Cleveland Guardians News

This Week in Tribe History: Closing the Johnnie LeMaster story

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 14: A detail of the sun shinning through the facade atop the stadium as the New York Yankees host the Detroit Tigers during Game Two of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 14, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 14: A detail of the sun shinning through the facade atop the stadium as the New York Yankees host the Detroit Tigers during Game Two of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 14, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Johnnie LeMaster was with the Cleveland Indians for less than a month. That was a month too long. The team gave up a good pitcher to get him. Why?

During this week in Tribe history, (July 5, 1985), the Cleveland Indians received Scott Bailes from the Pittsburgh Pirates to complete a May 31 trade where the Indians sent shortstop Johnnie LeMaster to Pittsburgh.

This brought to an end a really bad trade that started on May 7.

It was a trade that perfectly summarized what it was like to grow up as an Indians fan.

So who was this Johnnie LeMaster anyway?

LeMaster, 31 at the time and never a great hitter, was hitting .000 for the Giants. The Indians sent left-hander Mike Jeffcoat and infielder Luis Quinones to the Giants.

Jeffcoat was 24 at the time. In three seasons with the Tribe his worst ERA was  3.31. Quinones was essentially Johnnie LeMaster, but eight years younger.

But did we need a shortstop?

We had this guy named Julio Franco, and he was pretty good.

Besides that, the Indians were well on their way to a 60-102 last-place finish. It wasn’t like a backup shortstop would be a difference maker.

What was the conversation like?

“Hey Tom (Haller, Giants GM), Phil Seghi here. We’d like to have your 31-year-old shortstop. We figure at 0-for-16 he’s due.  We’ll give you a 23-year-old reliever.”

“Well Phil, I’ll need a replacement bad-hitting shortstop, maybe one eight years younger.”

“Deal!”

LeMaster improved his batting average in Cleveland, hitting .150. And he did even better once sent to Pittsburgh, hitting .155. He came back to earth later with Oakland, hitting .083.

The rumor was LeMaster was a good fielder.  Fielding metrics (and my vision) said otherwise.  LeMaster had some good years with the Giants but by the time he came to Cleveland he was worse than Franco.

Next: Nothing wrong with Trevor Bauer’s All-Star comments

Bailes was okay. In four years he started some, closed some (13 saves) and always had an ERA between 4 and 5. He wasn’t Jeffcoat, but he was useful.

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