Indians Need To Add Veteran Leadership To Repeat History
Mike B. | On 15, Oct 2011
We teach our students to learn from history, so that they don’t make the same mistakes those before us already did. In the Indians case, they need to take some lessons from their history and repeat it.
Almost a month ago, Carlos Baerga, Chad Ogea and Paul Sorrento were in town to honor Jim Thome on September 23. Before the contest they spoke with a group of season ticket holders about their time in Cleveland and the teams of the mid-1990s. Each of them talked about how they were a young team, but the veteran leadership on the team really taught the youth how to win.
Sorrento talked about how much he learned about playing first base along side Eddie Murray in 1994-95 and the misconception that Murray wasn’t a leader. “He made me better every day,” Sorrento said. “We discussed how to play the position and how to hit. He was never a guy who looked at me as his competition. We were on the same team, trying to win.”
Baerga, who could do stand-up comedy if he decided to, talked about how Murray taught him that if he wanted to be a good switch hitter he would hit foul balls during batting practice while the stands were empty. Murray stressed being able to hit balls into the left field seats from the left side and down the right field line from the right side, because if a switch hitter can spray the ball like that they won’t try to pull the ball so much, resulting in less strike outs.
Baerga and Ogea told stories of how Tony Pena would throw the ball back to a pitcher as hard as the pitcher who delivered it if he was unhappy with the result. Ogea, in his rookie season in 1995, talked about how one day Pena came to the mound screaming at him, unhappy with his performance. “I don’t understand Spanish very well,” Ogea said in his Louisiana drawl. “About half of what he was saying was in English and the other half was Spanish. When he walked away I asked Carlos what he said.”
Baerga smiling said, “I don’t know, just throw more strikes.”
Finally, Ogea talked about his dominance in the 1997 World Series and how he would have been the series MVP had the Indians completed the Game 7 victory. He said he was disappointed in that series, of course because they didn’t win, but because Orel Hershiser hadn’t pitched better because he deserved it. Ogea called Hershiser a, “baseball scientist,” and said he really taught him how to pitch in the major leagues since he didn’t have a 90 mph fastball.
Throughout the evening, Sorrento, Baerga and Ogea each discussed how Murray, Pena, Hershiser and Dave Winfield made them a better team, how they had Hall of Fame credentials and when they spoke, players listened. They valued their leadership and knowledge as ballplayers.
If the Indians are serious about contention in 2012, they have to consider adding veterans that can help tutor and guide the young players, both in the locker room and on the field. The Indians have signed Trot Nixon, and this season Orlando Cabrera, but those players had little to contribute to the team on the field. Pena, Hershiser and Murray were still able to contribute in 1995.
Players gravitated to Jim Thome in the locker room once he returned to Cleveland. Thome, who wants to play next season, will not be back in the Tribe’s locker room if he chooses to play one last season in the sun. Who will tutor this young pitching staff like Hershiser and Pena, or this struggling offense like Murray did Baerga and Sorrento?
Hopefully what the Indians have learned from history, in 1995, will help their young core repeat it in 2012.
Photo: AP Photo File