Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we chronicle the career of Brian Giles.
By Craig Gifford
If Brian Giles were trying to break into the current Cleveland Indians outfield he would likely have no trouble at all. However, the Tribe outfields of the latter part of the 1990s never allowed the player with boatloads of potential to make his true mark on the shores of Lake Erie.
Giles, even as a rookie in 1995, always had pop in his bat. Unfortunately, for him, he was looking at players ahead of him on the pecking order, the likes of Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, David Justice and Marquis Grissom. That was virtual who’s who of the late 90s Major League Baseball outfield.
In 1995, Giles got his feet wet with six games. He fell into 51 games in 1996. After the departures of Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton, following the 1996 season, Giles found a little room to grow at the big league level. In 1997 and 1998, he played in 130 and 112 games, respectively. He hit a combined 33 home runs. However, Giles was never going to break into a loaded outfield and be an everyday player with the Tribe.
In November 1998, the Indians found a trading partner in the Pittsburgh Pirates. The downtrodden team was looking for a young player, with superstar potential, to become the possible face of its franchise. The Indians were looking for bullpen depth and got that in the deal in the form of Ricardo Rincon.
Rincon never went on to star, but was a solid reliever. Giles became the star the Pirates coveted. In five seasons with the Bucos, Giles hit 165 home runs and hit .308. He was an All Star twice. The unfortunate thing for Giles is he wasn’t dealt to Pittsburgh until he was 28, leaving him fewer years than most to make his mark on the game.
Giles had the five years in Pittsburgh, followed by seven seasons in San Diego, six of which were truely productive. His career totals were not what they could have been had he entered the majors as a regular in his early 20s, but still the stat line read 287 home runs, 1,897 hits and a solid .291 batting average.
He could not break into the Indians fearocious line ups of the 1990s, but Giles was much-wanted by most teams. In a different era, he could have gone down as a truly great player. Wouldn’t the Indians love to have his bat in the line up about now?
Photo: Associated Press