A Wild Decade of Cleveland Indians Baseball
The past 10 years of Cleveland Indians baseball has been a wild ride. As fans living in the present, it's hard to call upon some memories of the past to put the present into perspective. Starting from the beginning of 2000, here are some moments from the past decade that can help shape our memory of what we'll remember when we think of the 2000-2009 Cleveland Indians.
The following was a compilation of a three part series from The Tribe Daily, where I took an in-depth look back at the past 10 years of Indians baseball.
2000: Manny Ramirez Signs with Boston
December 19th, 2000 - Manny Ramirez Signs with the Boston Red Sox.
Manny Ramirez ended a war of cash between Boston and Cleveland when he ultimately decided to sign with Boston for eight years at $160 million. Agent Jeff Moorad masterfully created a bidding war between a Cleveland club that would be risking a lot to sign Manny to a lucrative deal and Boston who needed to make an impact signing.
2001: CC Sabathia Makes Major League Debut
April 8th, 2001 - CC Sabathia Makes Major League Debut
It doesn't get more home grown that CC Sabathia. Drafted straight out of high school, Sabathia not only became a perennial Cy Young contending pitcher in the Cleveland organization, he also became the man who he is today. Sabathia often credits Cleveland for being the place he "grew up" in.
Sabathia made his debut in 2001, the last year Cleveland would make the playoffs until 2007. He lost out to Ichiro Suzuki, AL MVP, for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
2001: Mark Shapiro Becomes General Manager
November 1st, 2001 - Mark Shapiro takes over for John Hart as General Manager
John Hart had built a World Series contender in Cleveland for the late part of the decade in the 90's. He decided to move on early in 2001, announcing that Mark Shapiro would take over as general manager at the end of the season. Hart would later accept the vacant post in Texas while the budding young executive Shapiro took the reigns of Cleveland.
2002: Bartolo Colon Traded to Montreal
June 27th, 2002 - Bartolo Colon Traded to Montreal for Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore.
It was the trade that would forever change the course of Indians baseball as we knew it.
Cleveland was out of contention and headed toward an obvious rebuilding stage with Mark Shapiro now in at general manager. The first step would be to build the farm system up. To do that they would need to trade their biggest asset. Colon was that asset with time left on his contract and good years of baseball still ahead of him.
Shapiro pulled off one of the deals of this decade by dealing him to Montreal for Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Grady Sizemore. Since, they've all been All-Stars, Cliff Lee won a Cy Young award, Sizemore joined the 30-30 club and is a multiple Gold Glove winner, and Phillips has become the centerpiece of a Cincinnati lineup.
2002: Eric Wedge Hired as Manager; Tribe Acquires Travis Hafner
October 29th, 2002 -Eric Wedge is Hired as Manager, 39th in club history.
After Mike Hargrove was let go, John Hart named Charlie Manuel his new manager. Manuel made one playoff appearance, but with Hart stepping down and Shapiro taking over, Mark wanted his own guy, and the two sides had a falling out in terms of a new contract. Manuel was let go midseason of 2002 and replaced by interim skipper Joel Skinner.
In the offseason, Shapiro began a search for someone that wouldn't just be the manager of the club but his partner in what he would lay out as his "Blueprint for Success."
The search took him through many different avenues, including Angels pitching coach Bud Black. Eventually Shapiro settled on young Eric Wedge, a manager in Cleveland's minor league farm system. Their collective goal was to "sustain and uphold a period of championship contention."
December 6th, 2002 - Travis Hafner acquired from Texas for Catcher Einar Diaz and Pitcher Ryan Drese.
One of the pivotal moves of Cleveland's rebuilding process was the acquisition of Travis Hafner. The Indians received Hafner from Hart and his new club in Texas for veteran catcher Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese.
2004: Omar Vizquel Collects Six Hits; Milton Bradley Traded
April 3rd, 2004 - Milton Bradley is traded to Los Angeles for Franklin Gutierrez and Andrew Brown.
Manager Eric Wedge was not getting along with his young outfielder Milton Bradley. They didn't always see eye to eye, and the situation came to a boiling point in spring training of 2004 when Bradley didn't run out a fly ball. The result was a trade to Los Angeles in which the Indians received outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and pitcher Andrew Brown. Bradley went on to play for the Dodgers and many other teams. Wedge found himself another outfielder.
August 31st, 2004 - Cleveland defeats New York 22-0 at Yankee Stadium. Omar Vizquel notches six hits.
Ramirez and Jim Thome signed elsewhere, Cleveland traded Roberto Alomar and Colon, and Travis Fryman retired due to injuries. That left Omar Vizquel as the last Indian from the glory years. The shining moment of Cleveland's 2004 was the night they defeated the Yankees 22-0 in Yankee Stadium. Vizquel collected six hits, and for one night, everyone felt pretty good about what was going on in Cleveland.
2004 was Vizquel's last year with the Tribe. He signed with San Francisco in the offseason, and the Indians moved on to young Jhonny Peralta to be their shortstop. It was the end of an era, but something that had to be done for Cleveland to make their move.
2005: Tribe Battles Chicago for AL Central
January 8th, 2005 - Kevin Millwood signs one year deal.
Ahead of schedule was the theme of the 2005 season. It started with the one-year, low investment signing of starter Kevin Millwood. The signing of Millwood transformed the rotation and gave them a stable veteran presence to help teach ace CC Sabathia and left-handed Cliff Lee.
Behind that rotation and a potent offense, Cleveland made a remarkable run towards lead dog Chicago. The White Sox got off to a blistering start, but thanks to a hot August and September, Cleveland managed to catch them.
The Indians were eliminated from the AL Central race a series before they ended the year against Chicago, when they came up short against a bad Tampa Bay team. They were then swept by the White Sox and eliminated from wildcard contention.
2006: Coco Crisp Traded; Hafner sets Grand Slam mark
January 26th, 2006 - Coco Crisp, David Riske, and Josh Bard Traded to Boston for Andy Marte, Guillermo Mota, and Kelly Shoppach.
Mark Shapiro saw his team ahead of schedule in 2005, contending before he expected them to. So for 2006, he decided to sure up some weaknesses and take advantage of some strengths. He dealt outfielder Coco Crisp to Boston for Andy Marte, who was flipped from Atlanta. The move was to strengthen the team's future, but not compromise the 2006 season with addition moves.
Cleveland didn't contend in 2006 like they did in 2005. It was a year of disappointment. Thanks to a leaky bullpen and the inability to effectively replace the loss of Millwood and Scott Elarton, Cleveland had to go back to the drawing board for 2007.
Aug. 13th, 2006 - Travis Hafner ties Don Mattingly's single season Grand Slam record.
One magical part of the 2006 season was the performance of Travis Hafner. While it was an overall disappointment, Hafner tied the record of Don Mattingly for the most grand slams hit in a single season. He also put up remarkable MVP type power numbers. "Pronk" led the AL in slugging and OPS and had a chance to break Mattingly's record with the bases loaded against Texas on the first of September.
However, his chance was extinguished and season was ended a month early when he was hit on the hand by CJ Wilson. Hafner, along with starter Jake Westbrook, signed contract extensions with the club in 2007.
2007: Kenny Lofton Returns; Tribe wins AL Central
July 27th, 2007 - Acquired Kenny Lofton from Texas for catcher Max Ramirez.
In the offseason, Mark Shapiro went out and got himself some veterans. He picked up two outfielders in David Dellucci and Trot Nixon and added four relief pitchers to the bullpen.
However, only three of those signings really made an impact. Dellucci was injured halfway through a dismal offensive season, Roberto Hernandez was released, and Keith Foulke retired a day after reporting to camp.
But Joe Borowski and Trot Nixon were intergal parts of the 2007 season. Borowski saved 45 games, and Nixon was the clubhouse leader the team needed. The other additions were replaced by youngsters like Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis, and Franklin Gutierrez, who had breakthrough years.
When Shapiro saw the opportunity to go for it, he knew he had to take advantage of it. There was one weakness of the club that could have been improved, and it was in left field with a top of the order hitter. That came in the form of former fan-favorite Kenny Lofton.
Cleveland acquired Lofton before the trade deadline and plugged him into the lineup immediately. Eventually he found a home lower in the order, as young second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera rose up the order and became a spark for the club. But Lofton's addition paid off in many ways for the Tribe and also energized the fan base.
Sept. 23rd, 2007 - Cleveland clinches AL Central with win over Oakland.
Part of the success in 2007 had to do with the original plan not going according to plan. Those signings the Tribe made didn't really work out, and that opened up the opportunity for young players to seize control.
One of those players was Fausto Carmona, who got early spot starts for injured Cliff Lee. When Jake Westbrook went down with an injury, Carmona got an extended look and made it impossible for the Indians to go away from him. Fausto won 19 games in 2007 and was a legitimate complement to left-handed ace CC Sabathia.
Behind Carmona, Sabathia and a lights out bullpen led by Borowski, Betancourt, and Perez, Cleveland clinched the AL Central late in September after sweeping the Tigers earlier in the week. It was the first playoff trip for Cleveland since 2001.
2007: 3-1 ALCS Lead Blown; CC Sabathia Wins AL Cy Young
October 24th, 2007 - Boston defeats Cleveland 11-2 to win ALCS 4-3, eliminating Cleveland.
After defeating the New York Yankees 3-1 in the ALDS, Cleveland set the date with Boston in the ALCS. After losing Game One with their best pitcher, CC Sabathia, things didn't look bright. However, Cleveland won a remarkable Game Two by scoring seven in the 11th inning to tie the series up.
Heading back to Cleveland, Cleveland felt momentum on their side with a charged crowd that waved white rally towels with spirit and hope. Two games later, Cleveland was up 3-1 and staring a trip to the World Series dead in the eyes. Two problems: Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox.
Earlier this decade, we learned just what type of team Boston was when they came back from the Yankees 3-0. They also knew how clutch Josh Beckett was with similar voodoo magic against the Yankees when he was a Marlin.
With Beckett on the mound for Game Five, Boston won the game to send the series back to Boston. More concerning was CC Sabathia's third straight postseason game ending with a bitter taste in his mouth. It would be up to Fausto Carmona to repeat his ALDS Game Two magic.
With bases loaded early in Game Six, Carmona served up a grand slam to JD Drew. It was at that point where things looked like they were going Boston's way. Game Seven would be a one-game sprint to the World Series. Everyone will point to "The Stop Sign" when Joel Skinner held Kenny Lofton up at third with one out and down one run.
Casey Blake would ground into a double play in the next at-bat to end the inning and completely swing momentum Boston's way into Cleveland's playoff coffin.
It was a remarkable year for the Indians, from the snow out that led them to playing their home opener in MIlwaukee to Game Two of the ALDS when bugs overcame a rattled Joba Chamberlain, but it would end in ultimate heartbreak.
Nov. 13th, 2007 - CC Sabathia Wins 2007 AL Cy Young Award.
2007 was a year of success for Cleveland, despite falling in the ALCS to Boston. Eric Wedge was named Manager of the Year, Grady Sizemore put himself on the map as far as one of the best all-around players in the game, and the crown jewel of the Indians achievements came when Sabathia won the AL Cy Young.
Many believed Josh Beckett due to his postseason dominance over Cleveland should have been the pick or even Sabathia's own teammate Fausto Carmona could have won it, but no one can deny that Sabathia at least deserved it.
2008: CC Sabathia and Casey Blake Traded
July 7th, 2008 - CC Sabathia Traded to Milwaukee for Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson.
July 26th, 2008 - Casey Blake Traded to Los Angeles Dodgers for Carlos Santana and John Meloan.
Suffering from disappointment to yet another post-successful year letdown, Cleveland had no other choice but to trade their home grown ace. Sabathia rejected Cleveland's contract extension in the offseason and made it clear he wanted more than Cleveland could give him. He wanted to test the free agent market.
So they dealt him to the highest bidder, a Milwaukee team that was "going for it."
They also dealt Casey Blake to the Dodgers for what is now their top prospect in catcher Carlos Santana.
A core of position players that included Santana and the additions from the Sabathia trade, Matt LaPorta and Mike Brantley, would form an idea that Cleveland would not only be back in contention in 2009, but beyond.
2008: Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa come to Cleveland
Dec. 10th, 2008 - Kerry Wood signs two year deal.
Dec. 31st, 2008 - Acquired Mark DeRosa from Chicago Cubs for Jeff Stevens and two pitchers.
In order to contend in 2009, Cleveland would have to beef up their bullpen. In this decade, the common thread with struggling was rooted back to the bullpen. 2008 saw a letdown from several key components in 2007 and going into 2009, the biggest need throughout the whole team was probably a closer.
Despite operating in a climate of uncertainty with the economy and being a team that couldn't shell out big bucks to high-priced free agents, Mark Shapiro saw the opportunity to succeed in 2009's AL Central with few moves. The first was to sign Kerry Wood to a two-year deal to become Cleveland's closer. He aided that with the trade of Joe Smith and the hope that Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez could return to 2007-form or something close to it.
To fill Cleveland's void at third base, Shapiro swung a deal for multi-positioned Mark DeRosa. It was expected to be a dog fight in the central division, and the moves Cleveland made were expected to put them right in the thick of that fight.
2009: Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez Traded
July 29th, 2009 - Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco Traded to Philadelphia for Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Jason Knapp.
July 31st, 2009 - Victor Martinez Traded to Boston for Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price.
Odd numbered years had been a success for the Tribe this decade, especially when they followed up a down year. The additions in the offseason and the strong finish to 2008 gave everyone the hope that 2009 was the year.
Cliff Lee's remarkable 2008 season had put him on the map around the league. He didn't quite have the repeat performance in 2009, but who could expect that? Lee did prove he was top of the rotation arm, however, and was gaining serious interest from other clubs as Cleveland fell further and further out of contention.
Mark Shapiro didn't want to give up on 2010, just as he didn't want to give up on 2009 the previous year. However, with the economy still in a bad state and fans not filling the seats, the organization was losing money. If Cleveland was to contend in 2010, it would have to be as it was, with no addition moves in the offseason.
So the decision was made to dump some payroll and go through a mini-rebuilding phase. Lee was traded to Philadelphia for three players at the Triple-A level and another arm in Jason Knapp while Victor Martinez was dealt for three more arms expected to help replenish the Tribe's pitching depth.
In the decade two aces in Sabathia and Lee and a high-character leader in Martinez came and went. Core players like Sizemore and Hafner remain, but the message to Indians fans was clear: Don't get too attached.
The climate a team like Cleveland operates in is a tricky one. No dollar can be taken for granted, and every mistake made can be a costly one.
2009: Wedge Fired, Acta Hired as Manager
Sept. 30th, 2009 - Eric Wedge is Fired as Manager.
Oct. 20th, 2009 - Manny Acta is Hired as Manager, 40th in club history.
With seemingly a new chapter in the Shapiro era upon us, change had to be made. Eric Wedge was not a bad manager, but with all the changes with personnel, it seems as if going in a new direction was the thing to do.
Shapiro made the tough decision to move forward without his partner—the man who shared the blame and the praise with him as he put together his blueprint for success. In his search for a new leading man, he aimed for someone with major league experience.
It eventually led him to Manny Acta, formerly of the Washington Nationals. Acta's expert communication skills and relatable personality seemed to be a fit for the Tribe.
Time will tell if Acta was the right choice for Cleveland. Early on he's off to a good start, creating bonds with current players like Fausto Carmona and Johnny Peralta, who are both crucial to the success of Cleveland in 2010 and even beyond. He's even got the fans attention with the hiring of fan-favorite Sandy Alomar Jr. to his coaching staff.
Decade in Review
Want to read a longer version of my decade in review or see a complete time line of the entire 10 years?
Check out the following posts from my blog that breakdown the decade, year by year, and even take a more in-depth look at the 2007 playoff run.
Feel free to add some of your favorite moments in Tribe baseball over the past ten years as well.