Friday, May 20

Mount Tribemore

Sports fans, especially those who go to the lengths of operating blogs about said sports, love making lists of their favorite players, the best teams, the greatest games, and so on. They're fun to construct and even more entertaining to debate. Thus, I thought it'd be fun for FCF to extend a concept I initially encountered for honoring the all-time greatest rappers, and recently saw applied to sports: Mount Rushmore. It's a simple concept: you construct a version of Mount Rushmore (which honors four great presidents) for any given field by listing the four greatest that fit the bill, then change the name of Mount Rushmore in a clever way.

For example, my Mount Rapmore is Chuck D, Jay-Z, Q-Tip, and Eminem. Forest City Fanatics is going to roll out a bunch of these for our favorite teams, historical and recent, and maybe some special ones (Mount Brownsquarterbacksincethereturnmore). With the Tribe still flying high in first place, this seems like an appropriate time for Mount Tribemore - the four most legendary players in Indians history. I'm handling this on myself; next week we'll do a team effort for modern-day Tribesmen (post-1985).

Bob Feller, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Lou Boudreau
OK, let's get this out of the way first: Blogger crashed bigtime last week, and in the process wiped out an analysis I'd written here that I spent quite a bit of time on and really liked. Plus, I got up at 5 this morning, ran the Cleveland Marathon, tried to attend the Indians' rained-out game, drove all the way to West Virginia for work, have had a headache since about noon, and had to listen to Bill Wennington, the single worst broadcaster in the history of the world, call the Bulls-Heat game when the station(s) with Hubie Brown faded out of range. So, my apologies if this part isn't fantastic.

Bob Feller was the first and easiest choice to put on this list. Unquestionably the greatest pitcher in Indians history (and a November 3 birthday like me and Ivan Drago), Rapid Robert piled up a career WAR of 66, by far the best among Tribe chuckers, easily eclipsing Stan Covaleski's 46.1, despite the fact that Feller missed the 1942-44 seasons to fight in World War II (when he was 23-25 years old and coming off of three straight Top-3 MVP campaigns). Feller is also the all-time Indians leader in strikeouts, wins, innings pitched, and why the hell am I still trying to convince you that Bob Feller was one of the four greatest Cleveland Indians ever? Let's move on.

I learned a couple of things while researching this post, and one of them was: Tris Speaker was an absolute monster of a player. After a string of MVP-caliber seasons in Boston, Speaker joined the Tribe in 1916 and just kept on dominating, to the tune of 73.3 WAR in 11 seasons as an Indian, just a shade below the all-time leader (whom we will meet shortly). Speaker was the club's leader in WAR a record seven seasons (our next entrant notched six such campaigns and Feller and "Sudden" Sam McDowell each had five), posted an OPS+ of 157 with the Wahoos, on-based an absurd .444 for his Tribe career (Speaker holds the five best OBP seasons in club history), is second in hits, second in total bases, first in doubles, second in triples, second in walks, blah blah blah this guy was unbelievably good.

Oh yeah: Speaker was also player-manager for 7 1/2 seasons in Cleveland, piloting the Tribe to their first World Series title in 1920 and, I like to imagine, playing a key role in choosing the comically boastful "Worlds Champions" jerseys they brandished around the league the following season like they were WWE championship belts. Awesome.

I could probably make the case for Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie's inclusion based solely on the fact that, during his 13-year tenure with Cleveland (1902-1914), the team was called the Cleveland Naps (better than "Bronchos," at least). To emphasize: This guy was so good that they named the team after him. This did not happen when, for instance, Wayne Kirby played in the Forest City.

But Lajoie was totally worth it, logging a Hall of Fame career eerily similar to Speaker's. (All four players on this list are, obviously, enshrined in Cooperstown, though Lajoie and Speaker haven't had their numbers retired by the Indians because...they didn't wear numbers). Stop me if you've heard this career arc before, but Lajoie came to Cleveland after a successful stay in Philly, posted a WAR of 74.7 in 13 seasons with the Indians/Naps (narrowly edging Speaker but needing more seasons), notched a career OPS+ of 150, is the all-time Cleveland hits leader, topped the club in WAR six times, and player-managed for parts of five seasons. If I had to take one, I think I'd go with Speaker, but Lajoie is without a doubt worth of inclusion on my Mount Tribemore.

The fourth slot was the most difficult to fill - it came down to Jim Thome, "Sudden" Sam McDowell, and Lou Boudreau. Had "Shoeless" Joe Jackson spent more of his career in Cleveland, he might have cracked this shortlist, in addition to not tarnishing his career forever with his connection to the Black Sox scandal, although if he'd done that, then what would Field of Dreams be about?

I wanted to include Thome to annoy Nick (and more crucially because he's 4th all-time among Cleveland position players in WAR - more on him in a future post), and was surprised at how dominant McDowell was in his prime (leading the squad in WAR for five seasons), but in the end Lou Boudreau was the clear choice. Third all-time in WAR among position players at 54.6 (yes, I ended up taking the Indians' four all-time WAR leaders) behind only Lajoie and Speaker, Boudreau compiled a 121 OPS+ while manning the shortstop position (and setting the club standard for career defensive WAR), player-managed the Tribe to their last World Series win in 1948 (this organization loves it some player-managers), and somehow earned himself the nicknames "Old Shufflefoot" and "Handsome Lou," both of which are terrific. For the record, Speaker was named "The Grey Eagle," also pretty cool.

1 comment:

John said...

I'm going to admit that I considered writing up a similar Mount Rushmore for the Indians to compete with Andy's but quickly lost motivation after seeing his list, for two reasons.

The first is these guys are hard to argue against. Each one, as Andy pointed out, have pretty impressive statistics. Secondly even my father didn't see any of these guys plays. Having that level of detachment from the players really makes a connection with them difficult, hence the reason for an eventual post 1985 Indians post too.