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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | March 25, 2019

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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 17

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 17

| On 11, Mar 2019

It’s hard to believe, but we are less than three weeks away from the first pitches of the 2019 Major League Baseball season. Today, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night continue our countdown to Opening Day. – BT

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 17

For the first time since 2012, the number 17 was back in circulation for Cleveland as free agent addition Yonder Alonso took it to first base with him during 145 contests in what proved to be his lone season as a member of the Indians.

The Tribe got solid and steady production out of the 31-year-old slugger, who was looking to build upon a career season in 2017 when he made his first career All-Star team and set personal bests across the stat sheet while splitting time in the American League West with the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners. His contract with the Indians allowed him to call Ohio home for the second time in his career, following his stint with the Cincinnati Reds to begin his Major League service time in 2010 and 2011.

Alonso joined the Indians in December of 2017, just over a week before the end of the year. He inked a two-year, $16 million deal ($7 million for 2018 and $8 million for 2019) with a $9 million team/vesting option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout. He was served with the task of replacing long-time Indian Carlos Santana, who cashed in just days before Alonso during the free agency period on a three-year, $60 million deal with a fourth-year team option from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Alonso – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Alonso started out the season with a bang, from a power perspective, hitting eight homers over the first month of play. That would mark a single-month high for him for 2018, as he would hit just four over the next two months combined. He had his best overall month of the season in July, when in 23 games, he hit .302 with a .367 on-base percentage and a .558 slugging mark with four doubles, six homers, and 21 RBI while also drawing ten walks. But after striking out a season-low 17 times in 98 plate appearances that month, he put up his worst effort of the year in August, hitting .194 with a .250 OBP with 28 strikeouts in 108 trips. His power production dipped considerably in the final month of the campaign, when he hit just one double and one homer (out of 21 total hits) while driving in seven over 85 plate appearances to close out the year.

While it was a nice season for Alonso and a successful follow-up overall to his offensive breakout season of the previous year, his time in Cleveland came to a quick end. Santana’s time away from the Tribe was curiously short-lived, as the Indians reacquired the ninth-year pro in his second trade in a two-week span. The Phillies moved him on December 3 with shortstop J.P. Crawford to the Seattle Mariners for shortstop Jean Segura and pitchers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos. Santana returned to Cleveland on December 13 as part of a three-team trade, with the Mariners receiving DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion and a 2019 competitive balance pick. The Indians acquired cash considerations in the deal from the Mariners, while also sending third baseman Yandy Diaz and pitching prospect Cole Sulser to the Tampa Bay Rays for first baseman Jake Bauers.

Alonso’s contract was purged two days after the Santana deal when he was shipped to the Chicago White Sox for minor leaguer Alex Call. It marked the third salary-related move for the Indians in the offseason, after previously moving catcher Yan Gomes to Washington before the Encarnacion/Santana swap. The rebuilding White Sox may have wanted Alonso to help lead a young clubhouse with several Cuban-born players on the roster, but they may have also been looking to use Alonso as a recruiting pitch for one of the top free agents on the market, his brother-in-law Manny Machado, who instead signed a surprising mega-deal with the San Diego Padres.

With Alonso gone, switch-hitting catcher Dioner Navarro is currently in Tribe camp in the number 17, hoping to revive his pro career with the Tribe after missing much of the last two years of action. At Goodyear on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, the 35-year-old is 3-for-10 in Cactus League play with two walks and two RBI through action on March 10.

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In the five years that the number 17 was not representing a player on the field, it was still technically assigned to a member of the Indians coaching staff, even though it was rarely seen from underneath his usual Indians hoodie. Manager Terry Francona switched to the number 77 in December of 2017 to allow catching prospect Francisco Mejia to claim the digits, but Mejia instead appeared briefly in the number 27 during his July call-up prior to being deal to the Padres in 2018.

Choo - Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Choo – Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Prior to Alonso, the 17 was last seen on the back of an Indians player in 2012, when Shin-Soo Choo wore it in his final season for the club. His stay in Cleveland overlapped some lean years for the Tribe from 2006 to 2012. After appearing in 14 games for Seattle in parts of two seasons, he was acquired just before the trade deadline in 2006 with minor leaguer Shawn Nottingham for Ben Broussard and cash. The move paid off for the Indians, who slotted Choo into the right field corner, making good use of a strong throwing arm. In his early years with the Tribe, he also worked in left and center field.

He appeared in 45 games for the club in 2006 and just six in 2007 while missing much of the season with injury (including Tommy John surgery in September). He would return to his old form in 94 games in 2008, hitting .309 with 28 doubles, 14 homers, and 66 RBI.

He was a staple of the Tribe’s lineup in 2009, making it into 156 games of action and hitting an even .300 with 38 doubles and 20 homers while stealing 21 bases and driving in 86 runs. He would mirror the production the following season, hitting 31 doubles and 22 homers, stealing 22 bases, and knocking in 90 while again hitting .300 over 144 games. The effort earned him some MVP votes, as he finished 14th among vote-getters.

Injuries sapped him of his 2011 campaign, as he hit just .259 over 85 games. He bounced back the following season, however, hitting .283 with a career-high 43 doubles while appearing in 155 games. With free agency set to follow after the 2013 season, the Indians sent him to the Reds, receiving outfielder Drew Stubbs from Cincinnati and pitchers Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer, and Bryan Shaw from Arizona. The Indians also sent Jason Donald to the Reds and Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp to the Diamondbacks, while Arizona sent shortstop Didi Gregorius to Cincinnati.

With Choo’s time in Cleveland over, Francona switched over to the number 17. He had previously been introduced to the Cleveland media earlier that offseason with the number 47 during his first press conference as Indians manager.

Choo played one season in Cincinnati in 2013, putting up good numbers before a big pay day, signing a seven-year, $130 million contract with the Texas Rangers. That investment has had mixed returns over the years.

Fryman - Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

Fryman – Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

In the last few decades, the number has tended to find its way to newly acquired faces in the organization.

Aaron Boone wore it for two seasons before Choo when he signed as a free agent following a knee injury that kept him out of all of the 2004 season. He worked regularly for the club at third base, hitting .243 in his first season and .251 in his last, but his power dwindled from 16 homers to just seven over the two seasons. He would bounce around with Florida, Washington, and Houston before calling it a career. He is now back on the diamond as the manager of the New York Yankees.

Travis Fryman was a four-time All-Star for Detroit when the Indians acquired him following the 1997 season. He had been traded two weeks earlier to the Diamondbacks, who in turn sent him to Cleveland with reliever Tom Martin for third baseman Matt Williams.

Fryman would be named an All-Star with the Indians in 2000 in his best season of five with the club, establishing new career bests with 38 doubles and 106 RBI while adding 22 homers and winning a Gold Glove Award. But much of the rest of his time was shortened by injury, as he played in just 85 games in 1999, 98 games in 2001, and 118 games in 2002. He retired following the 2002 season at the age of 33 after hitting a career-worst .217, but has remained with the organization for stretches of the time since, including working four years as the manager at short-season Mahoning Valley from 2008-2010 and again in 2015. He is currently a special assistant for the club.

Marquis Grissom spent one season in Cleveland with the awkward task of replacing one of the better center fielders in the game in Kenny Lofton, who was traded prior to the 1997 season in the same deal that brought the new number 17 to town.

Grissom was once a two-time All-Star for Montreal and had twice led all of baseball in steals with 76 in 1991 and 78 in 1992, but speed was less a part of his game when the Indians acquired him from the Atlanta Braves with David Justice for Lofton and reliever Alan Embree. Grissom would hit .262 in 144 games for the Tribe during the season, but his postseason numbers were instrumental in getting the Indians to their second World Series in three seasons. He hit .261 against the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS with a homer, three stolen bases, and four RBI and was named the series MVP. He hit .360 with a .448 OBP in seven games against the Florida Marlins in the World Series defeat.

After the season, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers with pitcher Jeff Juden for three arms – Mike Fetters, Ben McDonald, and Ron Villone. The Indians announced the same day the free agent addition of Lofton.

Pena - Boston Globe

Pena – Boston Globe

The number 17 graced the back of another Indians’ postseason hero just before Grissom. Catcher Tony Pena signed with the club prior to the 1994 season to serve as a backup to Sandy Alomar, but would see extensive playing with Alomar’s health always in question. He hit .295 in 40 games in 1994 before the strike and re-signed with the club for the 1995 season. He appeared in 91 games that season, hitting .262, and will forever be remembered in Indians lore for hitting the game-winning solo homer off of his former Red Sox club and Boston reliever Zane Smith in the bottom of the 13th inning in the first playoff game in Cleveland since 1954.

He would return to the Indians roster for one more year at the age of 38 in 1996, working in 67 games while hitting .195 backing up Alomar again before splitting his final big league season between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros in 1997.

Other notable 17s in Tribe history (49 in total): Jim Bagby (1941-44), Al Rosen (1947), Gene Bearden (1947), Dave Philley (1954-55), Chico Carrasquel (1956-58), Sam McDowell (1961-62), Chico Salmon (1964-68), Dave LaRoche (1975-77), Wayne Garland (1977-81), Keith Hernandez (1990), Bob Ojeda (1993)

Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below.

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 99
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 90 – Adam Cimber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 88
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 77
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 76
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 75
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 73
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 72
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 71
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 70
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 69
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 68
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 67
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 66
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 65
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 64
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 63
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 62
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 61 – Dan Otero
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 60
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 59 – Carlos Carrasco
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 58 – Neil Ramirez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 57 – Shane Bieber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 56 – Cody Anderson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 55 – Roberto Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 54
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 53
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 52 – Mike Clevinger
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 50
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 49 – Tyler Olson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 48
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 47 – Trevor Bauer
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 46 – Jon Edwards
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 45 – Adam Plutko
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 44 – Nick Goody
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 43
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 42
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 41 – Carlos Santana
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 40
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 39 – Oliver Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 38 – Eric Haase
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 37
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 36
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 35 – Ben Taylor
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 34
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 33 – Brad Hand
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 32
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 31 – Danny Salazar
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 30 – Tyler Naquin
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 29
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 28 – Corey Kluber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 27
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 26
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 25
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 24
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 23
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 22 – Jason Kipnis
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 21
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 20
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 19
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 18

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