Eric Wedge didn’t like Milton Bradley, and Milton Bradley didn’t like Eric Wedge. Bradley had made a habit of doing the wrong thing, including fights, tenures in jail and not running out ground balls. When he got into it with Eric Wedge twice in less than a year, he was sent packing to the Los Angeles Dodgers. What they received in return for the misguided centerfielder turned into their best utility outfielder of the decade.
The All-Aught Indians Center Fielder is Franklin Gutierrez.
Gutierrez made his first long-term stint with the Indians during the 2006 season, getting called up on three different occasions. Gutierrez batted .272, with 21 runs scored, nine doubles, one homer and eight RBI. No, it’s not like Gutz stood up and proclaimed himself to be the greatest player of the decade, but he certainly exhibited an ability to play all three outfield positions with some adept defense, as he only made three errors, and really showcased a cannon of an arm.
Well, that’s probably a bit of hyperbole there. His arm wasn’t truly a cannon, but it wasn’t a wet noodle either. He could throw out a decent base runner from all three outfield spots.
He was clearly a special defender.
In 2007, Gutz upped the ante with 100 games played, and once again, at all three outfiled positions. He hit .266, scoring 41 runs, with 13 doubles, two triples, 13 homers, 36 RBI and eight stolen bases. He only committed one error with three assists, and once again epitomize what a perfect fourth outfielder should be. He could defend any position, and carried a good enough stick that he wouldn’t decimate the bottom of a line-up.
Gutz struggled with more playing time in 2008, playing in 134 games. He did play his best baseball in August and September f that season, raising his average 30 points, from .220 to nearly .250. Again, his defense was special, as he only made three errors that season.
Gutz couldn’t manage to take the next step with the Tribe, from the back-up role to the role of starter, so the Tribe traded him to Seattle. He managed a break-out season in 2009, playing center field for the Mariners.
Still, as an Indian, Gutierrez managed to play all three outfield position in his three seasons of consequence, and played them exceptionally well. He had decent power, speed, and likely the one of the best arms in baseball.
No, Franklin Gutierrez couldn’t win and sustain a regular outfield position during his tenure with the Cleveland Indians. Lucky for Gutz and the Indians, that allowed the multi-talented outfielder to claim the all-aught fourth oufield slot.