Star-Crossed Sizemore Falls Victim to SI’s Cover Jinx

Eleven years ago this week, Sports Illustrated put Grady Sizemore on the cover.

The story raved about Sizemore, the Indians center fielder virtually stolen from the Expos in the trade that sent Bartolo Colon to Montreal. His on-base percentage kept improving. He had size. He had speed. He had power. He had legions of female fans – “Grady’s ladies,” they were called. Best of all, he was under team control for another five years. The story likened his numbers at that point to Duke Snider, who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Dodgers.

“To watch him play day in and day out is a rare treat,” said Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro. “All of us, from the front office to the players to the bat boys, are fortunate to see him every day. He is without a doubt one of the greatest players of our generation.”

It wasn’t to be.

Sizemore and the Indians had banner years in 2007. Sizemore hit 24 home runs and stole 33 bases – the third of four consecutive 20-20 years – and although his batting average dipped to .277, his on-base percentage rose to .390. That year, the Indians won their first division title since 2001, coming within one tantalizing win of a trip to the World Series before coughing up a 3-1 series lead to the Red Sox in the American League Central Division. But with a team like that, there was no doubt they’d be back to the playoffs, right?

In 2008, Sizemore was named to his third straight American League All-Star team, but the Indians stumbled out of the gate and were out of contention for most of the summer, dealing CC Sabathia to Milwaukee. Sizemore played 157 games that season – and he wouldn’t play more than 112 in a season ever again in his career.

Injuries caught up to him in 2009. He pulled out of the World Baseball Classic because of a groin injury, and ended up shutting down his season in September for elbow surgery. He also had hernia surgery related to the groin injury.

His 2010 season ended with microfracture surgery on his left knee, and he was sidelined for most of the 2011 season with an injury to his right knee, and had an additional sports hernia surgery. The man Ozzie Guillen called the best player in the American League in that Sports Illustrated story averaged 68 games played from 2009 to 2011.

The Indians declined their club option for 2012, but Sizemore re-signed with the Tribe. He had back surgery during spring training and didn’t play all season – or in 2013. He resurfaced in Boston in 2014 but was designated for assignment in June. He quickly latched on with the Phillies, and played in 112 games that year between the two teams – the most he’d played in one season since 2009.

Sizemore spent 2015 with the Rays, and although he hasn’t appeared in a major league game since, he hasn’t officially retired. (At this point, we remind you that the guy he was traded for, Bartolo Colon, not only hasn’t officially retired, he’s still playing). Technically, Sizemore still works in MLB, serving as an advisor to player development for the Indians.

Sizemore was the last Indians player on the cover of SI for nearly eight years, until Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley – like Sizemore both acquired in shrewd trades – appeared on the 2015 baseball preview with the headline, “Wait Till This Year.”

The jinx is real.

Photo: SI

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