When I think of Shin-Soo Choo, I think of a pretty solid outfielder* and an absolute on-base machine during his time with the Cleveland Indians. He’s hands down my favorite former Indians player still in the league, and he’s having his own resurgence as a 36-year-old with the Texas Rangers this season — and if we’re being honest I really wanted the Indians to grab him at the trade deadline.
I wonder, though, does he look back fondly on his time with the Indians? Will he do the same with the Rangers? The question arises because of one simple fact: When and where Shin-Soo Choo plays baseball has been incredibly unlucky.
If you, like me, remember his good times in Cleveland, you’re also remembering pretty lackluster Indians team, overall. Choo played with the Indians primary from 2008 to 2012, when the Indians were in between the Grady Sizmore era and the the powerhouse we’ve seen the last couple years. These were the formative years for the current Indians team, which is good in the grand scheme of theme of things, but it must have been miserable to play for. In the sea of underdeveloped Michael Brantleys, underwhelming Justin Mastersons, and countless veterans passing through to fill rosters spots, there sat Choo — always getting on base at All-Star levels and providing 20-or-so home runs ever season.
Choo got a taste of the 2007 playoff run, but it was cut short when he needed Tommy John surgery and missed everything past April. Outside of that, he was a part of the tremendously disappointing 2008 campaign and a string of teams that struggled to win more than 70 games. It’s a strange era for the Indians, because there were a lot of quality — albeit not great — players like Asdrubal Cabrera and the other up-and-comers looking for their shot with the Tribe. Oh man, Lou Marson was there. Remember Lou Marson? Of course you don’t. Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana played well right alongside Choo, but the wins wouldn’t be coming until the Indians traded Choo for a package of Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw after the 2012 season.
They would eventually get to .500 again, of course, when they won 92 games in 2013. Immediately after Choo left, the Indians squeaked into the playoffs with a magical last-half of the season, and three years later they made an improbable run to the World Series and haven’t slowed down since.
Even with the Rangers, you could make the argument that Choo signed too late to be on their best squads. In his first year with the Rangers, 2014, Texas snapped a streak of four-straight 90-win seasons by winning just 67 games and missing the playoffs by a country mile. He was a part of two playoff runs in 2015 and 2016, sure, but it’s looking like the remainder of his seven-year, deal with the Rangers will be on another rebuilding team if he doesn’t get traded.
Despite slashing .289/.382/.458 with 66 home runs and 123 doubles between 2008 and 2012, Choo never made an All-Star team with the Indians. He was an on-base-first player before most mainstream fans caught on to how important of a skill it really was. He’s not going to the Hall of Fame, the Indians aren’t going to retire his number, and he has no postseason heroics to speak of. But that doesn’t mean Indians fans should completely forgot how good he was — and how fun he was to watch — when the team was at its worst.
Choo battled through injuries, the drag of having to play on bad teams, and narrowly avoiding being drafted into the Korean military and still had an All-Star caliber skill set for multiple seasons. One day, hopefully, he’ll have his ring.
[*this is a very incorrect memory, I know]