Happy March 30, on this day in Cleveland Indians history, the franchise made one of the worst trades in team history, trading away Dennis Eckersley.
The Cleveland Indians were the Cleveland Browns of Major League Baseball from roughly the late 1950s up until the team started to contend for a playoff spot in 19994.
For 41 years, the Indians routinely missed baseball’s postseason, as the team was an afterthought not only in its own city, but in MLB, as well.
One of the trades that sums up the Indians of that era involves pitcher Dennis Eckersley. Talent wasn’t exactly knocking down the door of the Indians’ clubhouse of old Municipal Stadium, and when the Tribe did get something, they usually made a boondoggle of an asset.
Eckersley perfectly sums up the futility of the Indians in the 1970s, a decade in which the closest the Tribe came to first was 1974, when Cleveland finished in fourth place in the AL East (out of six teams), 14.0 games out of first.
Eckersley was a rare bright spot on the 1977 club, as the future Hall of Famer went 14-13 with a 3.53 ERA, earning a trip to the All-Star game.
Heading into 1978, Tribe fans were expecting big things from “Eck,” but just days before the start of the season, Cleveland shipped him to Boston (along with catcher Fred Kendall) for pitchers Rick Wise, Mike Paxton, catcher Bo Diaz and DH Ted Cox.
Who? Exactly. At the age of 23, Eck went on to win 20 games for the 1978 Red Sox, a club that won 99 games and finished a game behind the Yankees.
Eckersley went on to re-invent his career as a closer, most notably for the Oakland A’s. He ended his big-league career with 197 wins and 390 saves, with the later stat being remarkable considering the pitcher had just three saves by the time he regularly started closing games for Oakland in 1987
Wise was a two-time All-Star game by the time the Indians got him, but his career began in 1964! Imagine Billy Beane giving up an up-and-coming 22-year-old for a 32-year-old veteran who had posted a 4.77 ERA the year before.
Wise would lead the league in losses, going 9-19. He was 15-10 with a 3.73 ERA the next year. From there, he moved on to San Diego where he played three years before retiring.
The Indians did try to add some youth in the deal in the form of Paxton, and he started off promising for the Tribe, going 12-11 with a 3.86 ERA. The next season, his ERA skyrocketed to 5.92. In 1980, he appeared in four games before being sent to the Farm, which is where stayed until his retirement.
Diaz had a 13-year MLB career, but in Cleveland, he was almost exclusively a backup. His best year came in 1981, when the Indians platooned him in the strike-shortened season. The lifetime .255 hitter went on to hit .313, which earned him a ticket to play in the mid-summer classic, which of course, was played at old Municipal Stadium.
Cox was 23 years old when he joined the Tribe. He accumulated 461 plate appearances between 1978-1979, where he posted OPS numbers of .563 and .579, respectively. He was out of the big leagues by 1982.
This deal is one of the worst in Indians history and it took about 18 seasons for Manny Ramirez to take the curse off the Eck trade.
The right-handed hitting slugger famously blasted a game-winning grand slam off Eckersley during the 1995 season, which made the Cooperstown bound reliever simply say, “Wow!”