Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore and 10 of the Worst Injuries in Tribe History
Championships are won with talent, hard work and luck. No team has gotten to the top without dodging some major obstacles. One of those problems is injures. You can assemble the best team in the majors, but if half of them go down, you're not going anywhere.
The Indians have been playing for over 100 years now and only have two World Series titles to their name. Think they've been unlucky? The Tribe has racked up a massive amount of season-harming injuries in their over-a-century existence that very well may have cost the city of Cleveland another championship or two.
The 2011 Cleveland Indians are playing well despite the injuries they have suffered (Alex White, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner). But with how snakebitten this franchise has been in the past, it makes me (and I'm sure many others) worry about how long they can keep it up. Let's take a look at 10 on the worst injuries the Tribe players have suffered over the years.
1911: Addie Joss
Even though he played in the deadball era, it's hard to argue pitcher Addie Joss' career statistics. In his nine major league seasons, Joss racked up 160 wins and registered a 1.89 ERA (2nd best all-time) and a 0.968 WHIP (best all-time). Cy Young, who pitched around the same time as Joss, only had three seasons with an ERA below Joss' career mark. Joss certainly was an elite pitcher.
Unfortunately for Cleveland fans and all of baseball, Joss only played in nine seasons because he died of tubercular meningitis at age 31. He left the team in July 1910 and succumbed the following April. Addie Joss is currently the only player in Cooperstown who didn't play the minimum 10 years.
Photo from baseball-reference.com
1920: Ray Chapman
1920 is a special year for Tribe fans, a season in which they won one of their two championships. 1920 also saw the only on-field death in the history of the Major Leagues, when Ray Chapman was struck by a pitch from Carl Mays. Chapman, the Indians' starting shortstop, was hit in the head and died soon after.
While this injury obviously didn't keep the Tribe from winning the World Series (his replacement, Joe Sewell, ended up in the Hall of Fame), it obviously belongs on this list. Only in Cleveland can this sort of story happen.
Photo from Wikipedia.org
1947: Bob Feller
Bob Feller hurt his knee in June 1947 and everything changed. This article from ESPN's Rob Neyer hits this injury on its head. Check out Feller's stats before and after:
1936-1947: 158-83, 2.92 ERA (138 ERA+), 1.295 WHIP, 7.5 SO/9, 4.6 BB/9 (1.62 SO:BB)
1948-1956: 108-79, 3.70 ERA (106 ERA+), 1.344 WHIP, 4.1 SO/9, 3.5 BB/9 (1.18 SO:BB)
The 7.5 SO/9 pre-injury may not be impressive today, but back then, it was. Of his nine pre-injury seasons, he lead the league in SO/9 five times. After his injury, he was a shell of his former Rapid Robert self. Since the Indians peaked as a team after his injury (making the World Series in 1948 and 1954), it can be argued that the Indians never had Feller when they were their best. Maybe the Tribe would have more than two World Series titles if Bob Feller had never gotten hurt.
Unfortunately, we'll never know.
1957: Herb Score
Coming into the league as Bob Feller was leaving, it only made sense that pitcher Herb Score would pick up where Rapid Robert left off. Score was the Rookie of the Year in 1955, and had 9.6 SO/9 before being hit in the eye by a Gil McDougald line drive on May 7, 1957.
Score never blamed that injury for his career's flameout, and the numbers back him up. He returned in 1958 to post a 10.5 SO/9. His 7.5 BB/9 and 3.95 ERA (94 ERA+) were worrisome, but he was coming back from a frightening injury. Score blamed an 1958 arm injury and subsequent motion adjustment for his troubles, and his SO/9 dropped after that. From 1959 to his retirement in 1962, Score's SO/9 averages were 8.2, 6.2, 5.2 and 4.5.
Score walked six batters per nine innings for his career, so he couldn't afford to see his strikeouts fall so far. He never became the next Bob Feller and instead became another chapter in Cleveland sports misery.
Photo from baseball-reference.com
1993: Steve Olin and Tim Crews
The Cleveland Indians were on the cusp of competing in 1993 when tragedy struck. On March 22, 1993, Steve Olin, the Indians' closer and Tim Crews, a free agent bullpen addition, were killed in a boating accident. Bob Ojeda, an Indians starter, was also hurt in the accident and missed most of the season.
The Indians apparently have a problem with players dying. From Addie Joss to Ray Chapman to Steve Olin and Tim Crews, the Tribe have suffered plenty of real heartbreak to go with the heartbreak on the field. Hopefully the Indians and Cleveland won't have any more issues like this to deal with in the future.
Photo from wikipedia.org
1997: John Smiley
The Cleveland Indians acquired pitcher John Smiley at the 1997 trading deadline because they were in need of another pitcher. Sure, his 9-10 record and 5.23 ERA didn't look great, but his 7.2 SO/9, 2.4 BB/9 and 3.03 SO/BB pointed to better days.
Naturally for the Indians, Smiley went 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA in six starts for the Tribe, saw his SO/9 fall to 6.3 and broke his arm warming up for a start in late August. Smiley never pitched in the big leagues again.
The Tribe made the World Series that year despite their 86-75 record, but fell short to the Marlins in seven games. They needed more starting pitching to win it all that year, and naturally things went wrong. Life as an Indians fan.
1997: Bip Roberts
The story starts well enough: Tony Fernandez hits a batting practice line drive that strikes starting second baseman Bip Roberts, causing him to miss Game 6 of the 1997 ALCS against Baltimore. Tony Fernandez then proceeds to hit the game-winning home run in a 1-0 series clincher for the Tribe. Things are finally working out for Cleveland!
Not so much. In Game 7 of the World Series, Fernandez biffed a double-play ball in the 11th that allowed the Marlins to score the winning run later that inning. Karma came back to bite the Tribe and we're still searching for a championship.
2005-11: Adam Miller & Alex White
The saga of Adam Miller is known to most Tribe fans. Our top pick in 2003 pitched great until elbow problems in 2005, got healthy and regained his form until he had to have finger surgery in 2009. He's currently trying to become a reliever in Double-A Akron, with almost no chance of fulfilling his promise.
If Miller had remained healthy, it's completely feasible that he would've been in the Majors in 2007. His shortened 2007 campaign saw him post a 9.4 SO/9 and only a 2.9 BB/9, good for a 3.24 SO/BB. Could you imagine pairing that with the 2007 versions of CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona? It would've been better than the Paul Byrd/struggling Cliff Lee/Jake Westbrook/Jeremy Sowers mess the Indians had.
This brings me to Alex White. Looking at the Tribe's current rotation, it's missing something. Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin are great, but Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco and Mitch Talbot leave a lot to be desired. Alex White just made it to the Majors and looked like he was going to be a big contributor, but is now out until at least July with finger problems (same as Adam Miller).
The Tribe needed more pitching in 2007, and their 2003 1st-round pick Adam Miller wasn't available due to injuries. The Tribe need more pitching in 2011, and 2009 1st-round pick Alex White isn't available due to injury. It's all too similar for my liking.
2008-11: Travis Hafner
The 2011 Cleveland Indians have been great so far, but the injuries are starting to catch up with them. The injury to Travis Hafner has been one of the most painful. The Tribe is just 5-7 since they lost Pronk's 5 HR, 22 RBI, .345/.409/.549 slash line and .958 OPS (170 OPS+).
Hafner hasn't made it through a full season without injuries since 2007, and the Indians can't afford to have him hurt. His $13 million contract is more than a quarter of the Tribe's payroll. If Hafner doesn't get healthy and look like the Pronk of old again, he could bring the 2011 Cleveland Indians down with him.
2009-11: Grady Sizemore
Before injuries derailed his career in 2009, Grady Sizemore was making his case to become the greatest Indian of all-time. From 2005-08, Sizemore averaged 27 HR, 81 RBI, 29 SB, a .281/.372/.496 slash line, a .868 OPS (128 OPS+) and 6.1 WAR. He was only 22-25 years of age during those years, with everything pointing toward more success in the future.
As everyone now knows, Grady hasn't been healthy since the end of the 2009 season. He started fast this year, but went back to the DL and hasn't looked good since returning. Grady's injuries aren't just hurting the 2011 Cleveland Indians, they're hurting the entire history of the franchise. Sizemore had a chance to become a Hall of Fame, elite-level player; now, we're just hoping for some production out of him. Way back in 2008, if anyone had told you that we'd be happy to get anything out of Grady, you'd have called them crazy.
My, how the mighty have fallen.