did was convey how Tito felt about his team. Tito didn't have to go bitch about getting to BP on time, because Nap would do it for him. I asked him what his absence means. He said he and Tito thought last year's team was young and talked about getting them to believe. These young guys have grown up and know how good they are now. When you know that, you shouldn't need a kick in the butt. The last thing he said was that he only signed in Texas because he thinks now he'll meet the Indians in the ALCS and that's how it should be.
VG: Someone has to take on that role though. Who's it going to be?
AK: Brantley, I think. He's a quiet dude, a follow-my-lead guy like Kluber. Neither of them are rah-rah guys, but they bust their ass. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but what he's been through, not being able to play, I think Brantley cares more about this team, I don't want to say more than anyone, but he cares a lot. I've seen him sit in the dugout after a game when he didn't play well for 20 or 30 minutes, pissed off. I watched him help Naquin figure out what pitches are coming. He's almost like a second hitting coach. I think he becomes that Nap guy but he's also always had it. After he first had surgery, he couldn't sit in the dugout, so he'd go sit with the bullpen and watch. He basically played every role on the team. I realized this three weeks ago, that he's different this year. Last year he just watched, wasn't busting balls. Now he's like, okay, I'm back, I'm going to kick ass.
VG: What do they have to do to cut through the Browns draft crap nonsense and get some attention?
AK: This was their 10th year in Goodyear, and I've been going there for six years now. I live five minutes from the ballpark and it was the first year it was taking me 20 minutes to get to the park. There was a buzz. I think they'll get close to 3 million fans this year. There are days when we have gotten to the park and a guy will say, "I can hear myself breathe." If you're a fan and you're reading this, it helps. The players get off on having people there. They're sick of feeling like a stepchild. With this team, what's your excuse? If you thought they were cheap, I don't know how you call them cheap now. Not only that but they've put money into the farm system and it's coming through now and they're building on that.
VG: You have an off day, doesn't matter what city. Who you partying with? Who would you choose?
AK: A couple ways to answer that. If I want a great meal, Brandon Guyer. He always brings in the best meals. For pure fun, I mean Nap's gone now. If I want the most stylish night I've had, Lindor or Santana. If I'm going out to go out? Tyler Naquin. He's got that old country boy delinquent streak. Actually, Tito, ha.
VG: You going to make sure Bauer isn't around before you take a nap this year?
AK: Man. Yeah. Definitely.