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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | October 16, 2021

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Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 1

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 1

| On 23, Jul 2020

One day away from the Cleveland Indians’ home opener against the Kansas City Royals and on the day that Major League Baseball opens its 2020 schedule, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night continue our countdown until the long awaited first pitch of the pandemic-shortened campaign. – BT

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 1

The number one will return to the field for the Cleveland Indians in 2020, which was confirmed on Wednesday when manager Terry Francona announced that outfielder Greg Allen was to be one of 30 players breaking Summer Camp with the big league club.

The good news for Allen is that he will be on the bench for the Indians to open the season, but he could be a candidate to be optioned later on down the road as Cleveland’s current roster is rather heavy in outfield options, even when utilizing the designated hitter spot to deploy a fourth one in the lineup daily. Allen has one minor league option remaining, giving the Indians extra flexibility with him in that regard.

The Indians have not yet fully mapped out how they intend to use all of the options available, with plenty of players vying for playing time. Oscar Mercado will be the primary man in center field, while Tyler Naquin will conceivably eat up as much time as he can in right. With Jake Bauers optioned from camp on Wednesday, Jordan Luplow could be a platoon option with Naquin. Both Franmil Reyes and Domingo Santana are expected to see a chunk of their time at DH, with Santana likely factoring into the outfield picture more often than the former despite Reyes working to develop the defensive side of his game more this offseason.

In addition to all of these guys, Francona also has the likes of Allen and Bradley Zimmer, giving the team ample depth in the grass.

The Indians may look to use some caution with some of the outfielders. Naquin is coming off of ACL surgery last September. Luplow was slowed in camp with a back injury. Delino DeShields would have also been in that outfield mix to sort out, but for now, he will open the season on the 10-day injured list as he builds up to game speed after testing positive for COVID-19 back in Arizona just as players were prepping to head to Cleveland for spring training 2.0.

Allen - Jason Miller/Getty Images

Allen – Jason Miller/Getty Images

As for Allen, he split time last season between Cleveland and Columbus, opening the year with the Indians. Allen got off to a horrible start at the plate, possibly affected by erratic playing time and just seven starts over his first 15 games. After a 1-for-28 (.036) start to the year, he got three hits in the next two games, but he was optioned out by the Indians to Columbus on April 27 with a .105/.167/.158 slash in exchange for Luplow.

Allen returned to the big league roster for two weeks starting with the last week of May, days after the team designated Carlos Gonzalez for assignment while Naquin was on the injured list with a left calf strain. After two hitless games in his return, Allen put together a six-game hitting streak, but Naquin’s return from the IL resulted in Allen returning to Columbus.

Allen was back in Cleveland for his third stint of the season just ahead of the All-Star break. He posted his best game of the season in his first start back on July 7, going 4-for-6 in an 11-1 win over Cincinnati, coming up just a double short of the cycle while scoring three times and driving in two runs to extend his hitting streak to seven games. He remained with the club after the All-Star break, eventually slotting into regular work in left field until the team’s three-team deal with Cincinnati and San Diego brought in two new outfielders in Reyes and Yasiel Puig. Allen and Bauers headed back to Columbus, but Allen was back within a week when Luplow landed on the IL with a right hamstring strain. He saw time in left and center in August, but he was used far more off of the bench in September, hitting just .217 over 50 plate appearances in 23 games (ten starts and nine complete games played).

Allen ended the season with a .229/.290/.346 slash in 256 plate appearances with Cleveland, hitting nine doubles, three triples, four homers, and driving in 27 while stealing eight bases in ten attempts in 89 games. With Columbus, he posted a .268/.358/.419 line in 226 plate appearances with nine doubles, three triples, five homers, and 17 RBI with ten stolen bases in 15 attempts in 48 games.

The pressure will be on Allen to be productive when Francona comes calling to ensure a spot on the roster moving forward, especially as reductions over the next few weeks eventually bring the lineup card down to a 26-man field of candidates. With plenty contending for time, Allen will be relying on his versatility to play all three outfield positions and his speed off of the bench to give him a leg up over the other men on the squad.

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Some additional information for your reading pleasure regarding the longest-tenured #1 in Indians history, as recalled by Vince Guerrieri. – BT

As a child growing up in Veracruz, Mexico, Roberto “Bobby” Avila played soccer and dreamed of being a bullfighter. As a student, he studied engineering. His later life was spent in politics.

Avila – 1957 Topps

But Avila – called Beto in Spanish-speaking nations but known as Bobby in the United States – was probably most famous as the first really prominent Mexican baseball player.

Avila found a book by former major leaguer Jack Coombs and used it to teach himself the game of baseball. By the time he was 19, he was playing in the Mexican League. Jorge Pasquel, the owner of the league’s Veracruz team, became president of the league and mounted a challenge to the major league monopoly and even attracted some major leaguers to play in Mexico.

It was then that Avila started to be noticed – and realized he could potentially play in the major leagues.

After a stint in Cuba, he had attracted the attention of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who were raiding the Negro Leagues for talent. Branch Rickey offered $9,000, but Avila wanted $10,000. Rickey, who was described as the kind of person who’d go to the vault for a nickel in change, passed. Avila later said he did him a favor, since he was a second baseman and would have ended up riding the pine behind Jackie Robinson.

Also intrigued was legendary Indians scout Cy Slapnicka, who offered Avila $17,500 – and was prepared to go higher, but Avila accepted. He spent 1948 in the minor leagues and was put on the roster in 1949, where he occasionally spelled everyday second baseman Joe Gordon. By the end of 1950, Avila was the Indians’ everyday second baseman and he received a glowing endorsement from his predecessor Gordon, who said, “That kid knows more about pitchers and batters after two years on the bench than most of the 10-year men in the game.”

Avila’s best years coincided with – or maybe were one of the reasons for – a streak where the Indians were one of the best teams in the major leagues. He was a three-time All-Star in 1952, 1954 and 1955, and in 1954 – the year the Indians won 111 games and the American League pennant – he became the first Latin American ball player to win a batting title, with a .341 average. The title didn’t come without controversy.

Avila with Willie Mays – Associated Press

Rules at the time said that to be eligible for the batting title, a player had to have 400 at-bats in a 154-game season, based on 2.6 at-bats per game. Avila got 189 hits in 555 at-bats for a .341 batting average. Ted Williams got 133 hits in 386 at-bats for a .345 average. Williams also walked 136 times – a luxury not afforded pitchers facing Avila in the middle of a murderous lineup. In fact, Williams walked so much that Red Sox manager Lou Boudreau (who came up with the shift against him while Indians skipper) moved him from third to second in the batting order to get him more at-bats.

As a result, in 1957, the criteria for the batting title was changed from official at-bats (which don’t include walks) to plate appearances.

Avila’s high water mark was 1954. Although he remained an everyday player for the Indians for four more years, he never hit higher than .272 again. His major league career ended after the 1959 season, but he played another season in his native Mexico, coming full circle by serving as an owner in the Mexican League and the league’s president.

Avila died in 2004 at the age of 80. His 1954 batting title remains the most recent by an Indians player.

Other notable 1’s in Tribe history (33 in total): Jackie Tavener (the first in 1929), Johnny Burnett (1931-34), Billy Martin (1959), Johnny Temple (1960), Jose Cardenal (1968-69), Tony Fernandez (1997), Casey Blake (2003-08), Luis Valbuena (2009-11), Michael Martinez (2015-17).

Photo: Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos (via Getty Images)

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below!

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 99 (Daniel Robertson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 90 (Adam Cimber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 88 (Phil Maton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 77 (Jack Armstrong)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 76 (Tom Magrann)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 75 (Mike Walker)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 73 (Ricardo Rincon)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 72 (Jason Giambi)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 71 (Johnny Hodapp)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 70 (James Karinchak, George Kontos)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 69 (Luis Medina)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 68 (Jefry Rodriguez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 67 (Aaron Civale, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 66 (Yasiel Puig, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 65 (Zach Plesac, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 64 (Tom Kramer, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 63 (Josh Smith, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 62 (Nick Wittgren, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 61 (Dan Otero, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 60 (Jhonny Peralta, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 59 (Carlos Carrasco)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 58 (Neil Ramirez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 57 (Shane Bieber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 56 (Cody Anderson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 55 (Roberto Perez)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 54 (Hunter Wood)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 53 (Logan Allen)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 52 (Mike Clevinger)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 51 (numerous)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 50 (James Hoyt, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 49 (Tyler Olson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 48 (Emmanuel Clase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 47 (Trevor Bauer)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 46 (Jon Edwards, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 45 (Adam Plutko)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 44 (Nick Goody, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 43 (Josh Tomlin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 42 (Mike Jackson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 41 (Carlos Santana, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 40 (Bobby Bradley, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 39 (Oliver Perez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 38 (Eric Haase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 37 (Cody Allen, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 36 (Tyler Clippard, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 35 (Oscar Mercado, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 34 (A.J. Cole, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 33 (Brad Hand, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 32 (Franmil Reyes, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 31 (Danny Salazar, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 30 (Tyler Naquin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 29 (Andre Thornton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 28 (Corey Kluber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 27 (Kevin Plawecki, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 26 (Max Moroff, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 25 (Jim Thome)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 24 (Carlos Gonzalez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 23 (Michael Brantley, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 22 (Jason Kipnis)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 21 (Bob Lemon, Rocky Colavito, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 20 (Frank Robinson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 19 (Bob Feller)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 18 (Mel Harder)
Indians’ 2020 Opening Day Countdown Take Two – 17 (Brad Miller, others)
Indians’ 2020 Opening Day Countdown Take Two – 16 (Mike Sarbaugh, others)
Indians’ 2020 Opening Day Countdown Take Two – 15 (Sandy Alomar, Jr.)
Indians’ 2020 Opening Day Countdown Take Two – 14 (Larry Doby)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 13 (Hanley Ramirez, Omar Vizquel)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 12 (Francisco Lindor, Roberto Alomar)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 11 (Jose Ramirez)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 10 (Jake Bauers)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 9 (Carlos Baerga)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 8 (Jordan Luplow)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 7 (Eric Stamets, Ryan Flaherty, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 6 (Mike Freeman)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 5 (Lou Boudreau)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 4 (Bradley Zimmer)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 3 (Earl Averill)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 2 (Yu Chang, Leonys Martin)

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