It's always nice to play your best baseball down the stretch in August and September, as the season winds down and a few breaks here or there could mean the difference between playing in the postseason or planning your winter break.
The Indians have now won six straight games, matching their longest win streak of the year. Coupled with the five game skid that Detroit is on right now, the Tribe seems poised to have another stellar surge like they did in 2005 chasing the White Sox. With 45 games left this season, Cleveland trails the Central-leading Tigers by...
On the bright side, we're only 17.5 games behind the White Sox for the Wild Card. And on a brighter note, by sweeping the Royals this weekend, we have essentially clinched fourth place in the division.
I wandered back to the break room at Classic Park shortly before 2:00 today, just in time to see Travis Hafner exchanging high-fives in the dugout after his grand slam, and just in time to see the scoreboard read "11-0". In the first inning. Royals starter Luke Hudson (who???) allowed 11 runs (only 10 earned though) in 1/3 of an inning. His ERA jumped from 4.65 to 6.39. Yikes.
But enough on the Indians. The current Indians, I should say. See, I was watching Sunday Night Baseball with the Dodgers and Giants squaring off. At one point, Kenny Lofton (Dodgers)grounded out to shortstop Omar Vizquel (Giants). I waited for the inevitable and unimaginative comments from Joe Morgan and Jon Miller.
"Those guys used to be teammates," Morgan keenly pointed out.
"Yeah, those were some pretty good Cleveland teams," Miller astutely observed.
That was it. End of story. How about the dominance of the Central Division for half a decade? How about two World Series appearances in three years? How about 455 consecutive sellouts? How about giving hope to an entire city where there once was none?
Oh well; nothing to do about it now. What I can do, though, is unveil Part One of Ex-Indians All Star team! The nostalgia of seeing Lofton and Vizquel on the same field, albeit in the National League and about 3,000 miles away from Cleveland, overcame me.
Every year, just for kicks and giggles, I've created a fantasy baseball on Yahoo stocked with nothing but former Indians players. Yeah, yeah, pretty lame I know, but it was a lot of fun and a nice little challenge. Usually I would finish in the middle of the pack, with pitching being my biggest Achilles' Heel. This year, I didn't have the time or energy to create my Ex-Indians fantasy team, but here is my time to shine.
(NOTE: This is for active players only...I don't want any comments about Roger Maris or Chris Chambliss, etc. As far as I can tell, there are 14 outfielders currently on big-league rosters who were once a part of the Indians organization. Part One, below, includes the five outfielders I would have on my team, and what it would cost the Indians to still have them.)
* Manny Ramirez, LF, Boston Red Sox - 2006 stats: .323 batting average, .432 on-base percentage, 32 home runs, 93 RBI, 27-game hit streak. 2006 salary: $18.3 million.
Scott's View: Umm, it's Manny Ramirez. Signed a billion dollar contract with Boston in 2000.
* Kenny Lofton, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers - 2006 stats: .311 BA, .365 OBP, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 20 stolen bases. 2006 salary: $3.8 million.
Scott's View: Even at the age of 39, Lofton has shown that he can still play at a high level. Traded by the Indians to Atlanta before '97 season, returned as a free agent after that season, then signed with the White Sox after 2001 season.
* Brian Giles, RF, San Diego Padres - 2006 stats: .272 BA, .382 OBP, 8 HR, 60 RBI, 6 SB. 2006 salary: $7.7 million.
Scott's View: After some All-Star caliber seasons in Pittsburgh and SD, Giles is finally starting to slow down but remains a fine hitter. Traded to Pirates, straight up, for Ricky Rincon after the '98 season.
* Dave Roberts, CF, San Diego Padres - 2006 stats: .307 BA, .383 OBP, 35 SB, 2 HR, 30 RBI. 2006 salary - $2.25 million.
Scott's View: Never given a fair shake in Cleveland, Roberts proved to be a solid pro and enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame with the Red Sox during the 2004 postseason. Traded to Dodgers before '02 season for two minor league stiffs.
* Coco Crisp, CF, Boston Red Sox - 2006 stats: .276 BA, .327 OBP, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 16 SB. 2006 salary: $2.8 million.
Scott's View: Similar numbers to Milton Bradley, but slight edge to Coco here because of the stolen bases, though both missed significant playing time due to injuries. Plus he's not an asshole and I love his batting stance. Traded to Red Sox this past off-season, along with Josh Bard and David Riske, for Andy Marte, Kelly Shoppach, and Guillermo "Groove a Fastball Down the Middle" Mota.
Other outfielders included Bradley, Todd Hollandsworth (Reds), Russell Branyan (Devil Rays), Willy Tavares (Astros), Luke Scott (Astros), Jeromy Burnitz (Pirates), Jody Gerut (Pirates - on the DL), Ryan Church (Nationals) and Alex Escobar (Nationals). I found a little interesting that the Red Sox, Padres, Astros, Pirates and Nationals each have two former Indians patrolling the outfield, at least part-time.
Coming up in the next installment: Ex-Indians All Star Team, Part Two - the infield! Stay tuned.