That’s a question that was posed to me by a friend of mine (a Mets fan) who visited The Jake this week. He called me shortly after walking through Heritage Park and said that Charles Nagy was the only player whose name seemed to be out of place.
At first I was somewhat taken aback. For Indians fans, Nagy is an obvious Hall of Famer. But I realized that when mixed in with the likes of Bob Feller, Early Wynn and Nap Lajoie, he could look misplaced.
Here are the reasons I gave for why Nagy belongs in our Hall of Fame:
1. He pitched for the team for 12 seasons
Longtime members of the organization are certainly going to be viewed in a different light, and rightfully so. Take any five year stretch of Nagy’s career and he blends in with Dave Burba and Greg Swindell and other decent but unspectacular pitchers to wear the Tribe’s uniform. But as a whole, his career puts him among the Indians all-time greats.
Nagy made 297 starts in a Tribe uniform, more than all but five pitchers in team history. The most recent to reach 300 was Bob Lemon, who last pitched in Cleveland in 1958. He was essentially the first starter to wear a Tribe uniform for a decade or longer since Sam McDowell.
He also ranks 10th in team history in wins and 6th in strikeouts (finished his career 5th, but has since been passed by CC Sabathia).
Statistically speaking, Nagy was our best pitcher over and extended period of time since McDowell. And while any one of his seasons may not have ranked among the seasons of Feller, Wynn or even McDowell, he deserves credit for his body of work.
2. He actually was very good at times
The Indians never really had an ace throughout most of the 1990s, but Nagy made his case for the job multiple times.
As a 25-year-old player in 1992 Nagy went 17-10 with 2.96 ERA for a team that won just 76 games. He was the ace of the staff that year and arguably the ace throughout the 90s.
After an injury-shortened 1993 season, Nagy returned to form in ’94 and helped anchor the staff through their first few years in Jacobs Field. He even started the All-Star Game in 1996 and led the AL in winning percentage with a 17-5 record.
3. He was part of the core group of home-grown talent that anchored our mid-90s teams
Lots of players suffered through the bad years, but Nagy was part of a core group of primarily home-grown talent that led the Indians to greatness in the mid-to-late 90s. Along with Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga and Sandy Alomar Jr, Nagy joined the club at old Cleveland Stadium and suffered through the losing season before leading the Tribe into the glory years of the 1990s. For this reason, he was always a fan favorite.
Nagy certainly doesn’t belong in baseball’s Hall of Fame (he wasn’t even on the ballot in his first year of eligibility in 2009). He was an average pitcher who had a few good seasons. But the Indians Hall of Fame isn’t just about greatness. Its purpose is to honor fan favorites and players who represented the organization for an extended period of time. Nagy was one of the faces of our franchise for over a decade and his induction into our Hall of Fame was well deserved.