Posts By Vince Guerrieri
As is the case with so many instances in my life, the news last week of Francisco Lindor’s injury reminded me of a moment of the Simpsons.
This one, to be precise:
Frank Robinson, whose stint managing the Indians made him the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball, died today at the age of 83.
“The Cleveland Indians organization is deeply saddened by the passing of baseball legend Frank Robinson,” the Indians said in a statement. “Our organization and the city of Cleveland are proud to have played a role in Frank’s significant impact on the game when he became the first African-American manager in baseball history on April 8, 1975. The fact Frank hit a solo home run in his first at-bat that day as the Indians’ player-manager symbolizes his greatness as a Hall of Fame ballplayer. The entire Indians organization extends its thoughts and prayers to the Robinson family.”
This year, the tables were turned, with Grover and Carlos Baerga – who came with Alomar to the Indians in the trade for Joe Carter that sent the team into the stratosphere in the 1990s – presenting Alomar with the lifetime achievement award. And it was a big difference to Alomar.
“You see how much I’m sweating,” he said in a news conference at the awards in the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland.
Well, for at least another year, the only way Omar Vizquel is getting into the Hall of Fame is by buying a ticket.
Results were announced Tuesday of the annual voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. In the second of theoretically 10 years on the ballot, Vizquel got 42.8 percent of the vote, still well short of the 75 percent needed for induction, but it was an increase over the 37 percent he got in his first year. Former Indian Manny Ramirez also saw his vote total increase year-over-year, from 22 percent to 22.8 percent. Travis Hafner’s stay on the hall ballot was a brief one. In his first year of eligibility, he received no votes, and will drop off the ballot.
Sandy Alomar Jr. has been an integral part of the Indians for the better part of the last quarter-century.
And on Feb. 6, he’ll be recognized by the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission with the ceremony’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
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!!!