The Guardians’ greatest hits … and misses

Now that the Major League Baseball’s 2023 season has begun, it’s triggered some nostalgic feelings from deep within as I have contemplated all the other season openers I’ve been lucky enough to experience over the years. It even prompted me to recall some of the best (and the worst) players to don a Cleveland uniform from the early ‘60s (my earliest memories were from 1961) through last year.

So, just for grins, we’ll look at each position on the field. I have arbitrarily decided that I’ll choose the top two players at each position, whom I shall refer to as “keepers” along with a third player I deemed the worst to have earned a starting job, but then played at a level low enough to essentially fade into oblivion. These players shall be referred to as “weepers” as they no-doubt contributed to the trillions of tears shed by Cleveland baseball fans over the last 60-plus years.

I will also require a minimum of three years at a given position for the “Keepers” as a one or two-year phenom could hardly qualify.  

There’s no way I’ll get everything into one column, so we’ll get what we can in this issue, and continue with this “series” as time permits.

We’ll begin the in-depth analysis by going around the horn (third to first):

First, Third Base: (This has all the makings of an Abbott and Costello routine, but – as you all know – I’m way too sophisticated for that. Besides, I’ve surpassed my quota of “lost readers” for the year already. Hmmm … I wonder if Tara will let me defer some of those losses until next year – just like the IRS allows.)

Anyway, like I said, we’ll start with Third Base: Picking the two best was easy for me. Keeper #1 has to be none other than our current guy, Jose Ramirez. He’s in his 8th year now as our third baseman, and could you have a more consistent player than Jose? Nope.

Keeper #2 has to be Jim Thome, who logged only three years at third before shifting to first but had very impressive seasons and I cannot recall anyone who comes close to Thome’s production for three seasons, anyway. Besides, had it not been for his back issues, he’d have spent his entire career at third because his defense was above average. Weeper: Does anyone out there recall the name “Jeff Manto”? My point exactly. Unless I missed something, Manto logged the most games at third base for the Indians in 1991, but I’m guessing it wasn’t because of his .211 batting average or his whopping 13 RBIs. He must have been a positive influence in the clubhouse. Yeah, let’s go with that. Positive influence.

Second, Shortstop: (Sorry, can’t help myself). This was close, and I am sure many will disagree, but Keeper #1 is Omar Vizquel. As good as Francisco Lindor is, defensively Vizquel had no equal, and he made himself into a very productive Major League hitter, compiling impressive offensive stats during his 24-year career. Keeper #2 is Lindor, obviously. The logical question is, “If Frankie were still here, would I move him ahead of Omar?” Can’t say either way, to be honest. Weeper: Anyone out there who remembers Jay – not Buddy – Bell? Not in Cleveland, anyway. In 1988, Jay Bell logged the most games at short of any Indian, and he rewarded management's faith with a resounding .218 average. But oh yes, he did amass 21 RBIs, too, so I’ll back off. And to be entirely fair, Bell had a successful career after departing Cleveland, with lengthy stays in Pittsburgh and Arizona.

Wow. I only got two positions done today. At this rate, I may still be continuing this subject when football season arrives.

Which might be a blessing for Browns fans.

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 15, Issue 6, Posted 9:22 AM, 04.04.2023