Albert Belle’s Return to Cleveland

As you might have heard, today is kind of a big day for Cleveland sports fan.

But the player who took his talents to South Beach wasn’t the first to betray us.

Following the 1996 season, Albert Belle took his talents to the Windy City under similar circumstances. He wasn’t exactly a hometown hero, but we respected him when the rest of baseball hated him. He was a jerk, but he was our jerk. And like Dan Gilbert with his former star, Indians Owner Dick Jacobs was willing to pay to keep Belle in Cleveland. So when he left for a marginally larger contract, it hurt.

And so his return to Cleveland, on June 3, 1997, was almost as anticipated as tonight’s game between the Cavs and Heat.

Chad Ogea took the mound for the Tribe that day, getting the first crack at Belle. Much to the fans dismay, Ogea didn’t plunk Belle with his first pitch, but did induce an inning-ending fly out in the 1st inning.

In the bottom of the 1st, as if remind fans that a new power hitter was hear to fill Belle’s shoes, Jim Thome homered off Danny Darwin, his first of two in the game.

But not to be outdone by Cleveland’s new hero, Belle responded with a three-run shot in the 5th, knocking Ogea out of the game.

Belle would double off Danny Graves in the 8th and again off Eric Plunk in the 9th, as his White Sox cruised to a 9-5 win.

As a player often fueled by anger, Belle’s successful return really should have come as no surprise. He thrived under those conditions, which contributed to our love for him for so many years in Cleveland. He was simply clutch.

But we got the last laugh with Belle. Over the next four seasons Belle’s team would go a combined 6-15 in Cleveland. Belle would hit just .241 as a visitor in Jacobs Field, with his only home run coming in his return to the The Jake.

Oh, and most importantly, he never won a damn thing without us 🙂

The Curse of Victor Martinez?

Only one player in baseball history has ever hit 50+ home runs with the Tribe, and then gone on to hit 50+ home runs with the Tigers.

That man, of course, was Rocky Colavito.

But after signing a 4-year $50M deal with the Tigers, it appears that Victor Martinez will soon join him.

Two other players have accomplished the feat in reverse – 50 HR in Detroit, followed by 50 in Cleveland: Vic Wertz and Travis Fryman.

Luis Valbuena historically bad in 2010

It takes a perfect storm for a player to have a season as bad as Luis Valbuena in 2010.

In an ideal world, Valbuena never would have accumulated over 300 PA on the major league level this past season. But the Indians just didn’t have many other options.

As a result, he became the first Indian to hit under .200 with at least 300 PA since 1917, when both Steve O’Neill and Joe Evans accomplished the feat.

Now the question Valbuena needs to answer: is he the next O’Neill, who would later hit over .300 and finish 6th in the 1922 MVP voting? Or is he the next Evans, who was relegated to the bench and never again was given 300 PA with the Tribe?

Josh Tomlin is Indians ace?

Is Josh Tomlin the Indians new ace?

Well, seven different pitchers have made at least 10 starts for the Tribe this season. Six of them have a losing record. Only Tomlin, who improved to 5-4 with a win tonight, is at .500 or better.

This will be the first time since 2003 that the only one Indian with at least 10 starts has a winning record (CC Sabathia). Before 2003, you have to go back 1992 (Charles Nagy) and 1991 (Tom Candiotti). The Tribe hasn’t been without a winning starter since the infamous 1987 season.

Choo leads Indians with 16 HR

Shin-Soo Choo is about to join a very exclusive list. Unless the Indians right fielder hits four more home runs in the final weeks of the season (unlikely) it will be just the 5th time since the end of World War II that the Tribe’s leader failed to reach the 20 homer mark.

It doesn’t make much to hit 20 homers. Tribe leaders with 2o+ over the years include Candy Maldonado (1990), George Hendrick (1975-76), Oscar Gamble ( 1973) and Woodie Held (1960-61).

The last time the Tribe leader had fewer than 20 homers was in 1982, when Gorman Thomas and Andre Thornton tied with 17.

Peralta Inside the Park Home Run

Thanks to an unlocked bullpen gate, Jhonny Peralta rounded the bases with his first career inside the park home run on Sunday afternoon. He became just the 5th Indian to hit an inside the park homer in Jacobs Field – all five of which have come since 2000.

This is an odd stretch of five inside the park home runs in an 11-year span for the Tribe. Prior to Enrique Wilson‘s in 2000, the Indians hadn’t hit one in their home ballpark since Mel Hall rounded the bases against the A’s in 1988.

Jayson Nix continues home run tear

In his last 6 games Jayson Nix is 9-23 (.391 BA) with five HR and seven RBI. He’s gone deep in each of his last three games.

This is the same player who was batting .163 with one HR and five RBI in 24 games with the White Sox before the Tribe picked him up off the waiver wire.

Not only is his streak unlikely, it’s historical. Over the last 50 seasons, only one other Tribe second baseman has homered in three straight game. Amazingly, it’s not Alomar, Baerga, Gordon, Avila or even Bernazard. Nope, its Ronnie Belliard.

In fact, in the entire “baseball-reference searching era” (1920-39 and 1952-pres) only one other second baseman joins Belliard and Nix: the legendary Odell “Bad News” Hale in 1933.

Masterson is Mr. Inconsistent

What does inconsistency look like?

Well on the pitching mound it looks like Justin Masterson. But in graphical form, it looks like this:

These are Masterson’s starts charted by earned runs allowed (click the chart for a larger image). As you can see, he is a model of inconsistency. He’s had some impressive performance (a shutout vs Boston, a near complete game against Toronto). But he just can’t maintain his success.

If his recent trend continues, expect him to get roughed up a bit tonight by the Rangers.

Jayson Nix goes deep twice

Jayson Nix belted two home runs on Monday, becoming the 7th Indians second baseman in the last 50 seasons with a multi-home run game and the first since Robbie Alomar in 2001. Each of the last 12 instances, all of which occurred between 1991 and 2001, came from Alomar or Carlos Baerga. The last to do so other than those two was Tony Bernazard in 1987.

The nine year drought between multi-home run games by an Indians second baseman had been the longest current drought for a position other than pitcher. Earlier this season, Austin Kearns also snapped a drought for left field which dated back to Matt Lawton in 2004.

Carmona is Tribe’s lone All-Star

For the second straight season the Indians will be sending just one representative to the All-Star Game. This year it’s Fausto Carmona, making his first appearance.

According to the Indians website (and considering they also list Jody Gerut as a Rookie of the Year winner, should be taken with a grain of salt), it’s the 21st time in franchise history they’ve had just one representative at the game.

A few other notes on Carmona’s selection…

  • It’s also the 6th time since 2002 that they’ve had only one selection, following a 10-year stretch during which they had multiple selections every year.
  • He joins CC Sabathia (2003) and Bert Blyleven (1985) as the only Indians starting pitchers to be their lone All-Star selections since 1980.
  • He joins Sabathia, Jake Westbrook (2004) and Chuck Finley (2000) as the only starts to make the All-Star team since 2000.

Again, these notes are very unofficial. The Indians don’t keep the best historical records. At some point I’ll use other sources to verify an official list of Tribe All-Star selections.