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75 Years and Counting: The Story of the 2001 Cleveland Indians

One last good year

Chuck Finley #31...

The 2001 season was a last desperate attempt by John Hart to squeeze every last drop he could out of the 90’s Indians core. There were plenty of new faces and free agent acquisitions. Juan Gonzalez was signed to a one year deal in an attempt to replace the void left by Manny Ramirez’ departure. Ellis Burks and Marty Cordova were signed to take the spots that would’ve been occupied by Sexson and Giles, but thank god we still have Ricardo Rincon and Bob Wickman, right? Who needed the combined 82 home runs they hit in 2001 anyway, bullpens win championships. Bob Wickman wins championships. Forgive me I’m still a little miffed at those moves.

In Hart’s defense, Burks, Gonzalez, and Cordova played wonderfully in 2001, but they were hired guns there to fill a gap, not a long term solution. Alomar and Thome were still excellent. Thome in particular posted a, then, career high 49 home runs, one short of Belle’s single season franchise record, alongside a 1.040 OPS. Alomar hit .336 with 20 homers and 30 steals and captured yet another Gold Glove award while finishing 4th in the MVP voting.

Thankfully the pitching help Cleveland had been desperately searching for arrived in the form of C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia was a flamethrowing left handed pitcher and strikeout artist with a nasty slider, and a fastball that sat in the mid to upper 90’s. The consensus top pitching prospect in the game at the time, Sabathia cracked the rotation out of spring training as a 20 year old and pitched to a 17-5 record with a 4.39 ERA. Now you might be saying, “Who cares about how many wins he had Matt, a 4.39 ERA isn’t that good” and you know what? That’s a fair point, but it’s also important to remember that this was the height of the steroid era. Barry Bonds was about to hit 73 home runs and post an .863 slugging percentage, so offensive numbers were a tad..... inflated? Sabathia would go on to win Rookie of the... wait, I’m being told that you can still have played professionally in Japan for years and still win Rookie of the Year as a 27 year old, who knew? In all seriousness Sabathia would come in second to Ichirio in the rookie of the year voting. Ichiro would also win MVP that year. So not a bad guy to finish behind!

With Sabathia and their offense of Jim Thome + Free Agents, the Indians roared to a 38-20 start. A record that would have been far more impressive had Seattle not decided that losing was for suckers and started the year at a ridiculous 48-13 clip.

The Indians offensive firepower was enough for them to cruise into the playoffs, even taking a 2-1 series lead against 116 win Seattle with a chance to clinch at home in game 4. But as has been their downfall so many times, a soft tossing lefty named Jamie Moyer silenced their bats in game 5, eliminating Cleveland from the playoffs.

The 2001 postseason would be the last in Cleveland for 6 years. A last attempt at a playoff run would be made early in the 2002 season, but it would quickly become evident that it was a lost cause, it was time to rebuild.

But, there was a new guy calling the shots in the front office, Mark Shapiro had assumed most of the GM duties midway through the 2001 season and took over the job entirely following the year. Hart left for Texas.

The 2002 season has some ups and downs, and a lot of trades, be sure to stop by tomorrow as we break it down!