Instead of "best ever" where we'd of course have much of the '54 staff, can you give me 12 pitchers (5 starters and 7 relievers) who you would want to build a staff with? Silly and pointless, yes, but right now I am so down about these past 2 weeks of baseball that this just lightens me up and let's me remember why I am a fan of one of the 3 baseball franchises that God truly must hate.
Please list and put the year in parentheses, indicating that you'd pick your selections based on a particular year they had.
1. CC Sabathia (2007) - A true ace and Cy Young winner, this was the year -- despite the big choke in game 5 of the ALCS -- that CC just had it all working and he was a huge reason why we never got in major losing slumps (along with the guy who was wearing the Carmona outfit...wish we had his name and resigned him).
2. Cliff Lee (2008) - A better, more dominant Indians pitcher to have played on an irrelevant team? What if...oh what if...this Lee would have shown up in '07? I would have no doubts that he, versus Westbrook, would have won game 7 in Boston. He was spectacular on the road against the toughest teams.
3. Greg Swindell (1989...before injury) - Even the most harcore fan of the Indians may forget just how awesome Swindell was during the first half of the '89 season and that the Tribe was in 2nd place, slightly behind Baltimore, at one point in July. Before injuring his arm, Swindell was 13-2 and an all-star selection who was on a roll. He fronted a very solid staff that also included a big time ERA guy in Tom Candiotti, a bend but do not break Bud Black, a healthy John Farrell, and Scott Bailes (nothing much to say there). A complete game with 10 strikeouts was nothing out of the ordinary. When Swindell went down and other injuries to guys like Snyder and O'Brien occcured, so did the Indians. That was one season where I felt as thought it could actually happen and at that point, in a two divsion AL, it was almost unthinkable.
4. Bartolo Colon (1998) - I could have chosen other years -- perhaps 2000 when he one-hit the Yankees on the road or in 2002 before the Indians' 13-1 start went haywire. I like '98 because of what he did in the playoffs. He helped beat Boston in the ALDS and then shut down what many would consider the greatest Yankee team ever in the ALCS, giving us that 2-1 lead that would end up being a shakier final 3 games than Enrique Wilson rounding 3rd base (Thanks for holding on to the ball for half an hour, Chuck Knoblach). Colon was an ace when we didn't think we had an ace. I recall an interleague game with the Astros and afterward, Craig Biggio perplexingly asked why Cleveland was searching for a number one starter. Tough to put the chubby man on here after watching him dominate us in a Yank uniform and even tougher to list him as a #4 starter as no one and I mean no one could work the late innings like he could.
5. Charles Nagy (1996) - Sure there's other candidates like El Presidente, Bulldog, Dave Burba, Kevin Millwood and his league best ERA, and even Fausto of '07. I gotta go with Nagy because a. he was the AL starter that year in the summer classic and b. he was an Indian as long as anyone's been an Indian. Charlie and his Casey Blake-like demeanor was never an absolutely electrifying guy when he was on the mound, but he was steady as they come in big games and was a big reason why Atlanta didn't pull a 1954 NY Giants on us and why, despite the bitter end in Miami, we made it to an improbable game 7 of the World Series. He'd be a helluva 5th starter on any team in any era. He was truly one of Cleveland's. That sinker got down and it was all over.
6. Mike Jackson (1997)
7. Paul Shuey (2001)
8. Doug Jones (1988)
9. Julian Tavarez (1995)
10. Bob Wickman (2001)
11. Rafael Perez (2007)
12. Jose Mesa aka Joe Table (1995)
The bullpen that I have selected may be up for some serious debate, but those 7 guys, at one time or another, were damn strong pitchers. Shuey is a guy who might have been the most talented relief pitcher of all. I recall how dominant he was as a Tarheel and knew he'd give us good things, for the most part. Tavarez may have been the best setup releiver in our organization as he and Mesa were lights out when called upon. Wick leaves a bad taste in certain years and his demise led us into even more demise with Joe Bo experiment. Of course, Mesa gets the nod as my closer even though Jackson may have been better when he stole the role after '97. I guess if there's one guy who might leave a bad taste more than anyone, Mesa would be the guy. I cannot forget, though, how dominant he was almost as much as making me a believer that God hated him and the Indians.
*Honorable mention goes to D. Baez. Just because he was supposed to have a better curveball than Jesus Christ.