This assignment is difficult; I won't lie to anyone. I want very badly to include the players that I have grown up watching, but I know that it wouldn't be right to leave out someone from the club's storied history for someone from the past 15 years.
In honor of the success that the club has had in the recent 15 years (despite not having a ring, yet) I will include picks from both pre-1993 and post-1993, and the winner at that position.
Pre-'93: Sandy Alomar Jr.
Post-'93: Sandy Alomar Jr.
It's easy to see who the winner is here. Honestly, there is not much to pick from in the Indians' past catchers, and certainly not someone that possess Alomar's skill. Recently, Victor Martinez has shown that he can play at a similar level, but he still has a long way to go.
After winning the AL Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove in '90, he went on to be selected to six All Star games and even won the MVP in '97 when the game was held in Cleveland.
He compiled a career .277 average with 112 home runs and 588 runs batted in. Without a doubt he is one of the finest catchers ever to don an Indians cap.
Pre-'93: Mike Hargrove
Post-'93: Jim Thome
In a not-so-close race, I give the nod to Thome. No hitter was as dominant during the Indians' run at greatness as Jimmy was. Thome has 400 more hits than Hargrove, 400 more home runs, and 800 more RBI. Thome is a Hall of Famer without doubt, and he will go in wearing an Indians cap (even though so many of you booed him when he returned).
Hargrove made an important contribution to the team and had some of his best years with the Tribe, but ultimately played for a losing team and suffered in some aspects. Thome's contributions took the team to the World Series twice, without his offense the Tribe would have felt anemic at times.
Pre-'93: Napoleon LaJoie
Post-'93: Robbie Alomar
LaJoie had the team named after him, so I don't think I would be wrong to pick him as the best. After being traded to the then Broncos, "Larry" only hit below .300 three times: in 1907 he hit .299, in 1908 he hit .289, and the year he was traded, 1914, he only hit .258. Not only was his batting average above .300 every other year, it was above .325.
Nap is a member of the 3,000-hit club, one of the few to hit over .400, and was inducted in to the Hall of Fame in its second year of existence. No offense to Alomar, he played great baseball with the Tribe, but he was no Nap LaJoie.
Pre-'93: Lou Boudreau
Post-'93: Omar Vizquel
My love for the 1948 Indians (though I have only read of them) is as deep as my love for the Indians I have seen play. This made the decision to name Lou the best easier. Don't get me wrong, I love Omar, I still hang a pennant with his face in my room, but no one led or played like Boudreau.
A career .295 hitter with 789 RBI, Boudreau led the offense while he managed the team. The last manager to win a World Series for the Indians, he did it while stationed in the hole at short.
Omar's defensive prowess can be overcome by no one, but Boudreau's overall mastery of the game of baseball as a player and manager cannot be undersold. Boudreau easily wins this race, but I would certainly take Omar as a backup any day.
Pre-'93: Ken Keltner
Post-'93: Travis Fryman
This decision was difficult. Both have similar offensive numbers and the exact same career fielding percentage. However, because Fryman spent most of his prime with the Tigers, I have to give the edge to Keltner.
A six-time All-Star, Keltner was a part of the powerhouse Indians team of the late '40s. In 1948, Keltner hit .297 with 31 home runs and 119 RBI. For his role on that team and his impressive career, which he spent predominantly in Cleveland, Keltner gets the nod as the best third baseman in Tribe history.
Pre-'93: Tris Speaker, Joe Jackson, Larry Doby
Post-'93: Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Grady Sizemore
The pre-'93 gang gets the nod, as much as I want Kenny to get some credit, no one holds a candle to them (and go ahead and get upset that I put Grady in there, he's good and he deserves it already).
The Grey Eagle's batting average was never lower than .286 with the Indians, and he is easily considered one of, if not the, best center fielder of all time. His part as player-manager on the 1920 championship team was crucial for their success.
Speaker was a career .345 hitter with 1,529 RBI and had a .970 fielding percentage. He was elected into the Hall of Fame with LaJoie in 1937.
Jackson is better known for his days in Chicago, but had his best seasons while wearing the Cleveland jersey. In 1912, as a rookie, he hit .408, which he followed up the next season by hitting .395 and led the league in triples. In his third season in Cleveland, he hit 197 hits and slugged .551.
Though his fame came from the Windy City, his greatness came in Cleveland.
Doby broke the color barrier in the American League and deserves this honor for no other reason. To have the balls to do what he did is a truly incredible feat. Let us not forget that the man was also a terrific ballplayer.
Doby made seven All-Star teams and helped Cleveland reach the World Series twice. In 1948, his rookie season, his .301 batting average was second only to Boudreau.
Pre-'93: Bob Feller, Cy Young, Addie Joss, Early Wynn, Bob Lemon
Post-'93: CC Sabathia, Charles Nagy, Orel Hershiser, Bartolo Colon, Cliff Lee
No surprises here, the Pre-93 five go on, since 1993 pitching has been a recent penchant for the Indians, anyway.
Feller, without a doubt, is No. 1 in the Indians' pantheon of legends. My favorite player of all-time and one of the hardest throwers ever to step on a mound, we can only imagine how good he would have been had he not joined the Navy.
He won 20 games six times and struck out 2,581 batters in his career; he was a monster when he took the mound.
Cy Young has an award for the best pitcher in baseball named after him, need I say more? Yes? 511 career wins, 2.63 ERA, 2,803 K's, 30-game winner twice.
Despite only playing in nine seasons before he passed prematurely, Joss managed to win 160 games for Cleveland and notched close to 1,000 strikeouts. Imagine how well Cleveland would have fared with Joss, Young, LaJoie, and Jackson all on the same team in 1911.
Early Wynn played for the Indians during the prime of his career, but unfortunately missed the 1948 World Series championship team. A 300-game winner and Hall of Famer, Wynn has certainly earned his spot as one of the best Tribe pitchers ever.
Lemon played the best years of his career as second fiddle to Feller. Always overshadowed by the boy wonder, but never undervalued, Lemon quietly won 200 games with the Tribe. Twenty of those coming during the championship season of 1948.
Pre-'93: Satchel Paige
Post-'93: Jose Mesa
I'm not one to go against tradition, or Satchel Paige. I mean, the man had to have been in his mid-to-late-40s before he began playing in the big leagues, and he still managed to rack up 476 innings.
Paige really earns this honor for his work in the Negro Leagues, but deserves all the credit he can get. I encourage everyone to learn more about this prolific pitcher, as he was an incredible individual.
There you have it, my list of the best Indians of all time. Please disagree, argue, criticize, and poke fun at. I welcome the chance to talk about the team I love.