Bob Toth | On 10, Jan 2019
Our countdown to the kickoff of the 2019 Main League Baseball season returns as we speak, because the earliest begin ever (excluding worldwide openers) for all 30 groups will deliver gamers again to the sector on March 28. Comply with together with Did The Tribe Win Final Night time as we rely down the times till Opening Day 2019. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 77 days
When pitcher Jack Armstrong requested the Indians to put on the quantity seven for his first season in Cleveland in 1992, he came upon that it had already been taken by one other new member of the group, equally acquired by way of commerce within the offseason.
That participant was Kenny Lofton, who would develop into one other one of many legends to put on that digit in Indians historical past, becoming a member of Charlie Jamieson, Hal Trosky, and Al Rosen, to identify a number of.
Armstrong determined to attempt one thing new, which was a theme to his journey to Cleveland together with his first new franchise of his profession after being drafted and developed into an All-Star throughout the state in Cincinnati. Since he couldn’t have seven, he opted for the quantity twice and have become the primary and solely Indians participant to put on the quantity 77 in an official Main League recreation.
“I picked it for a lot of little reasons,” stated Armstrong to The Plain Supplier throughout spring coaching of 1992. “I was born on the seventh of March. My wife’s home address used to be 711. And my son [Marcus] was born on the 14th of February, and seven plus seven is 14. So there seemed to be a lot of sevens floating around. When I asked for number seven, it was already taken. So I picked 77.”
Armstrong entered Main League Baseball with some huge expectations. He was drafted within the third spherical in 1986 by the San Francisco Giants, however opted not to signal. The transfer paid off, as he turned the 18th general decide by the Cincinnati Reds within the first spherical of the next season’s draft.
Simply over one yr later, the 6’5” right-hander was taking middle stage on the Astrodome to start his Main League profession with the Reds towards the Houston Astros. He would end his debut yr at Four-7 in 14 video games with a 5.79 ERA and adopted it with a 2-Three report and a Four.64 ERA in 9 video games the subsequent season.
Issues modified in 1990, as he acquired a daily shot with the Reds and he rewarded them with some spectacular outcomes. He turned a first-time All-Star that season because the Reds would storm to a World Collection victory over the Oakland A’s. He earned the Nationwide League’s Pitcher of the Month honor for Might and was 11-Three with a 2.28 ERA within the first half, main the best way to a begin for the NL within the All-Star Recreation.
He completed the season 12-9 with a Three.42 ERA in 29 video games, together with two full video games and one shutout, however he missed a while on the finish of the yr with a sore proper elbow in August and September. He did return for one look in October, working three scoreless innings of one-hit baseball in Recreation 2 of the Fall Basic towards the Athletics in what can be the one postseason look of his profession.
Armstrong, the Reds, and supervisor Lou Piniella couldn’t replicate their success once more in 1991, as they fell to 74-88 and completed fifth within the NL West. Armstrong went 7-13 with a 5.48 ERA in 27 video games and was optioned to Triple-A Nashville for a month late within the season.
He discovered himself packing to head north to Cleveland as a part of a four-player commerce for Indians starter Greg Swindell in November. He was joined within the transfer by fellow pitcher Scott Scudder and minor league hurler Joe Turek. Swindell, the Indians’ primary starter, rejected a three-year, $9 million deal and was despatched away, regardless of main the 105-loss group in innings, begins, full video games, strikeouts, ERA, and lowest walks per 9 inning fee by a beginning pitcher in 1991.
“I’m not surprised they traded me, but I am surprised it happened so quickly,” Swindell was quoted within the days following the commerce in The Plain Supplier. “To me, they didn’t give it a fair shot. If they wanted to sign me, they could have. They didn’t make but one offer. We just said we wanted four years. I’ve been telling people for over a month that I expected to be traded. To me, they didn’t try to sign me. They weren’t willing to go for it.”
Swindell was set to develop into a free agent following the 1992 season. He was believed to be in search of a four-year deal between $12 and $15 million after making simply over $2 million in 1991. The Indians had made an identical transfer the earlier season with starter Tom Candiotti.
Each Armstrong and Scudder have been projected to be part of the membership’s beginning rotation in 1992, becoming a member of Charles Nagy, Eric King, Rod Nichols, and Doug Jones.
“We made Greg an offer that would have made him the highest paid player in Indians’ history,” director of baseball operations John Hart stated following the commerce. “When he rejected it, the choice was made that we couldn’t signal him and we weren’t on a sign-Greg-Swindell-at-all-cost mission.
“We were looking for young pitchers. We identified Armstrong and Scudder as two people who could help us in 1992.”
Cleveland pitching coach Rick Adair shared an analogous sentiment with reporters throughout spring coaching, stating, “We did not trade Greg Swindell for two stiffs. These guys have talent. I’m not taking anything away from Greg Swindell. He’s going to do some good things. But we’ve seen everything we expected from these two guys, and a little bit more.” He later added, “Armstrong is very intelligent. He understands what he’s doing and why. He’s adjusting to the things we’ve suggested.”
The four-pitch pitcher Armstrong (fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup) appeared to welcome the transfer to Cleveland after the excessive strain cooker that was the Queen Metropolis. Pressure crammed the locker room in Cincinnati because the workforce fell in need of its World Collection expectations throughout its try to repeat.
“There was a lot of pressure put on a lot of young players to win every game last season with the Reds,” Armstrong shared with The Plain Supplier following the commerce. “When you’re young and impressionable, that kind of stuff can get to you. There’s a lot to be said for the kind of continuity and patience Atlanta showed their young pitchers. The Reds put themselves in a position not to do that. A lot of young pitchers and players had difficulty adjusting to their agenda.”
Monetary disagreements additionally led to some robust emotions for Reds gamers, as Armstrong had walked out of spring coaching prior to the beginning of the 1991 season after the Cincinnati entrance workplace renewed his contract at $215,000. The renewal course of gave all energy to the workforce and 0 bargaining energy to the participant. Armstrong was attributed as saying he would “rather work for $30,000 a year on a tuna boat” when he departed the coaching camp.
In March, earlier than enjoying in an official recreation for the Indians, Armstrong was considered one of almost a dozen gamers to come to phrases on multi-year contract extensions that purchased out some arbitration time, a course of that the Indians championed within the 1990s and proceed to use in the present day. The Indians inked Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga, Mark Whiten, and Nagy on three-year offers with choices for a fourth. Armstrong was certainly one of six to signal two-year offers with a third-year choice, slated to make $800,000 within the second yr of the deal and $1.65 million within the 1994 choice yr.
“It’s been an exhaustive process, but this gives us an opportunity to keep these young players in Cleveland,” common supervisor Hart stated after information of the signings. “I tip my hat to Dick Jacobs. We put this plan in front of him and he stepped up to the plate. He said, ‘If you can get it done, do it.’”
Armstrong ended camp because the quantity three starter within the Tribe rotation. After dropping three of his first 4 begins, he earned the win on Might fifth in an Eight-6 slugfest that marked his fifth straight recreation giving up at the least one homer. The 5 earned runs allowed have been a season excessive (to be topped in his very subsequent begin), however he stood agency for the win.
He wouldn’t earn one other win till June 16th, eight begins later. He adopted his second American League win by dropping six consecutive video games and headed into the All-Star break with an abysmal 2-12 document and a 5.40 ERA. House runs remained a problem, as he gave up 16 in his first 18 begins.
After dropping his 13th recreation of the yr, Armstrong misplaced his beginning spot and would pitch in aid for a month earlier than re-entering the rotation to substitute Dave Otto. After 4 extra begins and a 1-2 document in that stretch (together with 5 residence runs scattered over two of these begins), he was again to the bullpen for his remaining six appearances of the season.
He completed the season 6-15 with a Four.64 ERA in 35 video games (23 begins). The rebuilt and youthful Indians membership completed the yr 76-86 and in fourth place within the AL East in supervisor Mike Hargrove’s first full yr on the helm.
Baseball’s 1992 enlargement draft was set to comply with the season and, after his poor displaying in his AL debut season, Armstrong didn’t make the minimize of the 15 gamers who have been allowed to be shielded from an inventory of 105 eligible within the group.
Armstrong was taken within the second spherical by the Florida Marlins with their 20th choice general. The brand new NL East membership took Indians outfield prospect Darrell Whitmore within the first spherical, whereas the Colorado Rockies chosen Tribe pitcher Denis Boucher with the final decide of the third spherical.
“Jack failed as a starter for us but pitched exceptionally well out of the bullpen,” Hart stated following the draft. “Yes, we had concerns with what we were going to do with him next year, but it still stings a little to lose him. If we had a choice, we would have gotten Jack through so we could have taken a look at him for one more year. But we wanted to protect our young pitchers. We wanted to get at least two of our young pitchers on the staff next year. Can we find someone to replace Jack as a 2-13 starter? I certainly hope so.”
Armstrong was tabbed to be the Marlins’ quantity two starter, however his outcomes mirrored his one season in Cleveland as he completed 9-17 with a Four.49 ERA in 36 video games (33 begins). His choice was not picked up by Florida and he signed with the Texas Rangers within the offseason. He appeared in simply two video games for the Rangers in 1994 (dropping one) as he missed nearly all of the season with a rotator cuff damage to his proper shoulder that landed him on the 60-day disabled record.
The Indians introduced him to spring coaching for a seven-day trial in 1995 to examine on his well being and mentioned a cut up contract, paying him totally different charges if he have been pitching within the Majors or minors, however he by no means suited again up for the Tribe. Actually, he was out of baseball altogether till 2000, when he emerged on the age of 35 with the Marlins’ Excessive-A affiliate in 4 video games, then performed 31 video games for Newark (Unbiased League) in 2001 and 2002, making the league’s All-Star recreation in his first season there.
A dozen years after his massive league profession got here to an in depth, Armstrong was again within the information once more. This time, he spoke out loudly towards a unclean, scandalous time within the storied historical past of Main League Baseball.
“It’s time to call the rats out,” shared Armstrong in a December Eight, 2007, story in The New York Day by day Information relating to his participation within the George Mitchell report, an investigation into using steroids and different efficiency enhancers within the recreation. “The blokes who did this are cheaters – and that’s the underside line. They’re individuals who made tens of tens of millions of dollars doing one thing they weren’t supposed to do, on the expense of men who have been doing issues the correct means.
“I’m not evangelistic about steroids,” he stated. “I just want it to stop. I’m glad they’re doing something about it, that they’re getting serious about it. What happened in the past is in the past. Let’s work on getting it better from this point on.”
In his post-playing days, Armstrong labored as a private coach and a personal pitching teacher earlier than he was employed in August of 2017 as the top baseball coach at The Benjamin Faculty (Palm Seashore, Florida). There, he had the chance to coach his son Kris (a shortstop and switch-pitcher) in his senior season. One other son, Jack Jr., was drafted twice, however noticed arm points convey his skilled profession to an early finish.
The elder Armstrong will all the time have his World Collection ring and a beginning nod within the 1990 All-Star Recreation as fond reminders of his enjoying days, in addition to his willingness to shine a light-weight on a darkish spot within the recreation’s historical past within the Mitchell Report. He may also have the far much less thrilling legacy as the primary of the 77’s in Tribe historical past, and nonetheless the one one to date.
Photograph: Mitchell Layton/Getty Pictures
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