Statistics say it all for Indians' ex-Orioles

INSIDE PITCH

June 15, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

It has been said that the Cleveland Indians lead the major leagues in everything except quotes.

That is little more than a cute exaggeration. Even though Eddie Murray, Albert Belle and a few others don't qualify as chatterboxes, the Indians are far from shrinking violets in the conversation department.

But there's no questioning the fact that the Indians have made their strongest statements on the field, not in the media. And three of those making the strongest points are ex-Orioles in the midst of remarkable accomplishments.

There's hardly a need to recite the litany of accomplishments of Murray, who was considered a borderline Hall of Fame candidate when his career appeared to be in decline after being traded by the Orioles after the 1988 season.

The Indians are in the process of a countdown to Murray's 3,000th hit (he needs 12 more), which should come before the month is over. When he reaches that milestone he'll already be in the midst of another accomplishment, one that only two other players have done.

The Indians started the hit countdown when Murray was 33 (his number) away from 3,000. That's how many home runs he needs to reach 500.

The only players to have 500 or more home runs and hit totals of 3,000 or more are Hank Aaron (755, 3,771) and Willie Mays (660, 3,283). Those who are influenced more by Murray's personality than his ability might have trouble admitting it, but that kind of company is as fancy as it is exclusive.

Murray isn't likely to reach 500 homers this year, but there is every likelihood, based on his current production, that he'll do so next season. He already ranks as the most productive player of his era, and reaching that plateau would put an exclamation point on what has developed into a certain Hall of Fame career.

Meanwhile, Dennis Martinez plods along like the locomotive that won't run out of steam. The seemingly ageless right-hander is not closing in on any magical numbers, but the ones he's putting up are amazing in their own right.

When he was traded by the Orioles in 1986, Martinez was 31 years old and had recorded 108 wins in the big leagues. His career, derailed by alcoholism, was in serious decline. The odds of him lasting long enough to more than double his victory total were exorbitant.

But here he is, going strong at the age of 40, seemingly better than ever, with 225 wins and counting. In baseball history, there have been 47 pitchers who have won more than 225 games.

As near as can be determined, however, nobody has done it the Martinez way. He is inching close to Hall of Fame credentials -- despite the fact that he has never won more than 16 games in a season.

Don Sutton won 324 games, but is considered a rarity because he exceeded 20 in a season only once. Going over 200 without winning as many as 17, let alone, 20, puts Martinez in a class just as rare.

Then there's Jose Mesa. Before the 1994 season, he had appeared in 98 games over six seasons. Since being converted to a reliever full-time last year, Mesa has been in 66 games. At his current pace, he will more than double his previous number of appearances in two years.

The Indians may not provide a lot of quotes -- but they certainly don't lack for interesting, and meaningful, statistics.

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