This post is a continuation of my countdown of the 30 best Indians of the last 30 years, a list I'm doing because that's how long I've been a fan of baseball in general, and the Tribe in particular. Basically, this series is a way for me to gaze at my navel for a bit, while also giving you all something to weigh in on. This series is a companion to a more involved countdown I'm doing at Ground Ball With Eyes, counting down the 30 best MLB players of the last 30 years. What I've done so far for that project can be found here.
Other entries in this series:
Alright, on to this week's entry, with the next five players in the countdown... (I've also included a link to each applicable player's post in LGT's fantastic Top 100 Indians series, which was created prior to the 2012 season.)
25) Jhonny Peralta (#77 on LGT top 100)
Peralta's first full MLB season was 2005, and he was excellent, batting .292/.366/.520, with 35 doubles and 24 home runs. Offensively at least, it remains the best season of his career. When a player has a season like that so early in their career, it creates an image in fans' minds, as well as certain expectations about what's to come. Many Tribe fans recall that great season, and remember Peralta as better than he really was with the Tribe. Other fans recall that he never recaptured that level of production for the Indians, and remember him as worse than he really was. Ultimately, after that one great season, he was pretty close to average for his remaining not-quite-five seasons with the team. A footnote worth mentioning: Peralta was great in the 2007 postseason, with a three-run homer off Curt Schilling in Game 2 of the ALCS standing out as the highlight.
24) Doug Jones (#69 on LGT top 100)
The Indians didn't have a lot of All-Stars in my early years as a fan, by Doug Jones made the American League team three years in a row, when I was 8, 9, and 10 years old, which marked him as a great in my book. Dennis Eckersley was the closer in those days, but other than Eck, no one was better than Jones. Suddenly in 1991, Jones wasn't so dominant anymore. In fact, he stunk. His struggles led to something I have zero recollection of: Jones started four games for the Indians that September. In the second of those starts Jones struck out 13 Tigers while allowing just one run in eight innings.
23) Brook Jacoby (#67 on LGT top 100)
Jacoby's 1986 Topps card is the first Indians baseball card I remember. I didn't get that many cards that year, and didn't yet know much about which players were good and which players weren't, so pulling any Indians player was a big deal to me. It wasn't until a year later that I started to follow baseball on a day-today basis by pulling the sports section of the newspaper each morning. That was 1987, which was the best year of Jacoby's career. I used to draw my own sports page too, and nothing seemed to appeal to me more for the front page photo than a third baseman diving for the ball, which means Brook Jacoby was often my muse.
22) Corey Kluber
There are four active Indians on this list, and they're all very closely bunched together. I consider Kluber the best player on the team, but he hasn't spent as much time as a productive player as the other three. If Kluber's next couple years were to be as good as his last couple years, he'd fly by not only his teammates, but most of the others on this list too. As a kid I preferred hitting, but over time I have gradually drifted more and more towards pitching, which makes the Tribe's current makeup plenty appealing to me. Watching Kluber every fifth day for the last couple years has been a delight.
21) Carlos Santana
Santana has good power, but not great power, and is likely never going to hit the 30 home runs in a season we've turned into a meme around here. He's a walking machine, with more bases on balls than anyone else in the American League during the last five years, but walks do not excite people. I have spent so much time and energy over the last four years defending Santana against the segment of Indians fandom that has never understood or appreciated his skill set. Last year, when Santana had his worst season, that defense became nearly impossible, and I'm sad to say that years from now what I expect I'll remember most about Santana is the arguing.