Chris here, and I’ve finished the first two months of the 1960 season, spending most of that time trying to find some ways to upgrade the team around Rocky Colavito.
The current curse is the lack of talent at the Major League level, although there is some help to look forward to in young pitchers in the Indians’ minor league system. That group includes top prospect Sam McDowell at single-A Burlington and Sonny Siebert at AA Mobile.
My two biggest transactions to date added to that minor league pool of pitchers.
During spring training, outfielder Walt Bond, pitcher Al Cicotte and catcher Russ Nixon were moved to Pittsburgh for starting pitcher Al McBean and two other minor leaguers in first baseman Donn Clendenon and catcher Orlando McFarlane.
Clendenon can be a future fit to fill a major need at first base, where the Indians rank second to last as an organization in all of baseball. McFarlane, meanwhile, was used to further improve the future of the Indians pitching staff.
Just two weeks after the start of the regular season, McFarlane was traded to the Milwaukee Braves for young starting pitcher Phil Niekro. The 21-year-old knuckleballer was sent to Burlington, where he has been serving a role as a long reliever, but the Indians see him as a future starter at the Major League level. After nine appearahces, Niekro has a 2-0 record out of the bullpen with a 1.86 ERA with a 1.34 WHIP.
TRYING TO IMPROVE THE BATTING ORDER
Like first base, the Indians rank second to last in the majors in talent at third base. In fact, my owner has made upgrading the talent at the hot corner. I tried to get some help in an early-spring trade with the New York Yankees.
The Tribe received one-time Yankees starting third baseman Andy Carey, along with reliever Rollie Sheldon and Tom Dukes, while sending centerfielder Jim King and starting pitcher Thomas Dooling to the Bronx.
The 28-year-old Carey is mostly a stopgap, however. While he hit just .218 in his first two months with the Indians in 1960, he has added some surprising pop, providing five home runs in his first 133 at bats, to rank second on the team.
HOW I’VE BEEN NEGOTIATING WITH OTHER TEAMS
One of the things that I like the most about OOTP is the opportunity to tinker with the roster by identifying team needs and then floating offers and having offers sent to my inbox.
I really like using the “Strength Overview” page of the “Player Trade” section of MLB Transactions.
My theory is that I’m a year or two away from being a contender while I wait for pitchers like McDowell, Niekro and Siebert to develop in the minors. To address glaring needs at positions like first and third base, I’ve spent time studying the Strength Overview page to look for teams that are already strong at those positions at the Major League level but have intriguing prospects in the minors. That’s how I decided to go after Clendenon, who was behind a decent Dick Stuart on the organizational depth chart at first.
In looking for help at third base, I took a stab at Cubs minor leaguer Ron Santo. Chicago was willing to talk trade for the 20-year-old who hit .327 with 11 homers in AA in 1959, but at (understandably) a high price. Any deal discussed would have included Jim Perry or Gary Bell.
With the 23-year-old Bell coming off of a 16-11 season and my scouts telling me he was by far the best pitcher I had at the Major League level to open 1960, I decided to wait. That may have been a bad idea considering Bell’s 0-7 start to 1960. But some of those troubles may have more to do with a lack of support, considering Bell’s 3.06 ERA and decent 1.34 WHIP. Bell does lead the AL in walks, however, with 39 after the first two months of the season – and that compared with just 38 strikeouts.
Another big-name prospect I looked into acquiring was Gaylord Perry. The Giants youngster is off to a poor start at AAA Tacoma with a 1.61 WHIP, a 3-4 record and a 4.68 ERA. The Giants wanted McDowell in exchange for Perry. I wonder if that demand will go down with Perry struggling? I’ll revisit!
BURYING THE LEAD
So, the Indians have been a disappointment after two months of the 1960 season. The starting lineup and a lineup that struggles to get on base are the culprits.
On a bright spot, Rocky Colavito finished May as the American League co-leader in home runs, matching the Yankees’ Yogi Berra with 10. Unfortunately, that power hasn’t generated as many runs as the Indians would like. Colavito hit just .229 in the first two months of the year, and despite his double-digit homer total, he has just 18 RBI.
The Indians as a team have the worst batting average in the entire AL at .289. Their on-base percentage is also dead last at .281. Those numbers mean they are getting as little as possible out of a home run total (37) that ranks No. 2 in the AL.
Here’s a look at some of the numbers to the Indians’ 13-27 start: