Posts By Vince Guerrieri
While I was living in the Pittsburgh area, the Pirates opened their new home, PNC Park, to great fanfare.
It was, put simply, gorgeous. Its predecessor, Three Rivers Stadium, looked like nothing so much as a giant ashtray, completely enclosed to shut off any view of the city’s skyline from your seat – an error rectified by the new park, which was sold, in part, on what had happened in Cleveland in 1994. If you build it, the winner would come – and Pittsburgh was in need of a winner. Since the 1992 season ended for Pittsburgh with Barry Bonds’ inability to throw Sid Bream out at the plate in the deciding game of the National League Championship Series, the Pirates hadn’t even finished with a winning record.
PNC Park opened in 2001, and a club record of more than 2.4 million fans came through the turnstiles. In that beautiful new ballpark, they saw a team that lost 100 games. The following year, the Pirates lost a mere 89 games, but attendance slipped to 1.7 million. Gradually attendance, and more importantly, season ticket sales, dropped. But they reached a new high in 2006 when, not coincidentally, PNC Park hosted its first All-Star Game – just a dozen years after the last one in Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium.
Why do I bring this up? Oh, no reason…
The Indians’ moves lately – at least, the ones they’ve been making – have caused me to relive the 2016 World Series. And I don’t like it one damn bit.
The Indians are making some moves, but probably not as many as we’d like. As it stands now, this Indians team is no better than the one that ended the season ignominiously with a sweep by the Astros in the American League Division Series. (It is my fervent hope that the Indians aren’t done making offseason moves, but it feels like that’s starting to border on delusion.)
The Indians have almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to starting pitching. Their rotation is probably the envy of any team in the major league – which is why the team’s not being shy about shopping around starting pitching to bolster other holes in the lineup.
Were it not for a fateful trade 10 years ago this week, they might have even more.
The Indians came into the 2008 season with high expectations, having come one win away from advancing to their first World Series in a decade the season before. But the team stumbled out of the gate and started dealing away players, including defending American League Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia and third baseman Casey Blake, who went to the Dodgers in August for a catching prospect named Carlos Santana, in a move that reaped dividends for the Indians for the better part of the next decade. (Blake signed a three-year deal with the Dodgers following the season, and finished out that contract before latching on with the Rockies for 2012 spring training, but got cut and then retired.)
It appears another suitor has entered the Corey Kluber sweepstakes.
News broke Wednesday afternoon that the Padres – of all teams – were interested in Kluber’s services. San Diego would represent a sort of homecoming for Kluber, who was drafted by the Padres in the fourth round of the 2007 MLB Draft. Kluber was dealt to the Indians in a three-way deal in 2010 that sent Ryan Ludwick from the Cardinals to the Padres and sent Indians pitcher Jake Westbrook to St. Louis.
Indeed, the Indians have been regular trade partners with the Padres. Last summer, the Tribe acquired Brad Hand and Adam Cimber in exchange for top catching prospect Francisco Mejia. And Indians coach Sandy Alomar Jr.’s career with the Indians started when he was dealt from San Diego, which had a surplus at the backstop position, thanks to Benito Santiago.
Larry Doby’s always had a hard row to hoe.
As an African-American man in the 20th century, he’s seen no shortage of racial prejudice. As the second black baseball player in the major leagues – and the first in the American League – he went through the same things the first African-American major leaguer, Jackie Robinson, did, but the recognition Robinson got eluded him for longer.
A former Indian was elected to the Hall of Fame on Sunday night.
It wasn’t the one I’d hoped for. It wasn’t even one I thought would be elected – and that’s the problem.
Lee Smith and Harold Baines – who was a member of the Tribe, albeit briefly, in 1999 – were announced Sunday night, the first night of the winter meetings, as the Hall of Fame inductees for the Today’s Game era. Other candidates on the list included former Tribe skipper Charlie Manuel as well as Orel Hershiser, Joe Carter and Albert Belle, all of whom wore Indians uniforms as a player at one point or another in their careers.
My phone started blowing up Friday night as word got out that Yan Gomes was being dealt to the Nationals.
My boy William (with whom I’d regularly participated in Cleveland Browns and Indians Q&As) asked why the Indians were dealing their starting catcher, a year after he played in his first All-Star Game. But too many of my Indians fan friends used the same two-word phrase that had me channeling Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction”:
SAY “FIRE SALE” AGAIN! I DARE YOU!! I DOUBLE DARE YOU!!!
The Indians of the 1960s and 1970s were notable not just for being mediocre at best, but for seeing players they discovered move on to greener pastures.
The Yankees of the late 1970s included such former Tribe players as Lou Piniella, Chris Chambliss and Graig Nettles – a testament as much to the Indians’ ineptitude as to the front office set up by George Steinbrenner, a Cleveland native who was thwarted in his efforts to buy the Indians. When he was able to buy the Yankees, he brought with him former Tribe player Al Rosen and executive Gabe Paul.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a baseball fan who didn’t know what team Babe Ruth played for.
Ruth broke into the majors for the Red Sox (with his first game against the Indians, no less), had his greatest success with the Yankees, and ended his playing career with a brief stint back in Boston, this time with the Braves.
But could he have been part of the Indians? As a player, no. As a manager? It could have happened.
At the beginning of the month, Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted that the Indians would listen to potential trade offers for their starting pitchers, and I don’t know about you, but I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if a million voices cried out in terror remembering dealing successful starting pitchers as the team’s way of running up the white flag.
And who can blame them? Nearly a decade ago, the Tribe became the first team to trade back-to-back Cy Young Award winners, dealing CC Sabathia at the deadline in 2008 to the Brewers, and Cliff Lee to the Phillies the following year – when he still under contract for another season. (Just for good measure, the Indians traded Victor Martinez two days after dealing Lee.)
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced its slate of “Today’s Game” candidates for consideration Monday, and it really seems to have a Cleveland feel to it.
The Today’s Game ballot is one of the eras regularly put to a vote by what used to be called the Veterans Committee.
By 2002, the Indians empire that ruled the American League Central Division for the better part of half a decade was done and dusted.
The Tribe had won the division in 2001, but were dispatched by the Mariners in the American League Division Series. By July, they were 39-47, and manager Charlie Manuel, whose contract expired after the season, wanted assurances he’d still be manager the next year. Manuel, who’d served as Indians hitting coach before succeeding Mike Hargrove as manager in 1999, reached an impasse with General Manager Mark Shapiro and was fired over the All-Star break.
“We’re in an awkward transitional period between having a team that we thought could contend to a club that will be rebuilding next season,” Shapiro said in a quote after the move in the New York Times.