The Guardians’ greatest hits and misses: The Sequel

You know, it’s only been a matter of several fortnights and odd days (no surprise there, as most of my days are odd – much like my columns) since I wrote about my all-Guardians team.

Since I get crazy looks whenever I say the “I”-word (but in the interest of full disclosure, I get odd looks regardless of the circumstances) in place of the now-banned Native American reference, we will, moving forward, refer to all of Cleveland baseball past as the work of the Guardians and absolutely, positively, nobody else. Got it? Good.

To refresh the memories of the increasingly large number of Baby Boomers (many of whom have already forgotten what a Baby Boomer even refers to) our first column on the subject touched upon the two best players to play third base and shortstop for the Clevelanders (see how I danced around the team's name there?) along with the biggest flops at those positions, all in my highly treasured and constantly sought-out opinion. (I can only remain modest for so long.)

So, this issue, let’s take a gander at second base, shall we? This is difficult for me because the best one to ever wear a Cleveland uniform was a guy who was born a couple of millennia ago. Seriously, the guy played baseball while my grandfather was running around with Eliot Ness (before Eliot hit the big time) about a century and some odd years ago.

Yes, I am referring to Napoleon (“Don’t call me “Nap” because it makes me sleepy”) Lajoie. Lajoie played from 1902 to 1914, and in doing so compiled some incredible offensive statistics. Also, they called the team “Naps” at the time.

Think about it: Had they just left well enough alone, we would never have had to go through the name change turmoil just concluded, and we’d be wearing our Naps merchandise. Just think (again): They could have marketed baby blankets as “Nap-sacks.” (Get it?)

Anyway, the second selection doesn’t get any easier, because the number of second basemen who qualify as legitimate number twos to Lajoie’s number one is rife with candidates, especially those who played before my time, like Joe Gordon, Bobby Avila, and Bill Wambsganss (a name I continue to misspell even while I’m staring at it).

So, I decided (because it’s my column) to get someone from the recent past as my number two, but you'd be surprised if you thought I was going to mention Jason Kipnis (who it probably should be, BTW).

Instead, I went with Carlos Baerga, who – at least in my opinion – was the guy who spearheaded the whole mid-'90s turnaround and helped erase the stench of bad baseball that permeated Cleveland for the '60s, '70s, '80s, and half of the '90s. Carlos, I salute you.

Speaking of stench, that brings us to the worst – in my opinion – of the second basemen to don a Cleveland uniform.

In late 2006, Cleveland traded with San Diego for second baseman Josh Barfield, who had just completed an awesome rookie season with the Padres, hitting a solid .280, was a good glove man, and was Rookie of the Month in July of 2006.

Josh had everything going for him, as the son of MLBer Jesse Barfield, from a fantastic minor league career in San Diego’s system to an impressive rookie season in the National League. Cleveland was supposed to be set at second base for the next decade and a half.

What happened? I don’t recall ever hearing a specific reason(s) for Barfield’s demise, but he never came close to hitting as he did in San Diego, and his defense became mediocre. In fact, in only a few short years his career was toast.

An interesting parallel to my career with the Observer (except that Josh did have one good year).

Jeff Bing

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

Read More on Sporting Views
Volume 15, Issue 11, Posted 8:25 AM, 06.20.2023