Projecting and developing young talent is not always easy. It can be what separates the good teams from the bad teams, or at least those teams which cannot just buy replacement parts to compensate for their own internal misses.
The Rule 5 draft is one way a team can build up its roster, if looking to do so with a low risk, low cost scratch-off lottery ticket, but generally players selected in such a transaction rarely make significant contributions in the game of baseball.
Cleveland Indians fans who know the name Kelly Gruber likely remember him as being one of a handful of such players who found success and long careers in a new home. He is one of the more notable names lost by the Indians franchise in the long history of the alternative drafting process.
The Party at Napoli’s is officially over. Or maybe, it’s only just beginning.
Twelve-year big leaguer Mike Napoli announced his retirement on Saturday afternoon via his social media platforms.
Napoli, who turned 37 on Halloween, missed nearly all of the 2018 season in what was his 19th professional season. After returning for a second stint in the Cleveland Indians organization late in spring training, he suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee chasing after a foul popup while playing in his eighth game of the season at Triple-A Columbus. He underwent surgery to repair the injury and missed the rest of the season.
“After much though and consideration with my family, I have decided to retire from the game of baseball,” Napoli shared via social media. “I dreamed about playing baseball since I was a little kid growing up in Hollywood, FL and I was lucky enough to get paid to play a kids game for 18 years.”
Eleven-year Major Leaguer Luis Valbuena, who was a member of the Cleveland Indians organization from 2009 to 2011, was killed overnight in a car accident in his native Venezuela.
Just 33 years old, Valbuena was reportedly killed along with former Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jose Castillo when the car that both were passengers in collided with a rock that had rolled onto a road in the Venezuelan state of Yaracuy. The driver of the vehicle, as well as fellow winter ball teammate and former Indians prospect Carlos Rivero, survived the crash according to reports out of Venezuela.
The cause of the accident is under investigation, as there is a belief that the rock in the road was deliberately placed in an effort to force cars to stop or crash so that the passengers could be robbed. Reports out of Venezuela indicate that the scene appeared looted. Both players killed were ejected from the vehicle and were not wearing their seat belts.
Harold Baines did not get a lot of consideration for the Hall of Fame after his 22-year Major League Baseball playing career came to an end in 2002, but he got a second chance when he was named as one of the ten candidates for the Today’s Game Era (1988-present) ballot.
Baines’ chances of gaining entry to Cooperstown, the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will depend on the 16-member committee, comprised of members of the Hall, executives, and veteran media members. The election will take place during the MLB Winter Meetings from Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday, December 9. A three-fourths vote will determine induction.
Despite a 200-win career over 18 seasons, a Cy Young Award, and a World Series MVP Award, Orel Hershiser did not last long on the Hall of Fame ballot, exiting the process after just two years back in 2007.
This weekend, he will get a second shot, post-BBWAA, as part of the Today’s Game Era balloting, set to be announced from the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday, December 9.
Hershiser’s candidacy is once again up for debate as he finds himself on the Today’s Game Era ballot for the second time in three years. He was previously considered in December of 2016, when he was joined by Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Davey Johnson, Mark McGwire, Lou Piniella, John Schuerholz, Allan H. “Bud” Selig and George Steinbrenner. Schuerholz and Selig were selected as part of the Class of 2017. Baines, Belle, Clark, Johnson, Piniella, and Steinbrenner join Hershiser on this year’s ten-man ballot, with Joe Carter, Lee Smith, and Charlie Manuel joining them. McGwire did not return for this year’s vote.
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.
Shane Bieber did not place in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, nor did Greg Allen, Adam Plutko, or Adam Cimber, as the Cleveland Indians’ long drought without a winner extends back to 1990, despite several high quality candidates over the last three decades. Former Tribe prospect Joey Wendle, traded to Oakland in the Brandon Moss trade in December of 2014, did earn a fourth-place share of this year’s award with 17 vote points.
It was no surprise that the Indians’ 23-year-old right-handed starting pitcher Bieber did not fit into the mix in a season that saw winner Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels wow with 22 homers and a .285 batting average while also going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in ten starts before being shut down from his rotation work with right elbow issues. New York Yankees wunderkinder Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres finished second and third, respectively.
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.
I hope everyone got their fill of Indians going into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, because it might be a while before it happens again.
Slugger Jim Thome entered Cooperstown this year, in his first year of eligibility, and one of the things that amazed me about that is how much ill will it – as well as his statue – has engendered. Sure, you can hold a grudge about the way he left, but the fact is that he’s the single-season and career home run leader for the Indians, and his 612 career home runs represent a mark that should be represented in the Hall, tainted only by the era in which he played and no failed tests or any other suspicion beyond the shadow of his contemporaries.
It’s entirely too early to start handicapping next year’s Hall of Fame ballot, but what else am I going to do? The Indians are all home for the off-season, and you don’t want to get me started on THAT topic.
Forty years ago this week, Rick Waits pitched the Indians to a win in the season finale – and ensured that their opponents that day would get one more game.
The Red Sox at one point held a 10-game lead in the American League East, with the Yankees a distant third. But Yankees owner George Steinbrenner shook up the team by firing manager Billy Martin and replacing him with former Indians pitcher Bob Lemon. The Yankees got hot and overtook the Red Sox for the division lead in September, and both teams were on a tear going into the final day of the season.
Both the Yankees and Red Sox were at home, hosting miserable teams. The last-place Blue Jays were playing at Fenway Park, and the sixth-place Indians were at Yankee Stadium in front of nearly 40,000 fans who were hoping to see the Yankees clinch the American League East.