As the game of baseball has evolved, the idea of a homegrown player sticking with one team just does not happen anymore. Because of free agency, the days of Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount and George Brett are over. Today, the Derek Jeter’s and Mariano Rivera’s of the world can only be kept in one spot because of the Yankees seemingly bottomless wallet.
Because of this change to our game, it is hard to hold on to and love a single player because, before you know it, they are gone. The last player that passed through Cleveland that I called “my favorite player” was Kenny Lofton—and I’m not talking about the 2007 version or even the 1998 version. The version of Lofton that was my favorite was the 1992-1996 rendition. It was the version that my teenage mind never thought would leave. After Lofton was traded to Atlanta in the spring of 1997, I knew that his impending free agency was the reason and I never allowed myself to get duped again.
As it stands now, there are boatloads of former Indians all over the league and some are performing quite well. I thought it might be fun to put together a team of former Tribesmen and to see how it would match up with the team as it currently stands.
1. CC Sabathia (Yankees) 4-2, 3.35 ERA
I miss CC a lot. Matt LaPorta just isn’t quite as good as he was.
2. Cliff Lee (Phillies) 2-1, 3.03 ERA
This might have been a bad trade.
3. Jake Westbrook (Cardinals) 1-1, 0.98 ERA
I’m a little surprised to see that Jake’s right arm is still attached. I’m even more surprised to see that he is now AWESOME.
4. Jeremy Guthrie (Royals) 3-0, 3.46 ERA
He just dominated the Indians last weekend. He currently deserves to be on this team.
5. Bartolo Colon (Athletics) 3-0, 3.38 ERA
Remember when Colon was thin? He looks like Andre the Giant now. He would also be the third starter on the current Indians.
The starting staff of the Former Tribe is obviously the strength of the team and is much better than the Current Tribe’s rotation. All five of the former players would pitch no worse than third in the current rotation and would arguably be the best starting five in all of baseball.
Closer: Rafael Betancourt (Rockies) 1-0, 1.59 ERA, 8 saves
Remember how awesome he was in 2007? He is that awesome again.
Setup #1: Tony Sipp (Diamondbacks) 1-1, 3.12 ERA
Missing piece from the current Bullpen Mafia could probably give this team’s ‘pen a clever nickname.
SU #2: Jose Veras (Astros) 0-1, 4.66 ERA, 2 saves
This guy is a closer? He was awful. Oh wait, he’s on the Astros? Yeah…that makes sense.
Middle Relief #1: Esmil Rogers (Blue Jays) 1-2, 4.15 ERA
MR #2: Chad Durbin (Phillies) 0-0, 3.52 ERA
He was terrible with the Indians twice.
MR #3: Jamey Wright (Rays) 0-1, 1.74 ERA
Yes, he did pitch for the Indians. Look it up.
Long Relief: Hector Rondon (Cubs) 0-0, 1.35 ERA
He was never on the Major League roster, but he was a “top” prospect for like a decade. He counts.
This group isn’t that bad. I think that this bullpen would stack up with most bullpens in the league. That being said—there is no Vinnie Pestano so the current group wins.
1. CF Coco Crisp (Athletics) .283, 5 HR, 8 RBI
I see he finally learned how to hit leadoff. That was really annoying when he was here.
2. SS Jhonny Peralta (Tigers) .293, 2 HR, 12 RBI
Seriously, there isn’t a better #2 hitter on the team…just wait until you see 7-9.
3. RF Shin-Soo Choo (Reds) .340, 4 HR, 10 RBI
Choo moves out of the leadoff spot and centerfield to positions where he can drive in runs and catch fly balls.
4. 2B Brandon Phillips (Reds) .274, 4 HR, 24 RBI
The one that got away…
5. DH Travis Hafner (Yankees) .290, 6 HR, 14 RBI
Where has this been the last six seasons?
6. 1B Victor Martinez (Tigers) .198, 0 HR, 9 RBI
He will get hurt playing first, but the alternative was Casey Kotchman.
7. C Kelly Shoppach (Mariners) .293, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Very slim pickings.
8. 3B Jack Hannahan (Reds) .333, 0 HR, 3 RBI
He still isn’t allowed to swing his glove at the plate.
9. LF Austin Kearns (Marlins) .200, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Oh. My. God. Franklin Gutierrez needs to get off the disabled list FAST.
I’ll take the current group. Any team with Kearns and Hannahan hitting back to back is bad. I don’t care how good Choo is.
Mark DeRosa (Blue Jays) .161, 1 HR, 6 RBI
He plays a couple positions. That is why he’s here.
Jamey Carroll (Twins) .300, 0 HR, 2 RBI
He plays a lot of positions. That is why he’s here.
Jayson Nix (Yankees) .211, 1 HR, 4 RBI
He hit a lot of home runs for the Indians one month. Nobody else noticed but me.
Ben Francisco (Yankees) .103, 0 HR, 0 RBI
He got cut from the current team a couple months ago. That does not bode well for this team.
The current Tribe bench is a lot better. This is the spot where it isn’t even close.
Grady Sizemore (Free Agent) .—, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Grady is on pace to have the EXACT SAME stats he had a year ago.
Franklin Gutierrez (Mariners) .259, 4 HR, 10 RBI
He will start in left when he comes off the DL. Kearns will get traded again.
Charlie Manuel (Phillies)
Just because I didn’t want Eric Wedge back.
Justin Germano (Blue Jays)
He was terrible. He still is.
Derek Lowe (Rangers)
Roberto Hernandez (Rays)
Overall, I think I’ll stick with the current group. When Hafner and Martinez get hurt—which they both will—the former team will get stuck playing Kearns, DeRosa and/or Nix almost on a daily basis. The starting pitching is obviously much better than the current group, but beyond Sabathia and Lee, there is no guarantee that the latter three will stay healthy, keep up their good pitching and/or not have a heart attack from being so gigantic.
Photo: Ben Margot/Associated Press