The 2007 Cleveland Indians: Five Years Later


Remember Roberto Hernandez? No, I’m not talking about the pitcher we used to call Fausto Carmona. (Or do we still call him that? I’m really not sure.) I’m talking about the pitcher that was with the Tribe back in the exciting season of 2007. My guess is that most Cleveland Indians fans don’t remember Hernandez, who appeared in only 28 games before being released by the Indians at the end of June that year.

There has been a lot of turnover in the Indians lineup in the recent years. This season will mark the fifth year since the whirlwind of a season that left Indians fans reeling after coming within one game of the World Series.

Looking at the roster the Indians put on the field in 2007, not many of the players are still in Cleveland. Some of the names are recognizable, and even memorable. But for most of the players, if they were with the Tribe beyond 2007, they probably weren’t there much longer.

It many respects, it’s easy to think of the 2007 Cleveland Indians and the 2012 Cleveland Indians as two entirely different teams, with completely unique identities. We have yet to see if the 2012 version has the ability to make a splash and have a magical season like the one of 2007.

Remember David Dellucci? Maybe, but do you know what he’s done since leaving the Tribe in 2009? He’s not the only member of that team who seems to have disappeared from the sport of baseball entirely and the faded from the memories of Indians fans. I doubt many future grandfathers will tell stories of the “great” Ryan Garko, but they will tell stories of that fateful October. It was one to remember, but it seems that many of the players weren’t.  So where are they now?

Josh Barfield manned second base for most of 2007. He never gained his footing and failed to inspire the Indians to consider him a part of their future. He became a free agent at the end of 2009, signing with the Padres for the 2010 season and then with the Phillies in 2011, never making it back to the majors. He’s still in the Philadelphia organization.

Back in 2007, there was the dynamic duo of “Raffy Right” and “Raffy Left” in the bullpen. While “Raffy Left”—better known as—Rafael Perez, we lost Rafael Betancourt, the other half of the go-to duo in a 2009 trade with the Colorado Rockies. Three years later, Betancourt is still with the Rockies, now taking ownership of the closer role after a stellar second half of 2011.

Casey Blake was another key part of that team. Perhaps what Blake is most known for now is that the Indians got Carlos Santana from the Los Angeles Dodgers for him in 2008. Blake played with the Dodgers through 2011 but his game has declined and he appeared in only 63 games last season. In 2012 he will be with the Rockies.

Joe Borowski may not have always had the most conventional way of putting the finishing touches on a game, but in 2007 he finished first in the American League with 45 saves. He regressed in 2008 and the organization released him in July. He retired in February 2009.

Paul Byrd’s name was tarnished by an HGH controversy at the conclusion of 2007. In August 2008 the Indians dealt Byrd to the Red Sox. Byrd opted to spend time with his family over playing in the beginning of 2009, later signing with the Red Sox and appearing in seven games. His last major league game was October 3, 2009, and he has since written the book Free Byrd about his playing career and his personal struggles.

David Dellucci’s numbers in his three seasons with the Indians were underwhelming. He was released by the organization in June 2009 and was later signed by the Blue Jays for a short stint that lasted until July 31 of that same year. Since his retirement, Dellucci has spent his time working with humanitarian organizations in his home state of Louisiana.

After appearing in 49 games in 2007 with the Tribe, the organization released Aaron Fultz in March 2008. He went on to have short stints in the minor league organizations of the Tigers, Rockies and Reds. This season Fultz with be with the Phillies Low-A team, the Williamsport Crosscutters, as a pitching coach.

The Indians have found themselves in a bit of a conundrum when trying to settle on a first baseman this year. In 2007, they had their first baseman in Ryan Garko, who led the team with 125 games at the position. Garko finished the 2009 season with the Giants and spent 2010 with the Rangers, appearing in only 15 games. Since then, Garko has played for the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization, but was released due to injury.

Franklin Gutierrez found himself in Seattle after a three-team deal involving the Indians, Mariners and Mets landed the Indians Joe Smith and Luis Valbuena (coincidentally, Ezequiel Carrera was also part of the deal—the Mets sent him to Seattle). “Death to Flying Things” won the hearts of Mariners fans with his defensive skills in the outfield. He is signed with the Mariners through 2013 with a team option for 2014.

Roberto Hernandez played with the Indians in 2007 through July 28, at which point he was released by the organization and went on to finish the season after signing as a free agent with the Dodgers. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez became just the eleventh pitcher in major league baseball to appear in 1000 career games. He finished with 1,010 with his last appearance coming on September 25, 2007.

Cliff Lee is a familiar name to baseball fans across the country. However, before the World Series appearances with the Phillies an Rangers and a stint with the Mariners, Lee was a member of the Tribe. In 2007, the season before he became the second Indians pitcher in as many years to win the American League Cy Young Award, Lee had an ERA of 6.29 and a win-loss record of 5-8. Lee was traded in 2009 to the Phillies in anticipation of losing him to free agency. He appeared in the World Series with the Phillies in 2009 and again with the Rangers in 2010. Lee is signed with the Phillies through 2015 with a vesting option for 2016.

Jensen Lewis made his major league debut with the Indians on July 16, 2007, finishing the season with 26 appearances and an ERA of 2.15. He failed to produce adequate numbers through the remainder of his time with the Tribe and was released by the team on June 24, 2011. He signed with the Diamondbacks to a minor league contract in November.

Once regarded as a top prospect with a bright future, Andy Marte has been quite a disappointment. Before being granted free agency in November of 2010, Marte pitched an inning of scoreless relief for the Tribe against the Yankees and struck out Nick Swisher on July 29, 2010. After leaving the Tribe, Marte signed with the Pirates, spending 2011 with their Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians.

It was an emotional farewell when Victor Martinez was traded to the Red Sox just before the trade deadline in 2009. Martinez had been with the Tribe since signing as a free agent in 1996, making his major league debut on September 10, 2002. Martinez signed with the Tigers last winter and finished 16th in the MVP voting in 2011 after hitting .330 with 103 RBIs for Detroit. Martinez suffered a knee injury that will put him out for all of 2012, but he is expected to return to full-time DH duties with the Tigers in 2013.

Tom Mastny’s career never panned out. After debuting with the Tribe in 2006, he alternated between the Indians and the Yokohama BayStars of the Japanese Central League for a few years. Mastny spent the 2010 season in the minor league systems of the Indians and Marlins.

Jason Michaels spent time with the Indians from 2006 through 2008, when he was sent to the Pirates. Michaels signed with the Astros for the 2009 and remained with the team through 2011, when he played in 89 games, finishing with a .199 batting average. In December of 2011, he signed a minor league contract with the Nationals.

Trot Nixon was the mastermind behind the rally pie tradition in 2007. After spending the 2007 season with the Tribe, Nixon saw time in the Diamondbacks, Mets and Brewers organizations. Currently, Nixon resides in Wilmington, NC where he is an analyst and co-host for a show that highlights high school football, called “The 5th Quarter,” on WWAY-TV.

It would be hard for most Tribe fans to forget Jhonny Peralta entirely. Whether for the spelling of his name or the time he spent with the team, Peralta likely had a lasting effect on the memories of Tribe fans. Peralta was traded to the Tigers in 2010. He had a successful 2011 season that saw him selected to compete in the All-Star Game.

Fans will not soon forget CC Sabathia who was a major component in the success of the 2007 season that resulted in a Cy Young Award for him. Causing uproar amongst fans, Sabathia was traded to the Brewers the following season. After making it to the playoffs that season with the Brewers, Sabathia signed with the Yankees. He has pitched in the postseason every year since 2007. In 2009, he pitched in two World Series games with the Yankees. He is signed through 2016 with a vesting option for 2017.

Kelly Shoppach served as a backup to Martinez behind the plate from 2006 through 2009 when he was traded to the Rays in December. He had two lackluster seasons with the Rays in 2010 and 2011, posting .196 and .176 batting averages, respectively. After becoming a free agent at the end of the 2011 season, Shoppach signed with the Red Sox.

Jake Westbrook spent almost his entire career with the Tribe. From 2001 until being traded to the Cardinals in 2010, Westbrook sported an Indians jersey. Westbrook has been with the Cardinals since, helping them to a World Series title in 2011.

All these players gave fans memories that will last a lifetime. Some of those players went on to do more great things and it seems that others have disappeared entirely. Even if some of these players had never played another game at the major league level, they all had a part in something incredible at one point in their life—and that was 2007.

It wasn’t that long ago that Jacobs Field fell silent after what had seemed like a storybook year until the not-so-happy ending. Maybe someday we’ll tell stories of a great 2012 team led by Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Shin-Soo Choo. Hopefully when we do, it won’t be the story of just one year—we’ll talk about how that was just the beginning.

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