There really hasn’t been a more stable every-day position for the Tribe than center field. The four major players during the Aught decade was Kenny Lofton, Milton Bradley, Coco Crisp and Grady Sizemore.
Bradley, although spectacular at times, was injury-prone, and an enigma. Crisp was an able athlete, but played most of his time at other positions. Lofton had a spectactular career with the Indians, but his days with the Tribe are now long behind him.
Taking all of that into account, the All-Aught Indians Center Fielder is Grady Sizemore.
Sizemore was acquired by the Indians in that now infamous 2002 Mark Shapiro deal that sent Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew to the Montreal Expos that also brought Lee Stevens, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips.
Sizemore made his major league debut as a defensive replacement on July 20th, 2004, and spending a month with the club. He started off strong, but a major slump sent him down to the minors at the end of August, where he regained his form, leading the Bisons to the International League title.
He was recalled again by the Indians in mid-September, and closed the season with a bit of a flourish, hitting .306, with two homers and nine RBI in thirteen games. For the entire season, he made only one error.
Sizemore broke out with the Tribe in 2005, becoming one of the top up-and-coming players in the league. Sizemore’s line read .289/.348/.484, with 22 homers and 81 RBI from the leadoff position. He scoree 111 times, with 37 doubles, 11 triples and 22 stolen bases. His defense was spectacular, only making three errors all season, and didn’t make an error in his last 62 games. Sizemore was also a quiet presence in the dugout, and quickly became known as the type of player that leads by example, not by mouthing off.
2006 was an even better season for Sizemore. He didn’t miss a game all year, and improved nearly every stat. His line stood at .290/.375/.533 with 28 home runs, 76 RBI, 134 runs scored (led the league), 53 doubles (led the league), 11 triples and 22 SB. He also led the league in extra base hits, not bad for a lead-off hitter. He was the second major league player to ever hit 50 doubles, 10 triples, 20 homers and 20 steals in the same season. His defense only got better, as he made only two errors in a major league leading 419 chances. He made the All-Star game for the first time.
The Indians didn’t miss a beat, signing Sizemore to a long-term deal that kepth him with the Indians through 2011, with a club option for 2012.
In 2007, Sizemore continued his climb to the top of the AL ranks. His line read .277/.390/.462, with 24 homers and 78 RBI, with 118 runs scored, 34 doubles, five triples, 101 walks and 33 stolen bases. Again, Sizemore made only 2 errors, and won the Gold Glove for the first time in his career, making his second all-star appearance in as many years.
The Indians made the playoffs that season for the first time under his watch in 2007, and he played extremely well against the Yankees in the ALDS. His ALDS line was .375/.524/.688, with three runs, six hits, one triple, one homer, one RBI and a stolen base in four games. He struggled against the Red Sox, batting only .222 in the seven game series, that the Indians ultimately lost in seven games.
2008 took Sizemore to new heights, as he became only the second Indians to enter the 30/30 club, hitting 33 home runs, while stealing 38 bases, and only being caught five times. His line was .268/.374/.502, with 101 runs scored, 39 doubles, 5 triples, 90 RBI and 98 walks. Sizemore won the Silver Slugger award and the Gold Glove, with only two errors.
Sizemore struggled in 2009 with injuries all year long. He only played in 106 games, missing most of June and September with elbow and abdominal injuries, both of which required surgery in the offseason. The Indians season quickly went down the tube with their star’s lack of health. He batted only .248, with 18 homers and 64 RBI. He only had 13 stolen bases.
Sizemore has been compared to some of the greats, including Barry Bonds (minus the steroids) and Joe Dimaggio. While injuries have certainly put those comparisons to rest, it’s safe to say that Sizemore was one of the brightest that the Aughts had to offer.
The Two Thousand, Aught Center Fielders: Kenny Lofton, Jacob Cruz, Alex Ramirez, Jolbert Cabrera, Mark Whiten, Dave Roberts, Milton Bradley, Brady Anderson, Dave Magruder, Karim Garcia, Coco Crisp, Jody Gerut, Alex Escobar, Mark Little, Grady Sizemore, Franklin Gutierrez, Joe Inglett, Ben Francisco, Michael Brantley, Trevor Crowe, Shin-Soo Choo