February 26, 2011

Inglorious Indians

This originally started out as a top ten list of players who made their careers on other teams, but stopped off in Cleveland along the way. However, after perusing every Indians roster since 1960, there were just too many to ignore. Some you may remember, some you may have forgotten, and some its just good to see in a Tribe uniform, even if it wasn't for long enough.

Roger Maris | 1957-58
Better known as: 2-time MVP, 4-time All Star, set all-time single season homerun record, number retired by Yankees.

Maris was already on his way to becoming one of the better power hitters in the American League, cracking 25 homers in 167 games as an Indian, but Cleveland shipped him off to Kansas City at the age of 23 for Woodie Held and Vic Power.

Hoyt Wilhelm | 1957-58
Better known as: Hall of Famer, 8-time All Star, 143 career wins, 227 career saves, 21 seasons.

The infamous knuckler stopped in Cleveland for a cup of coffee relatively early in his career at the age of 34. He appeared in 32 games, saving 10 of them, in just over a season with the Indians before being selected off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles.

Tommy John | 1963-64
Better known as: 288 game winner, played 26 seasons for 6 clubs, 4-time All Star, 4-time top 10 in Cy Young voting, namesake of now-famous arm surgery

Another budding young star the Indians sent packing, John was traded at age 21 after appearing in just 31 games his first two seasons in the big leagues. However, the trade brought the Tribe a young power hitting outfielder who would go on to become of the franchise's all-time greats – Rocky Colavito.

Lou Piniella | 1968
Better known as: 1969 AL Rookie of the Year, All-Star, World Champion player and manager, 3-time Manager of the Year.

Originally signed by the Tribe in 1962, Sweet Lou worked his way through the Senators' and Orioles' systems before being traded back to Cleveland in 1966. He appeared in 6 games, going 0-5 at the plate before being selected in the expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots. Seattle then dealt him to KC where he was named the AL's top rookie in his first full season.

Graig Nettles | 1970-72
Better known as: 6-time All Star, 2-time Gold Glove winner, 1981 ALCS MVP, 390 career homruns.

Brought to Cleveland in exchange for Luis Tiant, Nettles did have 3 solid full seasons in an Indians uniform and even managed to earn a single MVP vote (likely from a Cleveland writer) for a 28 homer / 86 rbi / .261 performance in '71. Nettles was dealt to New York in a 6 player trade where he would go on to become an All-Star, Gold Glover, and World Champion.

Chris Chambliss | 1971-74
Better known for: All-Star, Gold Glove winner, 2-time World Champion, walk-off homerun in 1976 ALCS

The Indians made Chambliss the number one overall pick in the 1970 draft, and he paid immediate dividends, earning the AL Rookie of the Year award just the next season. Two and a half seasons later the Indians traded yet another emerging young star to who else – the New York Yankees.

Dennis Eckersley | 1975-77
Better known as: Hall of Famer, 6-time All Star, Cy Young winner, Most Valuable Player, ALCS MVP, World Champion.

Tribe fans will remember as the rest of baseball probably forgets, but this image is always fun to look at. Before The Eck was a 'stached Hall of Fame closer, he was a clean-shaven starting pitcher who won 50 games in 3 seasons for the Indians. Eckersley tossed a no-hitter against the California Angels in 1977, and was traded to Boston for an underwhelming package the next spring.

Boog Powell | 1975-76
Better known as: 4-time All Star, 1970 AL MVP, 339 career homers, master BBQ'er.

Another player from the red-uniform era, Powell was at the opposite end of his career as Eckersley. Boog swatted 27 homers and drove in 86 runs with a .297 average in his first year for the Tribe, but he fizzled out and retired from baseball after 2 more unproductive seasons.

Bobby Bonds | 1979
Better known as: 3-time All Star ('73 All Star MVP), 3-time Gold Glover, father of Barry Bonds.

Bonds was acquired from Texas with pitcher Len Barker after the 1978 season, and would have his last productive season of his career in a Tribe uniform. He hit .275 with a .367 on base %, 93 runs, 25 homers, 85 RBI, and 34 stolen bases in 1979, and he would play two more partial seasons in the National League before retiring after the 1981 season.

Phil Niekro | 1986-87
Better known as: Hall of Famer, 5-time All Star, 5-time Gold Glover, won 318 career games over 24 seasons.

The Tribe signed knuckleballing Niekro at the ripe age of 47, where he produced a respectable 11-11 season in 34 games in 1986. After 22 games the next season, he was traded away, and would appear in just 4 more games before calling it quits after the '87 season.

Bert Blyleven | 1981-85
Rick Sutcliffe | 1982-84
Better known as: Blyleven - Hall of Famer, 2-time All Star, 3-time in top 5 MVP voting, 287 wins / 3701 strikeouts in 22 seasons. Sutcliffe - 1984 Cy Young winner, 3 time All star, 1979 NL Rookie of the Year.

CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee were not the only pair of aces pissed away in recent Cleveland memory. Blyleven and Sutcliffe had overlapping stints over 3 years in Tribe uniforms. The Indians dealt Sutcliffe to the Cubs midway through his Cy Young season for a package that included Joe Carter (who would later be traded for Sandy Alomar and Carlos Baerga). Hall of Famer Blyleven was shipped to the Twins for an unimpressive package that included Jay Bell, thus ending the best bearded 1-2 punch in baseball history.

Jay Bell | 1986-88
Better known as: All Star, Gold Glove winner, World Champion, sac bunt extraordinaire.

Bell was the key player in the deal that sent Blyleven to Minnesota, and the Tribe gave him a taste of the big leagues over 3 seasons. Still in his very early 20s, he was overmatched in his 350 at bats in Cleveland, and Bell was sent to the Pirates. The trade netted the Indians Felix Fermin, who was acceptable if unspectacular over 5 seasons as the Tribe's shortstop before being packaged in a trade with Seattle for Omar Vizquel.

Steve Carlton | 1987
Better known as: Hall of Famer, 4-time Cy Young winner, 10-time All Star, Gold Glover, 329 wins / 4,136 strikeouts in 24 seasons.

At the age of 42, Carlton's appearance with the Tribe was more about selling tickets than winning games. The Hall of Fame lefty managed just a 5-9 record in 23 games in a Wahoo hat before being traded to Minnesota, where he would appear in just 14 more games before retiring the next season.

Keith Hernandez | 1990
Better known as: 1979 NL Most Valuable Player, 5-time All Star, 11-time Gold Glover, 2-time Silver Slugger, World Champion, Mets broadcaster, "I'm Keith Hernandez" quip.

Another misguided attempt by the Indians to sell tickets, Hernandez was coming off 2 injury-plagued seasons with the Mets, and clearly didn't much left in his legs. He batted an even .200 in 145 at bats in 1990 before ending up on the disabled list. Frustratingly for Cleveland, he talked them into signing him to a 2-year, $3.5 million dollar deal, and Keith spent the entire 1991 season on the disabled list.

Jack Parkman
Better known as: superstar catcher, his shimmy makes the women go crazy.

After getting knocked out of the playoffs last season, the Tribe acquired the power hitting backstop via free agency from the Oakland Athletics. However, Parkman's personality caused trouble in the Cleveland clubhouse, and he was dealt to Chicago mid-season.

Jack Morris | 1994
Better known as: 1991 World Series MVP, 5-time All Star, 5-time top 5 in Cy Young Voting, 254 game winner, possible future Hall of Famer.

As the Indians moved into a new home and their prospects were emerging as young stars, they signed a pair of veteran pitchers to balance out the roster in Dennis Martinez and Jack Morris. Just 3 seasons from throwing a 10 inning shutout to clinch the World Series and 2 seasons from winning 21 games, Morris looked like he still had plenty left in his 39 year old arm. However, he was not traveling with the team, instead returning to his ranch in Minnesota in between starts, and, even more troubling, Morris failed to sport his trademark mustache for the first time in his career. Despite a nice-looking 10-6 record, his ERA sat at an ugly 5.60, and Morris left the team for good in August in what would be his last Major League season.

Dave Winfield | 1995
Better known as: Hall of Famer, 12-time All Star, 7-time Gold Glover, World Champion, 3 sport star.

The Indians brought in Winfield to provide veteran leadership in a part time role, at a low cost in 1995. Just two years removed from a top 5 MVP voting performance at the age of 40, there was reason to believe that Big Dave might still have some big swings left. However, the sun had already set on his Hall of Fame career, as Winfield managed just two homers and a .191 average in 115 at bats in his final pro season.

Jeff Kent | 1996
Better known as: 2000 NL MVP, 5-time All Star, 4-time Silver Slugger, possible future Hall of Famer.

Kent arrived in Cleveland as part of a controversial trade in exchange for fan-favorite Carlos Baerga in the middle of the 1996 season. He was never welcomed with open arms by the fans, and never settled in at the plate, hitting just .265 with 3 homers in 39 games. Its hard to say the Indians made a mistake in not keeping him, as they traded Kent for Matt Williams (who would eventually be flipped for Travis Fryman), but he had a very productive second career that began at age 29 after the trade.

Kevin Mitchell | 1997
Better known as: 1989 NL Most Valuable Player, 2-time MVP, bare-handing hardass of an outfielder.

With Albert Belle gone, the Indians were looking to for a run-producing bat to help fill the void. Former MVP Kevin Mitchell, still hitting over .300 every season and only 3 years off a great performance in the strike-shortened '94 season seemed like a decent fit. However, one look at this picture tells you all you need to know. He was overweight and out of shape, and batted a measly .153 in 20 games before getting a pink slip just two months into the season.

Cecil Fielder | 1998
Better known as: 3-time All Star, 2-time silver slugger and top 2 in MVP voting.

With a lineup already stacked with power bats (Thome, Manny, Justice, Fryman, Giles, Sexson), the Indians really had no need or place for Cecil, but I guess they figured 'Why not?' Well, here's why: at 34, Fielder's career was already over, and he batted .143 with just one extra base hit in 35 at bats. Big Daddy didn't even manage to go yard for the Tribe, and became yet another former star to perform his swan song in Cleveland.

Harold Baines | 1999
Better known as: 6-time All Star, Silver Slugger, 2,866 hits in 22 seasons.

Another one of the Indians annual rented bats, Baines was in town only long enough to mess up Manny Ramirez's swing, just in time for the playoffs. In 28 games, Baines did hit .271 with a .354 OBP, but at age 40 managed just 2 doubles and a homerun in 85 at bats.

Dwight Gooden | 1998-99
Better known as: '85 Cy Young Winner, Rookie of the Year, 4-time All Star, World Champion, generous supporter of the coke business.

After a crushing defeat in the '97 World Series, the Indians called the Doc for help in 1998. Gooden was enjoying somewhat of a second career at the time, even throwing a no-hitter for the Yankees in '96. Dr. K would spend 2 injury plagued seasons in Cleveland, putting up a solid 8-6 record with a 3.76 ERA in 1998 before moving on for one last season with 3 clubs in 2000.

Chuck Finley | 2000-02
Better known as: 5-time All Star, 200 game winner, husband and punching bag of actress Tawny Kitaen.

As the 90's became the 2000's the Indians became more desperate to find quality arms to balance out their powerhouse offense, and the Tribe signed 37-year old Finley to a lucrative 3 year deal. Finley did make the All Star team his first season, winning 16 games despite an ERA over 4. After an injury shortened 2001 campaign and a 4-11 start in 2002, he was dealt to St. Louis for a prospect who would help the Indians' rebuilding efforts – outfielder Coco Crisp.

Juan Gonzalez | 2001
Better known as: 2-time AL MVP, 3-time All Star, 6-time silver slugger.

In 2001, the Indians were faced with the seemingly impossible task of filling the departed Manny Ramirez's spot in the heart of the lineup. But at 31 and coming off an injury-plagued season in Detroit, Juan Gone did just that. A case of one and done, Gonzalez would have the last great season of his career, belting 35 homers, driving in a whopping 140 runs and hitting .325 en route to a top 5 MVP finish and a Silver Slugger. The season would be the last hurrah of the Jacobs Field Era, as the Indians fell out of contention the next season. The Tribe hoped Gonzalez could recapture even fraction of the magic a few years later in 2005, but he recorded just one major league at bat before officially hanging up his needle...ERR... spikes for good.

John Rocker | 2001
Milton Bradley | 2001-03
Better known as: loose cannons

Rocker and Bradley were a couple of high risk / high reward acquisitions as the Indians began the retooling process that eventually turned into a full-fledged overhaul. Fans wanted Rocker to be Rick Vaughn, as he came sprinting out of the bullpen to "Rock You Like a Hurricane", but he was too much hurricane and not enough rock. He'd blow 3 out of 7 save attempts and was traded after just a half season with the club. Bradley had a breakout season at age 25 in 2003, hitting .321 with 10 homers, 56 RBI, and 17 steals in just 101 games. However, management felt he was a bad fit for a young rebuilding club and sent the troubled future All Star to the Dodgers for Franklin Gutierrez.

Brandon Phillips | 2002-05
Better known as: All Star and Gold Glover for the other Ohio team.

Just the thought of him makes Indians fans sick to their stomachs. Phillips was acquired in one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, which would bring the Indians 3 future All Stars – two of which were 5 tool players (Phillips and Grady Sizemore) and the other who would win a Cy Young Award (Cliff Lee) – in exchange for an a rapidly aging (and growing) Bartolo Colon. The Indians decided to rush Phillips to the majors at the young age of 22 for an almost full season. Clearly in need of more seasoning, he spent the next two seasons in the minors, and only saw 12 games at the Major League level. By age 25 he was out of options and the Indians had to decide to either keep their young 5-tool phenom or risk losing him to waivers. Evidently the Indians were so impressed with Ramon Vazquez they decided to keep him instead, and essentially sold their emerging star to the cross-state Cincinnati Reds. Phillips would immediately make good on all the hype and become one of the best young all-around players in the National League. Good work, Tribe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOL Jack Parkman