Carlos Obed Baerga Ortiz
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 200 lb.
Carlos Baerga was a fifteen-year MLB veteran who hit better than .300 four years in a row with Cleveland, and ended his career with a .291 batting average.
Baerga, born in Puerto Rico, was an undrafted free agent signed by the San Diego Padres in 1985. In 1986, at the age of 17, he played for Charleston in Single A hitting .270. The next season he was again at Charleston, and batted .305, which earned him a promotion to Wichita in AA the next year. Hitting .273, he was moved up to Triple A at Las Vegas where he hit .275. That winter, in a big-name trade, he was dealt by the Padres with Sandy Alomar Jr. and Chris James to the Cleveland Indians for Joe Carter.
In Triple A at Colorado Springs in the Cleveland organization, he played only 12 games hitting .380 before he was called up. He was to stay with the Indians for six major league seasons.
His rookie year in 1990 was modest; he hit .260 with 7 home runs. He split his time primarily between third base and shortstop. The next year, 1991, he hit .288, but his slugging percentage at .398 remained almost the same. He appeared in virtually every game, splitting his time this year between third base and second base.
1992 was his break-through year, at age 23. He pushed his average over .300 to .312/.354/.455, hitting 20 home runs with 105 RBI. He stole 10 bases. He played second base almost exclusively, with good range. His offensive numbers are especially notable because it was the last season before expansion, and the league didn't post especially big offensive numbers. He was named to the All-Star team and was 11th in the MVP voting.
1993 was another good year, as he largely duplicated his previous year's statistics. He hit .321/.355/.486, with 21 home runs, 114 RBI, 105 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 19 attempts. Named to the All-Star team again, he was 10th in the MVP voting. A switch-hitter, he hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same inning in a game that season, the first time it had ever been done in the major leagues. It would be 8 years before Mark Bellhorn became the second, and 19 years before the feat would performed again in the American League, by Kendrys Morales.
1996 was an off-year for him, and after 100 games with Cleveland, he was traded to the New York Mets as part of a deal that netted the Indians Jeff Kent. The Mets put him at first base and at third base in the 26 games he played for them that season.
In the following two years, he played exclusively at 2nd base for the Mets. His batting averages and slugging percentages were middle of the road.
1999 found him a free agent, signed by the St. Louis Cardinals and released before the season began. The Cincinnati Reds signed him and after letting him hit .290 in the minors, released him in June. San Diego put him in the minors for 21 games, as he hit .286, and brought him up for 33 games where he hit .250 without power. Bought by Cleveland in August, he hit .228 in 31 games with them.
Signed briefly by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2000, he did not appear in the majors that year. In 2001, he played in an independent league and in Korea. The Boston Red Sox signed him at the end of the year, and he hit .286 without power as a backup for them in 2002.
Signing as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he surprised by hitting .343/.396/.464 in 105 games in 2003. The next year, 2004, he slumped to .235 and was released. He then joined the Washington Nationals in 2005 and hit .253. It marked the end of his playing career.
The Indians named him one of the second basemen on their "Top 100 Greatest Indians Roster" in 2001.
Over 14 major league seasons, in ,1630 games, he hit a good .291. He never drew a lot of walks, and his .423 lifetime slugging percentage is misleading because in his prime he regularly was over .450. His career range factor at 2nd base is excellent, although when Washington let him go at the end of 2005 at the age of 36 it was apparently felt that he had lost his speed and no longer was as impressive in the field even though his range at 2nd base was good that year.
As a reflection of the esteem in which the Cleveland Indians held him in his prime, he batted 3rd in the lineup in the 1995 World Series. Kenny Lofton led off, Albert Belle batted cleanup, Eddie Murray was fifth in the lineup, with Jim Thome usually sixth or seventh.
Baerga played in seven Caribbean Series, hitting .296 with six homers, 23 RBI and 25 runs in 38 games. He joined Roberto Alomar (a friend since they were teens), Luis DeLeon and Candy Maldonado in being enshrined in the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.
The most similar contemporary player, based on similarity scores, is Hubie Brooks. He was also an infielder who played multiple positions, moved from team to team, but had a few outstanding seasons with the bat.
In 2014 Baerga joined the staff of University of Northwestern Ohio as an assistant baseball coach.
- 3-time AL All-Star (1992, 1993 & 1995)
- 2-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1993 & 1994)
- AL Singles Leader (1992)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1992 & 1993)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (1992 & 1993)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1993)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 2 (1992 & 1993)