Hit and (Now) Missed: The 1999 Indians
The 1999 Cleveland Indians had one of the best lineups in the history of Major League Baseball.
They had incredible individual accomplishments. Three sluggers combined for 108 homers. Four hitters had RBIs in the triple-digits. Five players scored 100 or more runs.
They became the first team in nearly 50 years to score 1,000 runs in a season. More importantly, their incredible bats more than compensated for the unremarkable pitching staff; the Indians' 97-65 record was 21.5 games better than the second-place White Sox.
The Indians teams of the late 1990's made it fun to be a Cleveland sports fan (at least, until the playoffs). It's been ten years since they hit their peak; what happened to all the players?
Catcher: Sandy Alomar, Jr.
You know you've got a good team when your number-nine hitter was an All-Star Game MVP.
Injuries limited Alomar to just 37 games in 1999, but Alomar was great when healthy. He was on pace to hit .306 with 26 homers and 109 RBI over a full season—excellent numbers for a catcher.
Alomar left as a free agent after the 2000 season. He had limited success with several teams, never again achieving an OPS over .712.
Alomar ended his playing career after the 2007 season, when he became the catching instructor for the New York Mets.
First Baseman: Jim Thome
Jim Thome, voted the most popular athlete in Cleveland history in a 2003 poll, was clearly one of the biggest bats in the potent Tribe lineup, hitting .277 with 33 homers and 108 RBIs in 1999.
However, those numbers pale in comparison to some of the stats he produced in other seasons.
Thome, whose 564 home runs rank 11th on the all-time list, has hit at least 40 dingers five times in his career. He has put up an OPS over .900 in seven of his last 10 seasons, including a ridiculous 1.122 mark in his walk year in 2002.
The rebuilding Indians could not afford to retain Thome after his incredible season; he has since been mashing the ball fairly consistently with the Phillies, White Sox, and now the Dodgers.
Second Baseman: Roberto Alomar
Roberto Alomar signed with the Tribe before the 1999 season started, and immediately showed that the team had made a great investment.
In addition to hitting .323 with 24 homers and 120 RBI, Alomar swiped 37 bases and won a Gold Glove.
Alomar became a fan favorite and was part of the greatest double-play duo in the history of baseball.
After Indians sent Alomar to the Mets after the 2002 season, his numbers began to decline rapidly. Plagued by injuries, Alomar retired before the 2005 season.
Third Baseman: Travis Fryman
With all due respect to Mr. Fryman, the hot corner was the weak link for the Tribe in 1999.
Fryman hit just .255 with an OPS of .719 in 85 games.
He finished out his career in Cleveland, retiring after the 2002 season.
I will always remember him for deciding to color in one of the teeth on my Chief Wahoo T-shirt at an autograph session.
Shortstop: Omar Vizquel
Words cannot describe the talent Omar Vizquel displayed during his tenure with the Tribe.
Vizquel is best known for his incredible fielding, but he certainly did some offensive damage as well. Omar hit .333 in 1999, scoring 112 runs and stealing 42 bases.
Of the players in this slideshow, Vizquel was the only one left before his contract expired in 2004. While Omar was supposedly willing to take a hometown discount, the Indians were too committed to Jhonny Peralta to seriously consider re-signing him. (How'd that work out?)
Now with the Rangers after spending four years in San Francisco, he consistently plays Gold Glove-caliber defense even with inconsistent playing time.
Left Field: David Justice
A model of consistency, Justice's 21 homers and 88 RBI in 1999 were identical to his totals from the year before, albeit in 13 fewer games.
While his 1999 season was far from a career year, his numbers were still far better than that of the average number-six hitter.
Justice was traded to the Yankees in 2000 for a package that included Jake Westbrook.
Since leaving Cleveland, Justice has appeared in "Moneyball" as an example of a hitter with undervalued plate discipline, on ESPN and YES as a commentator, and in the Mitchell Report's infamous list of alleged steroid users.
Center Field: Kenny Lofton
Just as he was first in the Indians' lineup, Kenny Lofton is first in many fans' minds when they think about the good old days.
Lofton hit .301 with 25 steals in 1999. He scored a staggering 110 runs in only 120 games. While his official Gold Glove days were over by then, his defense was still phenomenal.
Lofton changed teams nine times between 2001 and 2007; he moved so often that he starred in a DHL commercial.
Fittingly, his final playing days were back in Cleveland, where he played a huge role in the Indians' 2007 playoff run.
Right Field: Manny Ramirez
To a non-Clevelander, Manny Ramirez was perhaps the most memorable member of the 1999 Indians.
Manny hit 44 home runs that year, put up a ridiculous 1.105 OPS, and earned 165 RBI--the most since Jimmie Foxx drove in 175 runs in 1938.
Manny left Cleveland after the 2000 season; the $160 million contract he signed with the Red Sox was the biggest in baseball history until Alex Rodriguez got $252 million from Texas a few hours later.
Now enjoying clubhouse showers with the Dodgers, there is much I could say about Manny's oft-annoying habit of "being Manny." Instead of rattling off all of his numerous eccentricities, I will recount a story my old history teacher frequently told.
During his days in Cleveland, there was a small burnt-out patch in the Jacobs' Field grass where Manny would habitually stand. During a game my teacher attended, Manny ran onto the field and stood in an abnormal place.
"Manny!" my teacher yelled, "Get to your spot!" Manny allegedly glanced down, looked panicked, and quickly scampered over to his usual position.
Designated Hitter: Richie Sexson
The tallest position player in Major League history, Richie Sexson had a breakout year in 1999, hitting 31 homers with 116 RBI in just 134 games.
Sexson was traded to Milwaukee in 2000, where he hit 133 home runs in three-and-a-half years. After a terrible, injury-plagued 2004 season in Arizona, he signed a $50 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.
After hitting 76 big flies in his first two seasons, Sexson fell into a sharp decline. The M's released him midway through the 2008 season; he was subsequently signed by the Yankees, who released him four weeks later.