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Looking Back at the Draft: 1989

March 28, 2010
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The year is 1989.

The Revolutions of 1989 begin in Poland, signifying the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. Two Lybian MiG-23's are shot down by two U.S. F-14's. Ted Bundy is executed in Florida. The Los Angeles City Council bans the possession or sale of semi-automatic firearms; no one in LA ever carries a gun again (right?). Ayatollah Kohmeini issues a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill author Salman Rushdie. The Exxon Valdez runs aground in Alaska, spilling 11 million barrels of oil. Chinese students protest in Tienanmen Square. The Mendez brothers kill their parents. Seinfeld premiers. Rain Man wins the Oscar for Best Picture. The first full length episode of The Simpsons premiers on Fox. The Nintendo Game Boy and Sega Genesis are released. Pete Rose is given a lifetime ban from baseball. The World Series is delayed when an earthquake hits just before Game 3 was scheduled to start. The Indians finish 73-89, including a stretch of 8-11 under interim manager John Hart. Buddy Black, John Farrell, Tom Candiotti and Greg Swindell all throw over 180 innings with ERA's under 4, but the offense couldn't support them, with only Joe Carter hitting more than 18 HR's and no starter finishing with a batting average over .300.

Indians 1st round pick: Pretty much everyone knew that Texas high schooler Calvin Murray was going to attend the University of Texas. He was considered a top talent, but virtually unsignable. That didn't stop the Indians from selecting him 11th overall. Murray didn't sign with the Indians, went to college and was eventually selected 7th overall by the Giants in 1992. Murray never lived up to the hype, finishing his brief career with a .231 batting average and 8 home runs. Murray's claim to fame is that he was the batter facing Randy Johnson in the 2001 spring training game when Johnson hit and killed a pigeon with a pitch.

Best 1st round pick: Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas had by far the best career of anyone selected in the 1st round of the 1989 draft. Thomas was selected 7th overall by the White Sox, and went on to hit 521 career home runs and finish with a .301 lifetime batting average. His career was extended by the fact that he was primarily a DH, but that doesn't diminish the run he had as one of the most feared hitters in the major leagues. Thomas won back-to-back AL MVP awards in 1993-1994, and made 5 career all-star teams.

Honorable mention: While he never lived up to the #1 overall billing due to injuries, Ben McDonald had several solid seasons in Baltimore. McDonald was also responsible for unleashing Scott Boras on us, as he was the first major client for the superagent. "You can't expect Ben to sign for a figure comparable to what high school kids are getting. It's more like an NBA or NFL situation because he's so close to being an impact player in the big leagues. He's a very, very unique talent." While it sounded impressive at the time, you can pretty much substitute the name of any of the many subsequent Boras clients, as we hear the same rhetoric from him every June about his "unique" clients...Mo Vaughn, the 1995 AL MVP, was selected 23rd overall by the Red Sox...the Twins took all star 2B and headcase Chuck Knoblauch 25th overall. Knoblauch won the 1991 rookie of the year award and made 4 all star teams before his wits deserted him and he could no longer throw the ball to 1st base...Closer Todd Jones saved 319 games after being selected 27th overall by the Astros.

Indians best pick: This is a pretty easy choice, as the Indians only drafted one future hall of famer in the 1989 draft. "Shortstop" Jim Thome was chosen in the 13th round out of Illinois Central JC. Thome would of course outgrow the SS position, starting his career at the hot corner before moving over to 1B after the Indians acquired Matt Williams. Thome currently has 564 career HR's, and will likely add to that with Minnesota this year. In addition to those 564 regular season round trippers, Thome has hit 17 post season home runs, including 16 in an Indians uniform. His last season in Cleveland was his best, when in 2002 he went for a line of .304/52/118 and led the AL in OPS with his 1.122 mark. Although he spent time in Philly, Chicago, LA and now Minnesota, Thome will wear an Indians hat in Cooperstown someday.

Honorable mention: This is the kind of draft that championship teams are built on. In addition to Thome in the 13th round, the Indians took all star OF Brian Giles out of a California high school in the 17th round. Giles hit 35 or more home runs 4 straight years for the Pirates after being dealt for reliever Ricardo Rincon. The club also picked up three solid relief pitchers in Jerry DiPoto (3rd round), Alan Embree (5th round) and Curtis Leskanic (9th round). All this despite not signing their 1st round pick and losing their 2nd round pick to the Dodgers because they signed type B free agent Jesse Orosco. The 1989 draft is far and away the best Indians draft we've looked at so far.

Best early round picks: The Braves took OF/1B Ryan Klesko in the 5th round. Klesko hit 278 career HR's, including a career high 34 in 1996...Boston selected future rookie of the year and MVP Jeff Bagwell in the 4th round. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they dealt him to the Astros for Larry Andersen before he ever had an at bat in the majors...Minnesota had a solid draft as well, taking steady starters Denny Neagle and Scott Erickson back to back in the 3rd and 4th rounds, as well as future Indian Marty Cordova in the 10th round...The Yankees chose defensive whiz JT Snow in the 5th round. Snow won 6 Gold Gloves and had several solid years with the bat as well, posting a career best line of .281/28/104 in 1997...Toronto took 1st round talent John Olerud in the 3rd round after the LHP/1B underwent a six-hour procedure to fix a near-fatal brain aneurysm just six months before the draft. Despite the near death experience, Olerud was the first player from the 1989 draft to debut in the major leagues and finished his career with three Gold Gloves, two all star selections and one great (albeit false) Rickey Henderson story.

Best late round picks: Trevor Hoffman would go on to record 591 career saves (so far), but he was initially drafted as a shortstop by the Reds in the 11th round...With their 20th round pick, Toronto took all star 2B Jeff Kent out of Cal. Kent was one of the most consistent offensive second basemen in history, hitting 20 or more home runs 12 times and winning the 2000 NL MVP award...Eric Young was a pretty good value pick in the 43rd round for the Dodgers. EY hit .283 in his 15 year major league career, stole 465 bases and even made an all star team.

The ones that got away: Cleveland's draft could have been even better if they had managed to sign catcher Kelly Stinnett, who they took in the 11th round...The Angels took Joe Randa in the 30th round, but he didn't sign until the Royals drafted him in 1991...Cleveland wasn't the only team who failed to sign its 1st round draft pick, as catcher Charles Johnson and the Expos were unable to come to terms...Los Angeles wanted Phil Nevin to play in Chavez Ravine, but they couldn't come to terms with the 3rd round pick out of El Dorado HS in California...The Brewers took slugger Jason Giambi as a shortstop out of South Hills HS in California but didn't sign him. Maybe it was because he insisted on playing shortstop...San Francisco took future Tribe pitcher Albie Lopez in the 46th round, but they were unable to come to terms...Knuckleball catching specialist Doug Mirabelli was chosen in the 6th round by the Tigers, but they weren't able to sign him.

Other interesting picks: Boston's selection of catcher Eric Wedge in the 3rd round out of Wichita St never panned out due to injuries. Rumor has it he wound up managing after his playing days were done. I'll spare everyone my defense of Eric Wedge manifesto, and just comment that the Indians had problems other than his managing that caused their spotty record over the past several years.

Indians June 1989 Draft:

1. Calvin Murray, 3B/OF
3. Jerry DiPoto, LHP
4. Jesse Levis, C
5. Alan Embree, LHP
6. Mark Charbonnet, OF
7. John Martinez, C
8. Curtis Leskanic, RHP
9. Chad Allen, RHP
10. John Cotton, 2B
11. Kelly Stinnett, C
12. Von Wechsberg, RHP
13. Jim Thome, SS
14. Nolan Lane, OF
15. Tom Lachmann, C
16. Mike Potts, LHP
17. Brian Giles, OF
18. Stacy Hamm, OF
19. Marcus Robertson, OF
20. Dennis Kluss, OF
21. Avery Johnson, SS
22. Charles Davis, 1B
23. Miguel Flores, SS
24. Jeffrey Hancock, 2B
25. Robert Person, SS
26. Billy Brewer, LHP
27. Tommy Tillman, LHP
28. Joseph Perez, OF
29. Alan Walden, RHP
30. Kraig Constantio, 1B
31. Bill Wertz, RHP
32. James Hurst, LHP
33. Andy Sheets, SS
34. Ronald Young, OF
35. Jeffrey Weibel, C
36. Jeff Martin, C
37. Michael Soper, RHP
38. Marty Durkin, 2B
39. Gennaro Mirabella, RHP
40. David Norwood, RHP
41. Barry Shepherd, RHP
42. Clarence Brown, RHP
43. Chris Johnson, RHP
44. James Walker, RHP
45. Jonathan Shirley, OF
46. Scott Johnson, 1B
47. Cary Conklin, RHP
48. R.D. Long, SS
49. Ken Kaveny, 1B
50. Gavin Saladino, 3B
51. Michael Strobel, 3B
52. Eric Snell, OF
53. Darrin Kotch, LHP
54. Erik Young, OF
55. Barry O'Neil, OF

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