The 2000 season was a frustrating one in Cleveland. Coming off a 97 win season that saw the Indians set a franchise record in runs scored, eclipsing 1000 runs for the first time, there was plenty of reason for optimism. Sure the pitching rotation was a cobbled together mess of Bartolo Colon and inconsistent veterans, sure both Alomar’s, Vizquel, Thome, Lofton, and Fryman were all on the wrong side of 30, sure this would likely be Manny Ramirez’ last year in Cleveland, but there was still enough toothpaste left in the tube to squeeze out another run at the division title. Plus they finally fired that bum Mike Hargrove, who totally was at fault for everything that had ever gone wrong ever in the history of Cleveland baseball, right? Longtime hitting coach Charlie Manuel was promoted to manager in a move that was simultaneously long overdue and one they hoped would keep Jim Thome happy so they would be able to resign him in a couple of years.
Unfortunately a factor the Indians hadn’t considered emerged and they faced an unfamiliar road block, another team in the Central that was actually pretty good. The Chicago White Sox, after finishing over 20 games behind the Indians for second place in 1999, suddenly figured out that winning baseball games is a heck of a lot more fun than losing them. Chicago got off to a scorching hot 17-8 start and held onto first place for pretty much the entire season, fending off a late surge by the Indians in September to become the first team besides Cleveland to win the American League Central.
Cleveland, who would use a franchise record 32 pitchers, including 13 unique starters, found themselves just a hair above .500 at the midway point of the season. An early injury to Manny Ramirez dealt a huge blow to an aging lineup that struggled to outpace their inept pitching staff.
The Indians made some trades at the deadline that were.... puzzling? In a desperate attempt to shore up their struggling pitching staff, The Indians sent Richie Sexson, Marco Scutaro, and Paul Rigdon to Milwaukee for Bob Wickman, Jason Bere, and Steve Woodard. Bere and Woodard were absoluteley dreadful, whereas Wickman was at least solid. Sexson would emerge as one of the premier power hitters in baseball shortly thereafter, and Scutaro would turn into a solid regular. While that move may feel like the type that says you’re trying to “win now” they also traded David Justice to the Yankees for Jake Westbrook in a move that screams “rebuild”
Now this begs the question that if they knew they were trading justice, why not just see if there was a way to trade Justice for pitching instead of a top prospect like Sexson, but i digress. Plus, I like Jake Westbrook, always have, and he got us Kluber. Call it a wash?
But after the deadline something remarkable happened. The Indians starting winning. They didn’t really stand much chance of catching the White Sox, but the Wild Card spot was certainly in play. Entering August 17th the Indians were 61-56, and a considerable distance behind the Sox. From there they went on a 29-16 stretch to close out the season, falling just short of a wild card berth on the last day of the season. It was an admirable effort, but it just wasn’t to be. For the first time in the Jacobs Field era, there was not an “October to remember”
Of note, in his last at bat of the season Manny Ramirez homered as Cleveland fans chanted his name, begging him to stay and sign a contract extension with the team. Ramirez would leave for a massive 168 Million dollar free agent deal that offseason, and the need to rebuild became all the more difficult to ignore.
Join us tomorrow as we break down the last hurrah of the dynasty that never was.