Guys, I gotta be honest, when I started this series I had quite a bit of pep in my step. “It’ll be fun” I proclaimed as I set off to chronicle 75 years of Cleveland baseball. You see, I had forgotten about the 1970s and 80s and how, well, boring they were. Well the baseball team at least, not the decades themselves. We’re going to power through this thing to the bitter end, but honestly I’m not so sure I have very many more ways to write “and they were shockingly mediocre, middle of the pack in both hitting and pitching. They had a few good players but they quickly traded them away, and were towards the bottom of the league in attendance.” I’m slowly starting to drift toward insanity and I didn’t even live through this! All of you that are still with us after actually *witnessing* all of these teams, how the hell did you do it? How on earth are you still a baseball fan, let alone a Cleveland fan? Seriously, props to you guys because it’s starting to feel like groundhog day writing these, I can’t imagine living it.
Anyway, the ‘76 Indians. They were shockingly mediocre, middle of the pack in both hitting and pitching. They had a few good players but they quickly traded them away, and were towards the bottom of the league in attendance.
Buddy Bell led the team with 3 whole wins above replacement level (at least according to baseball reference). Rick Manning followed up his solid rookie campaign with another good season, posting a 116 OPS+ with a .292/.337/.393 slash line. I like to think that he exclaimed “uh-huh” or “there it is” every time he slapped the ball the other way, but I digress.
Outfield mainstay Oscar Gamble had traded to the Yankees for pitching help in the form of Pat Dobson. Dobson was so-so for the Indians, posting a 3.50 ERA with a 16-12 record. His ERA+ of 99 would indicate that he was exactly average. His 1977 season would be utterly abhorrent and he would retire shortly thereafter. Gamble, on the other hand, had 10 more productive years as a major leaguer, quietly putting up 150 OPS+ seasons like it was easy, however teams consistently only used him as a platoon bat. Gamble was certainly not inept vs. LHP, but teams insisted that platooning was the role for him.
Oh, and as I failed to mention it in the previous entry, Rico Carty was a damn good player, go look him up, didn’t put up a lot of the counting stats you’d like but dude was an OPS machine.
So with all that said, the Indians actually finished above .500 with a record of 81-78. I did some digging to figure out why they only played 159 games, but I couldn’t find anything conclusive. My guess is they had some rain outs that didn’t get made up once they were eliminated from contention.
Anyway, we’re still trucking along with this series, joking aside it has been a lot of fun reminiscing about Cleveland baseball with all of you. Please don’t hesitate to join the discussion below and talk about your memories of these teams if you had the misfortune of being an Indians fan at the time.
On to ‘77