1 Cleveland Indians An upbeat skipper and a Yankee-killing ace bring a whole new vibe to the Tribe

March 27, 2000
March 27, 2000

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March 27, 2000

Baseball Preview 2000

1 Cleveland Indians An upbeat skipper and a Yankee-killing ace bring a whole new vibe to the Tribe

He's 56 years old and sports a gray crewcut that makes him look
like the oldest recruit at a Marine boot camp. He's had
open-heart surgery, and he missed two weeks of spring training
this year after having eight inches of his colon surgically
removed. But there's as much player as there is manager in
Charlie Manuel. That's the conclusion one was left to draw this
spring after watching the new Indians skipper tramp around camp
jabbering homespun witticisms in a West Virginia drawl and
occasionally throwing one of his charges into a headlock. Before
he had the colon surgery in February, Manuel even shagged flies
during batting practice like a trying-to-catch-on rookie. "We
all see Charlie as a good friend," says reserve outfielder Jacob
Cruz. "Sometimes I have to step back and remember he's the

This is an article from the March 27, 2000 issue Original Layout

The Manuel manner will provide much-needed lubrication for a
machine that seized up badly during last year's Division Series.
After coming within a victory of sweeping the Red Sox, the
Indians frittered away three straight games, a collapse that
cost tightly wound manager Mike Hargrove his job. The Cleveland
front office hopes that Manuel, the team's hitting coach for the
last six seasons and a beloved figure, will bring some levity
and enthusiasm, not to mention a more communicative spirit, to
the Indians' clubhouse. "Camp is more fun this year," reliever
Paul Shuey says. "Things are looser. Spring training always
seemed loose before, but it wasn't."

"A lot of expectations were put on that club [last year]," says
former Cleveland closer Mike Jackson, who signed with the
Phillies as a free agent this winter. "I felt the urgency even
in spring training. The first two years I was there, in 1997 and
'98, it was, 'If we get into the playoffs, we'll worry about the
postseason then.' Last year in the spring, it was, 'We have to
win 100 games and get to the World Series.'"

Those expectations are still there. If anything, they've been
heightened now that general manager John Hart has finally bagged
the quality lefthanded starter that's eluded him since the
outset of the franchise's renaissance six seasons ago. Chuck
Finley, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal in December,
is coming off a mediocre 1999 and has not won more than 15 games
in a season since '93, but he's still a top-of-the-rotation
intimidator. Bartolo Colon is getting closer to becoming that
type of pitcher, but he's not quite there. Veteran righthanders
Dave Burba and Charles Nagy were a combined 32-20 and each
pitched more than 200 innings in '99, but both are better suited
to the middle of the rotation. "Chuck brings ace credentials,"
Hart says, "big innings, experience, quality stuff, quality

Hart also signed Finley with an eye toward October. The
37-year-old former Angel is a well-known Yankee killer: He has a
career 16-9 record against New York, and last year's Bombers
were a fairly mortal 19-14 against southpaw starters. Still, it
wasn't the absence of a lefty that doomed Cleveland in the '99
postseason but the club's overworked and ineffective relief
corps. The bullpen self-immolated in the three losses to Boston,
surrendering 29 earned runs.

With Jackson gone, the closer's role will, for the moment, be
split between righthanders Shuey and Steve Karsay, both of whom
throw well into the 90s. Shuey has a wicked splitter and slider,
but he can be maddeningly inconsistent and has a history of
nagging leg injuries. Karsay, when he was healthy last year, was
the Indians' most effective reliever, but he spent two months on
the disabled list and had off-season elbow surgery, his third
surgery on his throwing arm since 1994.

Regardless of who the closer is, Manuel needs to find another
effective setup man. That weakness looms particularly large
because the staff is razor thin when it comes to lefthanders,
especially if Ricardo Rincon can't rediscover his once-lethal
slider, which vanished last year and still hasn't returned.
Hart, though, is willing to see how the current group shakes out
before he makes any moves. "There are a lot of good arms down
there, so the potential exists for a big bullpen," he says.

Fortunately the Indians can fall back on one of the sturdiest
safety nets in sports. Even with Kenny Lofton beginning the
season on the disabled list as he recovers from shoulder
surgery, the sheer might of the Indians' offense borders on the
unfathomable. Last year Cleveland was the first team in half a
century to score 1,000 runs; four players drove in 100 runs; and
the Tribe scored in double digits in 28 games. They also became
the first team in major league history to thrice come back from
a deficit of eight or more runs to win. In one of those games,
against the Devil Rays in May, Cleveland came back from eight
runs down to win by nine.

For now Manuel's biggest job is to ensure that the Indians--who
have not trailed in the Central standings after May 1 since
1995--stay focused through the summer in preparation for their
inevitable playoff berth in the fall. "Our biggest competition
is ourselves," says third baseman Travis Fryman. "Charlie is a
very enthusiastic, high-energy guy. That should rub off on this

--Stephen Cannella

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO LEFTY AT LAST Finley hasn't pitched in a playoff game since '86, but as the Indians know, he's 27-18 lifetime against Boston and New York.COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON

around the HORN

[5 stars]
[4 1/2 stars]
[3 1/2 stars]
[2 1/2 stars]

by the numbers

1999 Team Statistics 1999 record: 97-65 (first in AL Central)
(AL rank)

Batting average .289 (2) Opponents' batting average .268 (3)
Runs scored 1,009 (1) ERA 4.89 (6)
Home runs 209 (6) Fielding percentage .983 (3)

next up...

There are certainly better places than Cleveland for a young,
power-hitting outfielder such as Jacob Cruz to crack a lineup.
"This club is not designed for prospects right now," says
general manager John Hart. Still, the 27-year-old Cruz--who will
see plenty of action in centerfield until Kenny Lofton returns
from the disabled list, perhaps as early as May--proved last
season that he belongs with Cleveland's big boys. In a monthlong
stint as the replacement for the injured Lofton, he hit .330
with three homers in 88 at bats. This winter he added 20 pounds
of muscle to his six-foot, 179-pound frame while playing in
Mexico, and throughout the spring he showed off his newfound
power by launching 400-foot bombs all over the Indians' Winter
Haven, Fla., complex. "Jacob has an excellent pedigree," says
Hart. "All he needs is a place to play."

the lineup
projected roster with 1999 statistics

Manager: Charlie Manuel (first season with Cleveland)


CF Kenny Lofton* L 134 .301 7 39 25
SS Omar Vizquel S-R 47 .333 5 66 42
2B Roberto Alomar S-R 21 .323 24 120 37
RF Manny Ramirez R 4 .333 44 165 2
1B Jim Thome L-R 41 .277 33 108 0
DH Richie Sexson R 92 .255 31 116 3
LF David Justice L 109 .287 21 88 1
3B Travis Fryman R 148 .255 10 48 2
C Sandy Alomar Jr. R 224 .307 6 25 0


OF Jacob Cruz L 230 .330 3 17 0
OF Alex Ramirez R 254 .299 3 18 1
C Einar Diaz R 286 .281 3 32 11
IF Enrique Wilson S-R 347 .262 2 24 5


LH Chuck Finley[1] 29 12 11 6.5 1.36 4.43
RH Bartolo Colon 22 18 5 6.4 1.27 3.95
RH Dave Burba 66 15 9 6.5 1.40 4.25
RH Charles Nagy 78 17 11 6.3 1.47 4.95
RH Jaret Wright 131 8 10 5.1 1.65 6.06


RH Paul Shuey 71 8 5 6 1.32 3.53
RH Steve Karsay 123 10 2 1 1.29 2.97
RH Steve Reed 168 3 2 0 1.44 4.23
RH Scott Kamieniecki[1] 238 2 4 2 1.44 4.95
LH Ricardo Rincon 254 2 3 0 1.46 4.43
RH Sean DePaula 258 0 0 0 0.94 4.63

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 164)
*Will begin season on DL

the book
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Indians

"One word: thunder. This lineup will lead the world in runs....
The Indians are strong up and down the order, and they're very
deep. Enrique Wilson could play regularly at second or third for
most other clubs. Jacob Cruz is a championship fourth
outfielder, a guy every club would love to have.... First
baseman Jim Thome's the weak spot in the infield defensively,
and even he's adequate. But Richie Sexson is getting better by
the day and has a chance to be a plus first baseman. He might
move Thome to DH.... The team's Achilles' heel is at closer.
Paul Shuey is inconsistent, and Steve Karsay has never closed.
If they can't do it, they have to go get somebody.... They badly
need a lefthander in the bullpen.... The rotation has five
pretty good starters, but can Dave Burba stay healthy for a full
season?... Bartolo Colon is an ace waiting to happen.... Chuck
Finley, whose split is still good, is there for one reason: to
beat lefthanded hitting clubs. He's making all that money to win
two games against the Yankees in October."