Tribe Madness: Previewing the Stadium Region matchups
Our tournament preview moves to the Stadium region. The winner of this region draws the winner of the Municipal Stadium region. To view the first preview along with an introduction to this tournament, click here.
The 26-year old switch hitting catcher Victor Martinez enjoyed his best season in an Indians uniform in 2005 hitting .305 with 20 home runs and 80 RBI with an .853 OPS. His 5.2 WAR qualified him in this tournament as a #9 seed. V-Mart signed as an infielder in 1996 as an amateur free agent and he moved through the Indians minor league system. He was converted to catcher and made his MLB debut on September 10 2002.
Martinez would spend eight years in Cleveland racking up 900 hits and 103 home runs before being traded to the Red Sox for Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, and Bryan Price. In 2005 he and the Indians finished 93-69 and finished six games behind the White Sox. Falling as far as 12 games out of first place on May 21 (18-23), the Indians didn't hit their stride until June 5th when they went on a 12-1 run but it was a 19-8 August that put them in contention and then they followed it up with an identical 19-8 September to pull within 1.5 games with one week to go. Unfortunately, the team couldn't finish and lost six of their last seven games including the final three to the White Sox.
Martinez will be battling fellow 26-year old Ed Morgan, a first baseman from the 1930 Indians. Morgan attended Tulane University and made his debut at the age of 24 for the 1928 Indians. In 1930, the first baseman had a breakout season hitting .349 with 26 homers and 136 RBI (.413/.601/1.014) as the Indians went 81-73 for manager Roger Peckinpaugh.
Morgan would spend six years in Cleveland hitting .232 with 41 HR and 394 RBI. Morgan would play one season with the Red Sox before ending his seven year MLB career. The 1930 Indians finished in fourth place 21 games behind the Athletics. Primarily a first baseman, Morgan also played some third base and outfield for the Tribe.
The Canadian born Heath graduated high school in Washington and made his MLB debut as a 21 year old in 1936 and by 1938 had established himself as a force for the Indians for the next eight years before displaying his talents for the Senators, Browns and Braves in a 14 year career. Heath's best years were in Cleveland and in 10 years he hit .298 with 83 HR and 122 RBI but 1941 was his best when he hit .340/.396/.586/.982 with a career high 20 HR and 123 RBI. His 20 triples led the AL and he finished 8th in the MVP balloting becoming the first AL player to enter the 20-20-20 club (doubles, triples and homers). He qualified for this tournament with a 5.2 WAR.
In 1941, the Indians under Roger Peckinpaugh, suffered a disappointing 75-79 record finishing in fourth place 26 games behind the Yankees. After building a 55-22 record through July, the Indians faded winning only 20 of their final 57 games. Heath would later serve the Indians as a scout.
1986 was a productive year for the Indians considering in both 1985 and 1987 the team slumped to over 100 losses. In that year, the Indians were led offensively by Joe Carter. Carter might be one of the most important Indians of the 1980's as he was traded to San Diego for two important cogs in the Indians run of the 1990's (Sandy Alomar Jr and Carlos Baerga).
The 26 year old outfielder and first baseman led the AL in RBI (121) putting up a .302/.335/.514/.849 slash line with 29 homers to finish 9th in the MVP balloting. His 5.7 WAR was the highest of his career. Carter spent six years with the Indians in a 16 season MLB career topped by a walk-off HR to win the 1993 World Series. Acquired from the Cubs in 1983 for eventual Cy Young winner Rick Sutcliff, Carter would hit 151 of his 396 career home runs for the Tribe while posting a .781 OPS.
The current Indians shortstop joined the club in 2006 in one of Mark Shapiro's best trades (I'd rate it #2 behind the Colon deal – slightly ahead of the Choo trade). He broke in as a 21-year old second baseman in 2007 and performed an unassisted triple play in 2008. He moved to short after the departure of Jhonny Peralta in 2010 and has displayed the flare that Venezuelan shortstops are known for (making barehanded plays that excites the fans and teams).
In 2011, the switch-hitting shortstop hit a career high 25 homers while posting a .273/.332/.460/.792 slash line with 92 ribbies on his way to winning the Silver Slugger award. He qualified for this tournament with a 4.8 WAR from that season. Cabrera is currently in his seventh year with the Indians with a career OPS of .752. In 2011, the Indians finished 80-82 to finish second in the AL Central but 15 games behind the Tigers. The Indians led the Central for most of the first half of the season (July 20th last time in first) before slumping to a 12-17 September. The team actually fared poorly after May (46-62).
Colbert “Toby” Harrah was the last Washington Senator to play in the MLB debuting in 1969 and taking over the regular shortstop duties in 1971 before later moving to third base. Harrah moved with the team to Texas in 1972 and remained there until being traded to the Indians in December 1978 for Buddy Bell.
Harrah would spend five years in Cleveland before being traded to the Yankees. In his five years, Harrah hit 70 homer and put up a .281/.383/.417/.799 slash line. In 1982, Harrah would finish 20th in the MVP balloting while hitting 25 homers and driving in 78 runs. He put up a .304/.398/.490/.888 slash line and a 6.5 WAR. Despite Harrah's heroics, the Indians, under manager Dave Garcia, finished 78-84 which tied them for last in the AL East a whole 17 games behind the Brewers. In total, Harrah played 17 seasons in the major leagues hitting 195 homers while putting up a .264/.365/.395/.760 slash line to go with four All-Star game appearances.
In a battle of two of manager Mike Hargrove’s key pieces for his ’90s playoff runs, third baseman Travis Fryman will square off against pitcher Charles Nagy in another pitcher vs. hitter battle. Travis broke in with the Tigers as a 21-year old shortstop/third baseman in 1990 but the presence of Alan Trammel moved him to third permanently.
Fryman spent eight years handling the hot corner for the Tigers before being shipped off to Arizona but he never donned a Snakes uniform. Just 13 days after the Diamondbacks acquired the All Star, they shipped him to Cleveland for Matt Williams. Fryman then put together five seasons with Chief Wahoo on his sleeve hitting .275/.339/.440/.779 and winning one Gold Glove (2000). In 2000, the third baseman put up a .321/.392/.516/.908 line with 22 homers and 108 RBI for an Indians team that finished second in the AL Central with a 90-72 record (five games behind the Twins). In all, Fryman played 13 MLB seasons making the All Star game five times and hitting 223 dingers (74 in Cleveland).
Drafted with a supplemental first round pick in 1988 out of UConn (obtained when Brett Butler signed as a free agent with the Giants), Nagy made his MLB debut two years and 20 days later as a 23-year old. Charles would then spend the next 13 years pitching for the Tribe going 129-103 with a 4.51 ERA and was an important part of two AL pennants and six AL Central Division championships. Nagy would spend a part of a 14th MLB season in San Diego. In 1996, Nagy went 17-5 with a 3.41 ERA while achieving a 6.1 WAR. He led the Indians in wins as they strolled to a division title with a 99-62 record but lost to the Orioles in four games in the ALDS to end their season.
Back in the dead ball era when the Cleveland baseball franchise was known as the Naps, pitching dominated and guys would throw a ton of innings. One of those pitchers way back from 1910 – 1914 was Fred “Fritz” Blanding. Blanding, a 24 year old righty from Redlands, California via that school up north (sorry I can't say that word), went 18-14 with a 2.92 ERA while throwing 262 innings. This scored Blanding a 4.4 WAR good enough to qualify for this tournament.
In his five MLB seasons (all with Cleveland), Blanding compiled a 46-46 record with a 3.13 ERA. In 1912, the Naps went 75-78 and a whopping 30.5 games behind Boston good enough for 5th place in the AL. As a 22 year old rookie, Blanding's first MLB start was against Hall of Famer Walter Johnson and Blanding rose to the occasion with a 3-0 shutout. Blanding retired after the 1914 season stating “excessive weight” as the reason.
It is arguable, but Mel Harder may be the most important pitching figure in Indians history. While there were some great pitchers prior to Harder (Joss, Coveleski, etc) and several after (Feller, Lemon, Wynn, Perry, Sabathia, Lee, etc), Harder had an influence on so many great Indians pitchers in his career as a player, coach, and manager (career record 3-0). Chief made his debut in 1928 as an 18-year old and the right hander would wear the Indians' uniform for 20 years going 223-186 with a 3.80 ERA.
Harder would retire after the 1947 season then embark on a career as the Indians pitching coach. He would be instrumental in converting Bob Lemon from an infielder to a dominant pitcher as well as guys like Mike Garcia,Early Wynn, Herb Score, Sam McDowell, Tommy John, and Luis Tiant. As a player Harder mentored a young Bob Feller. On the mound, Harder threw the first pitch at old Cleveland Stadium and his number is retired by the Indians. In 1934, Chief went 20-12 with a 2.61 ERA in 255.1 innings as the Indians finished 85-69 in third place 16 games behind the Tigers for manager Walter Johnson. For his career Harder made 4 All Star games and finished as high as 16th in the MVP balloting (1934 and 1938).
Charlie “Piano Legs” Hickman was a first basement/pitcher from the late 1800's and the early 1900's. In 1902, Piano Legs jumped from the National League (Giants) to the Boston Americans but his stay with the Americans was brief as he was shipped to Cleveland on June 2. Hickman then went on a tear hitting .378/.399/.559/.958 with 8 homers and 94 RBI and his combined stats that year were .361/.387/.539/.926 with 11 homers and a league leading 193 hits.
Hickman’s efforts helped lead the Bronchos to a 69-67 record under manager Bill Armour (5th place behind the Athletics). Charlie would spend three years in Cleveland and then return in 1908 for his 4th season. In total he played 12 MLB seasons hitting .295/.331/.440/.771 with 59 homers but his 4.4 WAR in 1902 was his highest.
Looking back it's hard to believe that Robbie Alomar only played three seasons in Cleveland. There are so many good memories watching him hit, run and field. All three years were solid but his first year was the best. Alomar hit .323/.422/.533/.955 with 24 homers and 120 RBI for a team that scored 1000+ runs. He also swiped 37 bases, won a Gold Glove and scored a league leading 138 runs.
Alomar came to the Indians as a 31 year old free agent because he wanted to play with his brother Sandy (Sandy could only stay healthy for 37 games that year and 97 games the following year). In his three years in Cleveland, Robbie hit .323/.405/.920 with 63 homers and 309 RBI. In total, he played 17 MLB seasons falling just 276 hits shy of the magical 3000. Alomar may have been the best all-around second sacker in MLB history winning 10 Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, and 12 consecutive All Star appearances. He was a lifetime .300 hitter.
#15 C Sandy Alomar (1997) vs. #2 SP Luis Tiant (1968)
Sandy completes the first pair of family members on the Indians list (hint the other pair is not Terry and Tito Francona, Buddy and David Bell, or Earl Averill and Earl Averill Jr.). While Sandy completes the pair, he is the older of the two and played for the Indians earlier and longer. Sandy came to Cleveland after winning Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year award in two consecutive years via a trade with the Padres for Joe Carter that also netted the Indians Carlos Baerga and Chris James.
Sandy didn't waste any time in making an impact as he won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1990 playing in 132 games. Injuries then set back his career and he didn't appear in 100 games again until 1996. Sandy then put it all together in 1997 by hitting .324/.354/.545/.900 with 21 homers and 83 RBI. Sandy won the MVP of the All Star game that year in Cleveland with a home run. Sandy's WAR that year was 3.9 and he made this tournament by author's selection. Alomar would play 11 of his 20 MLB seasons in Cleveland making all six of his All Star appearances as a Wahoo. Sandy would hit 92 homers in those 11 seasons with a .277/.315/.419/.734 slash line.
As a kid, I remember El Tiante pitching for the Red Sox with his spiraling windup. It looked like he was looking into center field on every pitch. Before that Tiant was an Indians hurler and a pretty good one. Part of a rotation in 1968 which included Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert and Stan Williams, the Indians finished 86-75 to finish in 3rd place 16.5 games behind the Tigers. Those for starters went a combined 61-44 with Tiant leading the way with a 21-9 record. Tiant, from Cuban, added 264 strikeouts and a 1.60 ERA to score an 8.4 WAR.
Tiant signed with the Indians in 1962 out of the Mexican League and made his MLB debut in 1964 and played six years for Cleveland going 75-64. He would later pitch for the Twins, Red Sox, Yankees, Pirates and Angels in a 19 year career. He was a three time All-Star and won 20 games four times.
With 15 spots to fill, I decided to add several players that I had the privilege to watch growing up in the '70's and '80's and one of those guys was Rick Manning. Manning was the face of the Indians from early on and in 1976 the 21-year old gave Indians fans something to cheer about. He hit .292/.337/.393/.730 with 6 homers and 16 stolen bases while winning a Gold Glove. As the second pick in the 1972 amateur draft, Manning climbed the ladder quickly and debuted in 1975 as a 20 year old. In his second season, he peaked with a 3.5 WAR.
Unfortunately for Indians fans, Manning injured his back in 1977 which would have far reaching affects. Manning would recover at Dennis Eckersley's home and while recovering a romantic affair started between Eck's wife and Manning. When the front office heard about this, they decided to act swiftly in order to head off any problems. The front office decided to trade Eckersley in order to separate the two and the Indians lost a key piece of the late '70's youth movement. Manning played nine years in Cleveland before being traded to Milwaukee where he completed his 13 year career. In 1976, the Indians finished 81-78 under manager Frank Robinson finishing fourth 16 games behind the Yankees.
Getting on base, stealing and scoring runs was the name of the game in the early 1900's and Naps shortstop Terry “Cotton Top” Turner was pretty successful at that for 17 years in the majors. The shortstop/third baseman applied his trade at the corner of Lexington and E. 66th for 15 of those 17 seasons. Turner debuted in 1901 with the Pirates as a 20-year old but was released two days after his debut. He played the next two years in the American Association before the Naps picked him up from Columbus in 1903.
Then in 1904, Turner made his Cleveland debut playing in 111 games and two years later turned in his best season. Turner's 1906 season featured a .291/.289/.360/.709 slash line with 2 homers but 27 steals and 85 runs scored. His 9.4 WAR qualified him for this tournament and a #1 seed. That season the Naps went 89-64 under player-manager Napoleon Lajoie. The team started September 7.5 games back but streaked to a 23-9 record and drew within four games with two weeks to go but couldn't draw any closer and they finished five games behind the White Sox. Turner is credited with pioneering the head first slide and was the Indians all time stolen bases leader until Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel passed him. In his career Turner would steal 254 bases as an Indian/Nap.