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Cliff Floyd

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Cornelius Cliff Floyd

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Injuries limited Cliff Floyd to only four seasons of 145 or more games, but when healthy he was a dangerous left-handed slugger. In his career he had five seasons of 20 or more home runs and two seasons with 30 or more. In 2005 Floyd set a career high with 34 home runs for the New York Mets.

A first round choice of the Montreal Expos in the 1991 amateur draft, he hit 26 home runs in 1993 with Harrisburg of the AA Eastern League. He led the league with 101 RBI and tied for the lead in home runs with teammate Glenn Murray while finishing second with a .329 batting average (behind Manny Ramirez, who hit .340). He was promoted to the AAA Ottawa Lynx on August 1st and added 2 home runs and 18 RBI in 32 games to his season totals, on his way to earning the title of The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year. He was called up to the Expos later in September and hit his first MLB home run on September 26th, a tape-measure blast off Dave Telgheder of the Mets at Shea Stadium.

He was the Expos' regular first baseman in 1994, when they posted the best record in the major leagues but were kept out of postseason play by the 1994 strike. He hit .281 that season, with 19 doubles but only 4 home runs. On May 15, 1995, he fractured and dislocated his left wrist in a collision at first base with baserunner Todd Hundley of the Mets, almost ending his career. He had been in a slump to begin the year, hitting only .173 in 18 games. The injury put him out of action until September 12th. He was obviously not fully healed when he came back, as he went 1 for 17 over the remainder of the year.

He opened the 1996 season with AAA Ottawa in order to regain his swing. On April 27th, Expos' centerfielder Rondell White was injured in a collision with the outfield fence at Colorado's Coors Field, prompting the Expos to recall Floyd, who was hitting .303 in 20 games at the time. However, he was unable to claim back a starting job, as the two players who had been acquired successively to fill his spot following his injury the previous year, Henry Rodriguez and David Segui, were now established starters and hitting well, while rookie F.P. Santangelo was doing a good job filling in for the injured White in center. Floyd shined as a pinch hitter, however, collecting 10 hits including 3 home runs and 5 walks in 38 plate appearances in the role. However, he did not do as well when he started, and with White's return to health and the call-up of minor league sensation Vladimir Guerrero, he became a forgotten man as the season advanced and the Expos fell just short of the National League Wild Card. Overall, he hit .242 with 6 home runs in 242 at bats that season.

In 1997, with right fielder Moises Alou having left via free agency, there was a spot open in the Expos' outfield. Guerrero caught everyone's imagination in spring training, which threatened to send Floyd back to the bench. Instead, the Expos decided to use him as trade bait, sending him to the Florida Marlins on March 26th in return for pitcher Dustin Hermanson and veteran outfielder Joe Orsulak. Hermanson turned out to be a very valuable property when manager Felipe Alou converted him into a starting pitcher a few weeks into the season, but the trade still was a clunker: Guerrero was hurt shortly after the trade (he would make three separate stops on the disabled list that season), and Orsulak was not the man to fill in for him. Meanwhile, Floyd also spent two long periods on the DL, and when healthy was confined to the bench on a very solid Marlins team that earned the NL Wild Card then swept aside the San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians to earn a completely unexpected World Championship. Floyd hit .234 in 137 at bats for the year, but with 9 doubles and 6 home runs. He did play in the 1997 World Series, albeit briefly.

After reaching the top of the baseball totem pole, the Florida Marlins quickly proceeded to dismantle their magnificent team in one of the most notorious fire sales in major league history. This did provide Floyd with a chance to be a starter once again in 1998, and he grabbed it firmly, hitting .282 in 153 games with 45 doubles and 22 homers. He was the best player on an awful team, and continued to shine over the next few seasons, although he missed half of 1999 to injuries while hitting over .300 for the first time. He was involved in a very controversial play on May 31st, when he hit a ball against the scoreboard in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The umpires first ruled a double, then changed their decision to a home run after protests from the Marlins. When the Cardinals protested in turn, the umpires studied the video replay for five minutes before ruling the hit a double. This prompted the Marlins to protest the game, arguing that nothing in the rules allowed the umpires to use video replays to make a call. The protest was not allowed by the Commissioner's office.

In 2000, the Marlins began their climb back to respectability, finishing 3 games below .500 with Floyd contributing a .300 batting average with 30 doubles and 22 home runs in 121 games. On May 18th, he stole three bases in one game against the San Diego Padres in a game in which the Marlins stole 10 bases in 10 attempts. He stole 24 bases that year, finally turning into the five-tool player he had been projected to be since he was drafted 14th overall out of high school. In 2001, he continued on the same path, hitting .317 with 31 home runs, 123 runs scored and 103 RBI. He was the subject of a controversy around the 2001 All-Star Game, when New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine at first failed to pick him for the team, and then tried to justify his decision by criticizing Floyd in the media. He had to turn around and extend him an invitation anyway when pitcher Rick Reed pulled out of the game with an injury.

In 2002, Floyd was completing his option year for the Marlins, and was clearly headed for a large payday given his performance in recent years. With trade rumors swirling around his name all season, he was hitting .287 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI after 84 games when the long-expected trade materialized on July 11th. The surprise was his new destination: back to the Montreal Expos. For the second time in a few days, Expos general manager Omar Minaya, who had been named to his position by MLB when its plans to contract the team following the 2001 season were thwarted by a successful injunction filed by the city of Minneapolis, MN, pulled off a blockbuster trade for a marquee player. Throwing all caution to the wind in the hope of bringing the surprising Expos to the postseason, Minaya followed his earlier acquisition of Cleveland Indians pitcher Bartolo Colon by that of Floyd. While he had to pay a king's ransom in prospects for Colon, he actually gave little of value for Floyd: veteran middle reliever Graeme Lloyd, utility-man Mike Mordecai, an injured Carl Pavano, and minor league pitchers Justin Wayne and Don Levinski; he also obtained pitcher Claudio Vargas and pinch hitter Wilton Guerrero in the deal. The problem though is that Floyd failed to hit for his new team, posting a .207 batting average with 3 home runs and 4 RBI in 15 games. The team only went 7-11 during this stretch and fell back in the playoff race, forcing Minaya to cut bait while Floyd still retained some trading value. On July 30th, he turned around and sent him to the Boston Red Sox for two Korean pitchers, Sun-Woo Kim and Seung Song.

The baseball world was abuzz with talk of improper dealings at that point, with this weird series of trades involving a number of very prominent young players among the three franchises whose owners had played musical chairs in the 2001-02 offseason. Another strike was avoided at the last minute in late August of that year, which incidentally ended all talk of contracting the Expos, replacing it with rumors of imminent relocation. In any case, now with the Red Sox, Floyd regained his hitting stroke, hitting .316 in 47 games the rest of the way, for an overall line of .288/.388/.533. This made him a prize property on the free agent market, and the New York Mets put up the money to sign him. Only two full seasons removed from their 2000 World Series appearance, the Mets had fallen on hard times, and Floyd was not moving to a contender, as he may have expected. He hit fairly well for his new team in 2003, putting up a line of .290/.376/.518 but only played 108 games because of various minor injuries, and the rest of team played terribly, ending the year in the NL East cellar. The story repeated itself in 2004, when he put in 113 games at a slightly lower level of production (good for a 110 OPS+, versus 134 the previous year), but he was again fully healthy in 2005, slugging a career-high 34 homers and driving in 98 runs. By then, his string of injuries had made him a bit of a liability in the outfield, but he was still a good base stealer when he chose his spots: over his first three seasons as a Met, he stole 26 bases in 32 attempts.

In 2006, the injury bug hit Cliff Floyd once again, restricting him to 97 games, and driving down his batting average to an uncharacteristically low .244. His slugging percentage fell to .407, and at the age of 33, it seemed like the end was near. But he did have an excellent NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 4 for 9 with a home run. However, injuries limited him to three at bats in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals. Nonetheless, his hometown Chicago Cubs took a chance on him, and received decent production in limited playing time in 2007, in the form of a .284 average with 9 home runs in 108 games. Still, this was barely adequate for a starting corner outfielder, especially one with little or no defensive value. He was hitless in the NLDS and the Cubs showed little interest in bringing him back for 2008.

Unwanted by the Cubs, Cliff Floyd found a new home with the Tampa Bay Rays for then 2008 season. The perennial last-place Rays were expected to be an improved team thanks to some outstanding young players, but were looking for some additional veteran presence, signing both Floyd and relief pitcher Troy Percival as free agents in the off-season. In the season's early weeks, he provided his usual contribution, good hitting interrupted by a stint on the disabled list, while the Rays exceeded everyone's expectations by getting off to an excellent start and even leading the AL East for a few days in late May. Floyd had become a full-time designated hitter at that point. He played 80 games for the Rays, hitting .268 with 11 homers and 39 RBI as they made the postseason for the first time in franchise history. He went 1 for 5 with a double in the ALDS and 2 for 10 with a homer in the ALCS as the Rays defeated the Red Sox in 7 games. In the 2008 World Series, he started Game 2 at DH, getting a hit and scoring a run in three at-bats, but then had to be put on the disabled list before the end of the series, with Eric Hinske taking his place on the roster.

Floyd finished his big league career with 10 games with the San Diego Padres in 2009. He went 2 for 16 and played his last game on June 17th, after which he missed the rest of the season to another injury. He retired after the season.

He had a cameo in a sketch on Saturday Night Live, 12/13/97.

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