Casey Could Hit, Just Not for Tribe
By Craig Gifford
When the Indians of the 1990s were known to have an all-star at nearly every position on the big league roster, there was many a deserving minor leaguer who could not find his way out of the bush leagues. Among the most notable was a first baseman named Sean Casey.
Drafted in the second round of the 1995 amateur draft, Casey surpassed his expectations as a high draft choice. By late 1997, he was playing at Triple-A Buffalo. At every stop along the minor league circuit, Casey was raking the ball. He batted well above .300 at all three levels of the minors. He was a high-average hitter, who could also hit the long bomb 20-30 times.
Despite the success in the Tribe farm system, Casey was not about to get a call to Cleveland. Jim Thome, one of the best hitters in Indians history, was at first base and not going anywhere for a while. The Tribe also had plenty of options at DH at the time with the likes of David Justice and Manny Ramirez around. Casey had no shot to show his talents off at Jacobs Field. He did receive a late-season call to the majors in 1997, but made only 12 plate appearances. His time in a Cleveland uniform was brief, to say the least.
In 1998, just as teams were breaking from training camp, the Indians let Casey loose. They traded the promising prospect to the Cincinnati Reds, where he would be able to contribute at the Major League level. In return Cleveland received much-needed starting pitching help in veteran Dave Burba. The trade worked out well for all parties.
The struggling Reds received a guy, in Casey, who became a face of the franchise type player. Burba won 15 or more games for three straight seasons with the Tribe. He helped them to the playoffs in 1998 and 199.
As for Casey, he was the big winner. His career was finally able to take off in 1998. By 1999, he was a National League All Star. The first baseman spent eight highly productive seasons in Cincinnati, where he batted .305 with 130 home runs. He made a total of three Mid-Summer Classics while wearing a Reds uniform.
In 2005 Casey’s career started to slide. He hit only nine home runs, following a 24 homer 2004. After the 2005 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates ponied up to add Casey to their roster. Casey continued to hit for a solid average, around .300, but his power never came back. In 2006 he became a trade-deadline addition for the Detroit Tigers who were battling for a playoff spot. Casey had his last great moments in that year’s playoffs. Detroit lost in the World Series, while Casey was huge in helping them get there. He batted .353 in the ALDS and amazing .529 in the Fall Classic. He enjoyed a decent year with the Tigers in 2007, batting .296. Clearly, though, any power he had was gone as he belted just four home runs.
Casey was not highly sought after in the offseason. He signed an $800,000 deal with Boston for the 2008 season and played in 69 games. The lefty retired at the end of the year at the age of only 33. His early retirement was a bit of a shock at the time. Some speculated he may have used performance enhancing drugs in his heyday and did not want to get caught when MLB started drug testing in 2009. That was never proven, however, and may very well not be the case.
In 12 seasons, Casey batted .302, 16th on the all-time highest batting average list at that time. In Cleveland he will be remembered as one in a long line of good, young players who barely had a cup of coffee with the Indians. However, he is fondly remember as “The Mayor” for his friendly demeanor in Cincinnati and a solid, all-around player at every stop along the way.
Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer