Join Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to Opening Day!
Countdown to Opening Day – 26
Mike Napoli‘s yearlong party at Progressive Field came to an end over the offseason, as the free agent slugger was replaced in the Cleveland Indians lineup by a younger, more consistent power hitter in Edwin Encarnacion.
Napoli’s departure marks the end of one of the more impressive contributions by a player to spend just one season in northeast Ohio. While his bat cooled off in the final two months of the season and his impact in the postseason as a whole was minimal, the Indians would not have reached that pinnacle without his presence in the middle of their lineup. It was little surprise that with an additional threat in the Cleveland batting order that guys like Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez had career years hitting behind him. Napoli’s watchful eye at the plate and the fear instilled by him in opposing pitchers of giving up a majestic moonshot seemed to provide plenty of protection for those around him in the lineup.
On Friday, former Indians closer Bob Wickman celebrated his 46th birthday, which saw his age finally surpass his career-high saves total of 45 with Cleveland in 2005.
When Wickman hung up the cleats for good following the 2007 season split with the Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks, he was the Indians all-time leader in career saves with 139. He had taken ownership of the title on May 7th, 2006, moving past Doug Jones for the top spot on the list with a typical Wickman save.
A recent development in Major League Baseball has seen former players take the reigns as a manager or coach with their former team.
The White Sox once employed their former shortstop, Ozzie Guillen, in the managing capacity. Now the team has its one-time third baseman in Robin Ventura in that seat. Joe Girardi, a former Yankees backstop, currently manages the Bronx Bombers. More recently, the Tigers hired Brad Ausmus, who used to be a catcher in Detroit, to replace the retired Jim Leyland as their bench boss.
In Cleveland, the Indians have a pair of their ex-players calling the shots. Terry Francona, who spent a season a Tribe player, is of course the manager of the team. The Indians also have Sandy Alomar, Jr., a key component of those successful 1990s squads, as its first base coach.