Top 100 Indians: #53 Carlos Baerga

USA TODAY Sports

Next on the list, a switch-hitter who ran like a penguin ...

Carlos Obed (Ortiz) Baerga

Second Baseman, Third baseman, 1990-1996, 1999

Height: 5'11" Weight: 165 lbs

Throws: Right Bats: Both

How Acquired (1): Trade, December 6, 1989: Traded with Sandy Alomar and Chris James by the San Diego Padres for Joe Carter

Left Via (1): Trade, July 29, 1996: Traded with Alvaro Espinoza to the New York Mets for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino

How Acquired (2): Purchase, August 16, 1999

Left Via (2): Free Agency, October 29, 1999

Up until 1990, players born in Puerto Rico were eligible to be signed as amateur free agents instead of being part of the Rule 4 draft. The next player on our list, Carlos Baerga, was signed in 1985 as a sixteen year old by the San Diego Padres. Born to Jose and Baldry in San Turce, Carlos would go on to star in the Puerto Rico amateur leagues and at Barbara Ann Rooshart High School.

After receiving a $60k bonus from the Padres, Baerga reported to the Charleston Rainbows of the South Atlantic League (A). Playing mostly second base, he slashed 270/321/384. He repeated this level as an 18-year old in 1987 and he hit 305/365/425 with 26 steals (and 21 caught) while committing 29 errors at second in 115 games. His stick looked good and he might even develop some power as he was still very young, but the glove was not quite there.

The Padres moved Baerga up to the Wichita Pilots of the Texas League (AA) in 1988. He was shifted to shortstop but his fielding woes continued (27 errors in 88 games), but the bat was still improving as well, 273/331/421 with 12 homers. In 1989, he graduated to the Las Vegas Stars of the Pacific Coast League (AAA), but he was moved from the middle infield to the hot corner. He continued to mash the ball, albeit not with great power, 275/319/394 and 10 homers. But the move to third was not a fielding success, 32 errors in 125 games, a horrific .915 fielding percentage. But the bat was good enough for Baseball America to rank him #67 heading into the 1990 season.

The 1989 Indian squad was very mediocre, hovering around .500 all season and finishing fourth in the AL East at 78-85. Joe Carter was the best hitter, but was fast approaching free agency. The Tribe really needed a catcher, so Hank Peters dealt Carter to the Padres for top prospect (BA #5) Sandy Alomar. They also received Chris James to help in left as Oddibe McDowell was terrible. But Carlos was definitely not a throw-in. The brass wanted another player who could hit, and since Baerga wasn't going to supplant Robbie Alomar or Garry Templeton, they felt like they could part with Carlos, especially since his glove was poor.

Carlos opened the 1990 season, backing up Brook Jacoby at third and Felix Fermin at short, but was used mostly as a pinch hitter in June/July (20 times). His numbers were pretty awful, 208/254/315 and he was sent down to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in late July. After a quick 12 game feasting of AAA pitching (380/436/520), he came back up on August 11, becoming a regular starter for the rest of the season: 23 games at third, six at short and five at second. In those 41 games after being called back up, he hit 319/353/486 and would ensure his spot in the lineup going forward.

In 1991, Baerga opened as the third baseman, with Brook Jacoby shifting to first. But by late July, Browne and Mark Lewis weren't cutting it at second, so Baerga shifted over, with Jacoby getting dealt and Jim Thome taking over for Jeff Manto/Browne in September. Baerga hit 288/346/398, (105 OPS+) and was his usual self in the field, 14 errors at third and 12 at second. With Thome now ensconced at third, Baerga now became the everyday second baseman. From 1992 to 1995, Carlos was a beast. He averaged a 315/350/476 120 OPS+ line, 19 HR, 97 RBI and 91 RS while only striking out 55 times. [Note: the 1994/5 seasons skew these numbers down due to the strike] He was an All-Star in 1992, 1993 and 1995, won the Silver Slugger in 1993 and 1994, and finished 11th and 10th in MVP voting respectively in 1992 and 1993.

He was the first second baseman to have back to back 200 hit, 20 HR, 100 RBI and .300 AVG seasons since Rogers Hornsby. He also was the first switch hitter to ever hit a home run from both sides of the plate in the same inning on April 8, 1993 against the Yankees.

After the 1995 World Series, Baerga began to display a lackadaisical attitude. He was going to discos quite often, drinking and generally behaving like a diva. He put on some weight prior to the 1996 season, and he was often seen with a cell phone during batting practice. Although he was well liked by his teammates and a club leader, his average was down about 50 points and the slugging was below 400. He felt he was a mainstay of the Tribe team. So when the Mets came calling, offering Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino for himself and Alvaro Espinosa, Baerga was shocked that John Hart made the deal.

He really struggled with the Mets (193/253/301) 49 OPS+ after the trade. He improved in 1997 and 1998, but never recaptured his earlier glory (87 and 76 OPS+) and the Mets allowed him to file as a free agent. He signed with the Cardinals in the spring of 1999, but was cut mid-March. The Reds picked him up and he spent the first half of the year in Indianapolis, but was cut in June. Although his knees were pretty shot, his original club, the Padres signed him to a deal. He played a little with the Stars and the Padres, before the Indians purchased him on August 16. He started seven games at third but ended up as a bench player. And at the age of 30, he looked done.

He signed with the Devil Rays in 2000, but never appeared in a game for them or for any professional team that year. He played 53 games with the independent Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League and for the Samsung Lions in the Korean League in 2001. He retired and bought the Santurce Crabbers in Puerto Rico that winter. He was a player-manager for them, but when the team was scheduled to move to Bavamon, he was out.

Baerga tried hooking up with the Mariners in 2001, but finally latched on with Boston in 2002, and was a bench player for the Red Sox. He spent 2003 and 2004 with the Diamondbacks, before concluding his career with the Washington Nationals in 2005.

He does baseball broadcasts for the ESPN Dos, serving as color commentator for Monday Night Baseball. He also appears as an analyst on Beisbol Esta Noche on ESPN Deportes and on ESPN Latin America. He served as an assistant coach on the most recent Puerto Rico World Baseball Classic team. He is married with two children.

Sources

Wikipedia; Biographical Dictionary of American Sports: Baseball A-F; Baseball Library (Stewart Wolpin, Alex Friedman); Yahoo (Mike White)

Indians Career Stats

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
1990 21 CLE 108 338 312 46 81 17 2 7 47 0 2 16 57 .260 .300 .394 .694 94 123 4 4 1 5 2 56/4
1991 22 CLE 158 654 593 80 171 28 2 11 69 3 2 48 74 .288 .346 .398 .744 105 236 12 6 4 3 5 54/6
1992 23 CLE 161 716 657 92 205 32 1 20 105 10 2 35 76 .312 .354 .455 .809 128 299 15 13 2 9 10 *4/D AS,MVP-11
1993 24 CLE 154 680 624 105 200 28 6 21 114 15 4 34 68 .321 .355 .486 .840 124 303 17 6 3 13 7 *4/D AS,MVP-10,SS
1994 25 CLE 103 469 442 81 139 32 2 19 80 8 2 10 45 .314 .333 .525 .858 119 232 10 6 3 8 1 *4/D SS
1995 26 CLE 135 600 557 87 175 28 2 15 90 11 2 35 31 .314 .355 .452 .807 108 252 15 3 0 5 6 *4/D AS
1996 27 CLE 100 453 424 54 113 25 0 10 55 1 1 16 25 .267 .302 .396 .698 76 168 15 7 2 4 0 4
1999 30 CLE 22 63 57 4 13 0 0 1 5 1 1 4 10 .228 .274 .281 .555 41 16 3 0 1 1 1 5/4D
CLE (8 yrs) 941 3973 3666 549 1097 190 15 104 565 49 16 198 386 .299 .339 .444 .783 109 1629 91 45 16 48 32
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/6/2013.

Selected Awards/Leaders

  • AL All-Star: 1992, 1993, 1995
  • AL MVP: 1992-11th, 1993-10th
  • AL Silver Slugger: 1993, 1994
  • AL WAR Position Players: 9th, 1992-6.0
  • AL oWAR: 8th, 1992-5.5
  • AL Average: 5th, 1993-.321; 6th, 1992-.312; 9th, 1995-.314
  • AL Runs Scored: 10th, 1994-81
  • AL Hits: 2nd, 1992-205; 2nd, 1993-200; 5th, 1995-175; 7th, 1994-139
  • AL TB: 7th, 1992-299; 8th, 1993-303; 9th, 1994-232
  • AL 2B: 5th, 1994-32
  • AL 3B: 9th, 1993-6
  • AL RBI: 6th, 1993-114; 10th, 1992-105
  • AL Singles: 1st, 1992-152; 3rd, 1993-145; 3rd, 1995-130; 8th, 1991-130
  • AL RC: 10th, 1992-105
  • AL Extra Base Hits: 8th, 1994-53
  • AL Hit By Pitch: 4th, 1992-13
  • AL Sacrifice Flies: 2nd, 1993-13; 4th, 1994-8; 9th, 1992-9
  • AL WPA: 4th, 1992-4.3
  • AL Assists: 1st, 1995-444; 3rd, 1992-475; 4th, 1993-445; 4th, 1994-335
  • AL Putouts as 2B: 1st, 1992-400; 1st, 1993-347; 2nd, 1994-205
  • AL Assists as 2B: 1st, 1992-475; 1st, 1993-445; 1st, 1995-444; 2nd, 1994-335
  • AL Errors as 2B: 1st, 1994-15; 2nd, 1992-19; 2nd, 1993-17; 2nd, 1995-19; 2nd, 1996-15
  • AL Double Plays Turned as 2B: 1st, 1992-138; 2nd, 1993-108; 2nd, 1995-99; 3rd, 1994-70
  • AL Errors as 3B: 5th, 1991-14
  • AL Range Factor/Game 2B: 1st, 1992-5.47; 1st, 1993-5.28; 2nd, 1994-5.29; 3rd, 1995-5.04; 5th, 1996-4.99
  • AL Range Factor/Game 3B: 3rd, 1991-3.05

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 30th WAR Position Players (19.6)
  • 27th oWAR (22.2)
  • t-23rd Average (.299)
  • t-38th Slugging (.444)
  • 50th OPS (.783)
  • t-36th Games Played (941)
  • 29th At Bats (3666)
  • 33rd Plate Appearances (3973)
  • 27th Runs Scored (549)
  • 21st Hits (1097)
  • 26th Total Bases (1629)
  • t-29th Doubles (190)
  • 20th Home Runs (104)
  • 18th Runs Batted In (565)
  • t-35th Strikeouts (386)
  • t-49th Stolen Bases (49)
  • 22nd Singles (788)
  • t-31st Runs Created (544)
  • 28th Extra Base Hits (309)
  • 10th Hit By Pitch (45)
  • 3rd Sacrifice Flies (48)
  • t-10th Intentional Bases on Balls (32)
  • 17th Double Plays Grounded Into (91)
  • 18th Wins Probability Added (8.6)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • 4th At Bats (657, 1992)
  • t-29th At Bats (624, 1993)
  • 13th Plate Appearances (716, 1992)
  • 20th Hits (205, 1992)
  • t-26th Hits (200, 1993)
  • t-37th Total Bases (303, 1993)
  • t-49th Total Bases (299, 1992)
  • t-36th Runs Batted In (114, 1993)
  • 14th Singles (152, 1992)
  • t-21st Singles (145, 1993)
  • t-16th Hit By Pitch (13, 1992)
  • t-3rd Sacrifice Flies (13, 1993)
  • t-17th Sacrifice Flies (9, 1992)
  • t-32nd Sacrifice Flies (8, 1994)
  • t-27th Intentional Bases on Balls (10, 1992)
  • t-25th Wins Probability Added (4.3, 1992)
  • t-48th Wins Probability Added (3.3, 1995)

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