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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | July 16, 2018

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Diaz Got Start With Tribe, Started for Other Teams

By Craig Gifford

Bo Diaz did not technically begin his career with the Indians. However, he got his first real shot at playing Major League baseball with the Tribe.

Diaz, a catcher and two-time All-Star, was actually signed by Boston in 1970 as a 17-year-old amateur free agent out of Venezuela. After seven seasons of playing minor league baseball, a 24-year-old Diaz finally got his shot in the big leagues, as a late-season call up for the the Red Sox in 1977. He appeared in two games as a defensive replacement and batted one time. That was the extent of Diaz’s major league experience before being traded to the Indians right before the 1978 season.

For Cleveland, it was another in a long line of unfortunate trades that were made in the 1970s and 80s. While Diaz would become an All-Star by the end of his Tribe tenure, he was a backup for much of it. So, too was left fielder/third baseman Ted Cox. Cleveland also received middle-of-the-road starting pitchers Rick Wise and Mike Paxton, who were each up and down in terms of success for two seasons each. What did the Indians give up for this average haul? That was superb starter and future superb Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley.

In that deal, Diaz was the one coming to the Indians who had the most success. He spent four seasons with Cleveland, mainly as a backup catcher.

The first three seasons Diaz spent with the Tribe were not very good, statistically. In 1981, however, Diaz became a starter and was batting above .300 by the time the league’s players went on strike on June 12. The labor standoff lasted through July and the first game played when the strike ended was that season’s All-Star game on August 9. Diaz’s couple months as a starter earned him a place in the celebration of baseball’s best players.  For the year, Diaz batted .313 with seven home runs and 38 RBI. The average would stand as a career best. The power numbers would increase in the years to come.

Those years to come, however, were not going to come with Cleveland. The Indians traded their All-Star backstop to Philadelphia on November 20, 1981. It was part of a three-team deal that included St. Louis. Cleveland received Silvio Martinez, Larry Sorensen and Scott Munninghoff. Of the three pitchers, Sorensen would be the only one to ever take the mound for the Tribe. He had two average seasons.

Meanwhile, Diaz was on the verge of becoming a starter and batter with decent pop in his bat. With Cleveland, his numbers finished at 12 home runs, 82 RBI and .254 batting average in 129 games. He played more games than that combined total in his first season with the Phillies.

Being converted to a starter in the City of Brotherly Love helped Diaz take off at the plate. His first two seasons saw him hit 18 and 15 bombs to go with with 85 and 64 RBI. The 1982 totals of 18 and 85 stood as career highs.

The 1983 season, while not Diaz’s best was probably his most memorable. He played 136 games for a Phillies team that won the National League East and then reached the World Series. Philadelphia lost the Fall Classic in five games to Cal Ripken and Baltimore, however Diaz batted .333 in 15 World Series at-bats.

Following 1983, however, Diaz again became a backup.  He spent 1984 as a bench player and was traded to Cincinnati midway through 1985. The Reds converted Diaz to a starter again and he enjoyed three solid seasons in the Queen City.  He reached double-digit home runs, including 15 in 1987, those first three years in Cincy. Diaz also knocked 82 runners in in 1987, his last full season. That being Diaz’s last memorable year, he did at least get to enjoy one more trip to the All-Star Game.

In 1988, Diaz began having knee troubles that forced him to play only 92 games. In 1989, the knee injury flared up again, limiting the catcher to 43 games, one homer and .208 batting average. He retired at the end of the season.

Diaz is remembered as a solid catcher. Before the steroid era when power numbers for catchers went through the roof, Diaz was fairly prototypical for his position. He was solid defensively and could do just enough with the bat to be a contributor in the lineup. He finished up with 87 long balls, 452 RBI and .255 average. Diaz’s 162-game average numbers are respectable 14 home runs and 74 RBI.

The Indians probably should never have parted with Eckersley in the trade that made Diaz a Clevelander to kick-start his career. However, they did and he became a solid player. Getting rid of Diaz then proved a bad idea. He would have been a nice player to have around in the mid 80s when expectations became higher for a Tribe team that boasted the likes of Joe Carter, Cory Snyder and Julio Franco.  However, it would not be until the end of the 1980, into the 90s that Cleveland would start getting trades right.

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