The 1995 Cleveland Indians were an incredible team. They are rightfully famed for their other-worldly offense, but their pitching was excellent as well. As we all know, they fell in the World Series that October, making them arguably the best team ever among those that didn't win the Fall Classic.
It's been 20 years since that team brought the city of Cleveland to its feet and ended decades of frustration with an AL Pennant. Throughout this anniversary year we'll be celebrating them, as the current version of the Tribe hopefully makes its own run to the postseason. Each week I'll look back at one of the key players from that season, counting down to the very best of them.
- 25. Wayne Kirby
- 24. Alan Embree
- 23. Albie Lopez
- 22. Jim Poole
- 21. Tony Pena
- 20. Herbert Perry
- 19. Mark Clark
- 18. Paul Assenmacher
- 17. Paul Sorrento
- 16. Eric Plunk
- 15. Ken Hill
- 14. Omar Vizquel
- 13. Sandy Alomar
- 12. Charles Nagy
- 11. Julian Tavarez
- 10. Chad Ogea
#9: Carlos Baerga
Carlos Baerga was acquired by the Indians in December of 1989, along with Sandy Alomar (and Chris James) in a trade with San Diego for Joe Carter, a trade that is sometimes thought of as the beginning of the era that culminated with two trips to the World Series. (Which isn't to say it really was the beginning, but moving the closest thing the team had to a star hitter for prospects was a a big deal.)
Baerga debuted with the Indians in 1990 and made his first All-Star team in 1992. He reached 200 hits that season, did so again in 1993, and was on pace for a third consecutive season like that until the labor dispute ended 1994 early. He would be penciled in at #3 in the batting order for every game he started in 1995, the "pure hitter" spot in what would prove to be one of the greatest lineups in baseball history.
Baerga started his 1995 off right, with 3 hits on Opening Day, including a 9th-inning home run to cap the scoring in an 11-6 Tribe win. During the first week of the season, Baerga had four multi-hit games, including a 4-hit effort against Detroit. Through the season's first four weeks, as the Indians raced out to a 16-8 start, Baerga hit .375/.416/.587, with 5 home runs and 21 runs scored. On May 21 in Boston, Baerga hit an inside-the-park home run in the 1st inning, then hit one over the fence for a more traditional home run in the 7th, then doubled to leadoff the 9th and came around to score what proved to be the game-winning run.
By the end of the first half, Baerga was batting .327/.367/.516, with 11 home runs and 18 doubles. He was one of three Indians voted a starter for the American League All-Star Game, in which he went 3 for 3 with a pair of singles and a double.
On July 16 Baerga collected 5 hits, the last of them a single to lead off the bottom of the 12th and ignite the rally that gave the Tribe a 5-4 victory. His production fell off a bit after that, but he ended the regular season with a .314/.355/.452 batting line, including 175 hits (which prorates to 197 in a 162-game season, whereas 1995 was only 144 games), 15 home runs, and 28 doubles.
Baerga had 2 hits in Game 1 of the ALDS against Boston, and 2 more in Game 3. Then in the ALCS, he really excelled, batting .400/.444/.520, with at least one hit in all six games against Seattle. His 8th-inning home run in Game 6 put the exclamation point on the Tribe's pennant-winning victory. Baerga's World Series was not as impressive, but he did have 3 hits in Game 3, including a leadoff double in the bottom of the 11th, which lead to the winning run scoring.
Baerga was traded in the middle of 1996, later returning to the Indians for a brief stint in 1999. He played through 2005, but 1995 turned out to be his last good season.