Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Grover and Elarton Return...Sort Of

Former Tribe manager Mike Hargrove and second baseman Joe Gordon were elected to the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame on Friday. The former Indians will be presented with their own plaques in Heritage Park at Jacobs Field on August 16 when the Halos are in town. The Hall of Fame's inaugural class was in 1951 and now has 33 members.

Hargrove is among the most distinguished Cleveland managers, helping to guide the team out of the perennial basement and back into contention during the 1990s. Hargrove compiled two AL Pennants and five straight Central Division titles between 1991 and 1999. He also saw several all-time greats emerge during his tenure in Cleveland, including Albert Belle, Sandy Alomar Jr., Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and Omar Vizquel.

In addition to being one of the winningest and longest tenured managers in team history, Hargrove also played first base for Cleveland from 1979 to 1985.

Notable Cleveland Managers:

Tris Speaker
- 8 years (1919-1926), 617-520 record (.543)

Lou Boudreau - 9 years (1942-1950), 728-649 record (.529)
Al Lopez - 6 years (1951-1956), 570-354 record (.617)
Mike Hargrove - 9 years (1991-1999), 721-591 record (.550)

Joe "Flash" Gordon spent the final four years of his career with Cleveland and was a member of the 1948 World Championship team. Gordon was an outstanding second basemen and had two of his best offensive seasons in 1947 (29 HR, .346 OBP, .496 SLG) and 1948 (32 HR, .371 OBP, .507 SLG). He led the team in HR and RBI while batting cleanup in 1948.

Despite a career 120 OPS+, Gordon was better known for his slick defense. Gordon paired with
shortstop Lou Boudreau to form one of the best infield defense combos in baseball. For fans who may not be familiar with Gordon and Boudreau, Bob DiBiasio elaborates:
It was held in the highest regard in the history of the franchise. Then Omar [Vizquel] and Robbie [Alomar] brought it back to life [in the '90s] with the debate over which was the better shortstop-second base combo. It took 50 years to bring the conversation full circle in who could match Boudreau and Gordon.
Gordon is being honored posthumously, as he passed away in 1978.

Shapiro Goes Bargain Hunting

Cleveland signed Brendan Donnelly to a minor league contract last week. He is currently recovering from an August Tommy John surgery on his elbow and is not expected to pitch for the first several months of the season.

Donnelly played for Anaheim from 2002 to 2006. He was a member of the Angels' juggernaut bullpen that featured Scot Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and Troy Percival. Donnelly has only been in the majors for six years, but debuted late at age 30.

Donnelly is a setup man by trade and has a career ERA+ of 154 over 315.7 IP. Donnelly's best years came from '02-'06 when he posted an ERA+ of 203, 278, and 150, respectively. Despite a drop off in performance over the last three years, Donnelly has remained an above average reliever. He started the 2007 season with Boston before suffering a right forearm strain that kept him benched for the rest of the season.

I'm surprised the Tribe was able to acquire Donnelly so easily, as the only question mark is how well he recovers from surgery. Donnelly was effective for Boston with 20.7 IP, 3.0 K/BB ratio, 156 ERA+, and 1.16 WHIP. For comparison, Aaron Fultz had a 158 ERA+ in 37 IP last year. Even if it's all potential at this point, Donnelly appears to have enough left in the tank to add legitimate depth and experience to the Tribe bullpen late in the season. It's a long-shot, but depending on how strong Donnelly looks in Buffalo, he could be available to give Lewis and Perez some much needed rest late in the season.

Elarton Invited to Camp

Former Cleveland pitcher Scott Elarton was given an invitation to Spring Training last week. While Cleveland did sign Elarton to a minor league deal so he could attend camp, they are not interested in keeping him on the roster. The Tribe is doing Elarton a favor by giving him a place to work out for other major league scouts and show off his surgically repaired shoulder.

To be honest, I'm not sure how common a move like this is. I can't think of another example of a team inviting a player to camp with zero intention of signing him, but I bet it's happened at least a few times before. Either way, it's a classy thing for Cleveland to do, especially for a guy trying to get healthy and make a comeback. I always liked Elarton when he was with Cleveland. He never had the best stuff, but something about his work ethic and funky, stutter-arm delivery was appealing to me. So good luck in your comeback, Scott.


MLB.com Productions posted a series of short videos called Béisbol Dominicano earlier this month. Episode Five is about the Tribe's Dominican baseball academy and is worth a look. I forgot just how young some of the prospects at the academy are, but the fact that the club makes sure they get a high school education (regardless of how their baseball careers pan out) is pretty awesome. It's the second link in the middle row on this page.

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