Inspired by a Reddit post and later a Twitter thread from YouTuber Foolish Baseball, I learned a lot of interesting things about early-internet Indians fans by digging around the old baseball Usenet forums. I also found my new favorite website.
Don’t sign Albert Belle
For starters, this guy called the decline of Albert Belle pretty spot-on.
Belle became a free agent at 30, which nowadays would scare just about any team off. But back in the big brain front office days of the ‘90s, Belle was a huge power threat guy who batted 120-plus runs in back-to-back seasons and was easily capable of hitting over .300. Age be damned, the White Sox made him the highest paid player in baseball with a five-year, $55 million deal in the summer of ‘96.
Belle had one tremendous season for the White Sox, but was hardly worth the deal the White Sox gave him and he eventually opted out of to sign an equally large deal with the Orioles before injuries and father time derailed his career for good in 2000.
On the flip side, as the user above suggested, the Indians did give more years to Jim Thome, who produced 22.3 fWAR for the Indians after they gave him an $81.1 million deal in 1997.
Trade Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome to Seattle
One of the most common, and strange, arguments I found was debating whether or not Ken Griffey Jr. was actually good at playing center field. He was, of course, until injuries derailed his career in Cincinnati, but that didn’t stop fans from trying to find ways for Seattle to have a “better” center fielder. How about Kenny Lofton (and Jim Thome???).
Old trade ideas are the best. What a disgusting team that would have been. Getting Randy Johnson and then a whole lot more would have been a nice consolation prize for the Indians.
Kenny Lofton traded to Atlanta
Speaking of trading Kenny Lofton ... he did actually get dealt to the Braves prior to the 1997 season, and Usenet users had takes.
Keith Woolner’s footprint
Unsurprisingly, Keith Woolner — creater of VORP, former Baseball Prospects writer, and current Indians Manager of Baseball Research & Analytics — is all over the forums in some of its earliest years.
Brian Hayes is not having it
For most of baseball’s lifespan, the majority of fans seemed to side with owners in thinking that players were being “greedy” in going after as much money as possible. It wasn’t until recently — perhaps when it became apparent that analytics were making teams way too good at min-maxing their payrolls — that the tide has started to turn in favor of the players actually dedicating their body and lives to the sport getting the money they deserve.
In the ‘90s, though? If you were Alex Rodriguez and wanted to make bank in Texas instead of staying in Seattle, you were a national villain. Not to user Brian Hayes, who was having none of it with a flurry of responses that you could easily picture as a Twitter thread nowadays.
Larry Dolan blames George Streinbrenner for his own inability to sign free agents
Paul Dolan isn’t the only Dolan to say stupid things in public. Here a thread discussing his billionaire brother Larry Dolan crying that he can’t sign free agents being big mean George Steinbrenner is willing to spend money on free agents.
Check out this guy’s Geocities site
The direct page is gone, but thankfully the Wayback Machine exists, and so does an archive of this absolute Internet gem. Spot Says: Please do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s just so simple and innocent and takes me back to a time when I was learning HTML and making my own website of questionable quality. So take a look, and while you’re at it, dig around the Usenet and let us know anything else weird and interesting you find.