The All-Time Best Cleveland Indians List: Right Fielders
By Jason Kaminski
The Cleveland Indians have a storied franchise that began back in 1901 when they were established in the American League. Over the years players have come and gone through the organization that have made a lasting impact. Some of these players have been talked up and others have not been talked about enough. I have decided to put a stamp on who I believe the best Tribe players were at their respective positions. Over the next several weeks I will be posting my Top Five Tribe Players at each position. Through research, analysis and opinion I will rank the players I see to be the best. I have a specific criteria I am looking for. For starters, I will only include players that played from 1901 and on. No Cy Young type players. Second, the pitchers eligible needed to have played at least five seasons and position players needed at least three seasons in a Cleveland uniform. Last, I took into account comparisons of what might have been. Sometimes players play so long that their legend becomes inflated or they play on terrible teams that do not get their accomplishments recognized like they should be. With that said I hope you enjoy these lists and I encourage you to give your own opinions as well. So without further adieu, I give you the top five Indians players of all-time at each position.
5. Cory Snyder (1986-1990)
When I was a little kid my favorite player was Cory Snyder. Perhaps that biased opinion snuck him on this list at five but if you compare the numbers you can see why he deserves to be on the list. Though Snyder was never a very good hitter in terms of his batting average, he did produce quite well in terms of power. In his five seasons with Cleveland he hit 115 homers, including three seasons with 20+. He also hit 20+ doubles in four of his five seasons. Snyder was also known to be a solid defender with a rifle for an arm.
4. Elmer Flick (1902-1910)
Elmer Flick was essentially the first Tribe right fielder, playing in the franchise’s early years. Flick had already put up incredible numbers with the Philadelphia Phillies before he came to Cleveland. Though he would not put up quite the same bulky numbers he still was good enough to be a star and eventually Hall of Famer. Flick’s best season in Cleveland was 1906 when he led the league in six seperate offensive categories including games (157), plate appearances (700), at bats (624), runs (98), triples (22) and stolen bases (39). He also hit .311 that season, which was his highest average while with Cleveland.
3. Rocky Colavito (1955-59, 1965-67)
Rocky Colavito was considered to be one of the few Cleveland superstars during the ’50’s and ’60’s. Much like Cory Snyder, Colavito was known more for his power than for his batting average. His best years were in 1958 and 1959 when he hit 40+ homers and drove in 100+ runs in both seasons. Fans were devastated when he was traded to the Tigers after the ’59 season, one that saw him lead the league in home runs. After four productive years in Detroit and one in Kansas City, Colavito returned to Cleveland for one more brief stint. Although he would make two more All-Star appearances and lead the league in RBI in 1965, his best days were behind him and he was once again traded away in 1967. A year later Colavito would retire from the Major Leagues but he is still fondly remembered as one of the fan favorites for his era.
2. Manny Ramirez (1993-2000)
In another case of “1” and “1a” ranking, Manny Ramirez settles in the second spot on this list. It is very easy to make a case for Ramirez as the top right fielder of all-time for Cleveland but the man ahead of him on the list just had too many glaring strengths to ignore. As for Ramirez, from the moment he first came to the Indians he was a “masher”. In his time with Cleveland he made four All-Star appearances and won four Silver Slugger Awards. He hit over .300 in five of his eight seasons and hit 30+ homers five times as well. He holds the single season franchise record for runs batted in with 165, which he set in 1999. That ’99 season just might have been his finest with the Tribe. That year he hit .333 with 44 home runs and the record setting 165 RBI. He also scored a whopping 133 runs and led the league with a .663 slugging percentage. At season’s end he finished third in the American League MVP voting behind Texas’ Ivan Rodriguez and Boston’s Pedro Martinez. What may have held him back from winning that year was the teammate he tied for third with, Roberto Alomar. At the time of his free agency the Indians were well known for not signing high priced free agents but Ramirez was an exception. Ramirez’s talent was so other-worldly that the Tribe offered him a very competitive contract only to have him leave for a record eight-year $160 million dollar deal in Boston.
1. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (1910-1915)
Since Joe Jackson is infamous because of his involvement in the 1919 “Black Sox” Scandal, he is often remembered best as a member of the Chicago White Sox. What most people don’t realize is that he spent the majority of his career as a Cleveland Indian. Jackson played 648 games with Chicago and 674 with Cleveland. In that time Jackson made a name for himself as one of the best hitters in baseball. While in Cleveland he never hit lower than .308 and was the first and last Cleveland player to hit .400, hitting .408 in 1911. Jackson holds the franchise career record for batting average with a .375 mark and holds the top two single season marks with .408 and .395. Jackson also holds the single season franchise record for hits with 233 and triples with 26. He ranks second on the franchise career list for on-base percentage and OPS, which is surprising since his era did not see many power hitters compared to the number we have today. From 1911-1914 Jackson put up crazy good numbers and was in the top ten in MVP voting every single season. He led the league in hits twice, doubles and triples once each and led the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage in two seperate seasons. “Shoeless Joe” was the epitome of consistency and it’s unfortunate what happened to him in the end. I would also say it’s a bit unfortunate that he is not recognized on a larger scale by the franchise but also understandable given his banishment from the game. In any case, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson deserves to be tops on this list simply for the way he played the game and the incredible numbers he had.
So there is the list….who do you think should be number 1?