Grady Sizemore hasn't been signed to a contract with the Indians since the end of the 2012 season, so for official purposes he's already been gone from the team for more than a year. He hasn't actually played since September 22, 2011, so for practical purposes he hasn't been an Indian for more than two years. Because he wasn't playing anywhere though, and because he hadn't signed with another team, it still felt to me like he was ours. It wasn't that I thought he was going to return to greatness, or even that I thought he'd return at all, but he was... well, I guess I don't know quite how to put it.
Seeing him signing with Boston seems especially painful, because they're the team that ended the greatest success the Indians had during Grady's time on the team, and they took Victor Martinez from us too. I'd like to think that if he'd signed with the Padres or the Rockies, the Astros or the Mariners, I'd have been happy to root for him, to wish him all the best, but I know know if that's true, I suspect I may have been bummed no matter where he signed, because only Cleveland could feel right.
Take a minute to look back on Sizemore's production through 2008:
In 2005 Sizemore became the youngest player in franchise history to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases (in fact no Indian so young had ever had even 10 of each before). In 2006 he led the American League with 53 doubles, the 3rd-highest total in history by a player so young, and the 3rd most ever by an Indian at any age. He also led the league with 134 runs scored, the 5th most by an Indian ever, and in WAR too, making him a legitimate MVP candidate. In 2007 he became the youngest Indian ever to draw 100+ walks and won his first Gold Glove. in 2008, when he hit 33 home runs and stole 38 bases in 43 attempts, becoming the second 30/30 Indian ever, and one of the five youngest in AL history.
More on Grady Sizemore
More on Grady Sizemore
Two MVP-caliber seasons, and he'd only just turned 26 years old.
I suppose everyone has their own version of the perfect player. For someone like me, with an affinity for guys who can do a bit of everything, Sizemore was close to the ideal. He hit well, he ran well, he won a pair of Gold Gloves. He was an absolute joy to behold. What's more, he was out there every day, averaging 160 games a season. He was so damn durable... until he wasn't durable at all.
Elbow inflammation that eventually required surgery, a sports hernia, back tightness, microfracture surgery on his left knee, another sports hernia, arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, an operation on his back, microfracture surgery on his right knee...
Few in history have been as good as Sizemore was at such a young age; among those who were, none went through what Sizemore has experienced since then.
Grady's career WAR through his age-25 season was 25.7 (Baseball-Reference), which puts him in the top 50 ever for position players. Aside from Evan Longoria (still active, of course) every other player on that list went on to put up at least 16.4 more WAR over the remainder of their career, while Grady has posted only an additional 1.8.
It wasn't supposed to turn out like this, he was supposed to be just a couple more seasons away from clinching himself a spot in Cooperstown. He was robbed, I was robbed, we were all robbed.
When I was kid, the first Indian I fell for was Julio Franco, I liked his batting stance (shown on his 1987 Topps card), and the fact that he played shortstop. During the Tribe's domination of the AL Central during the 90s and early 2000s, Jim Thome and Kenny Lofton were the two I loved best. I still have favorites, but not the way I used to. Perhaps I've grown too old for that sort of hero worship, I don't know. Whatever the explanation, I'm all but certain Sizemore will be the last ballplayer who ever fully captures my heart.
"Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn't end." - Brian Flanagan
That isn't true, but it feels true when I think about Grady Sizemore and the Indians.