Mark Lewis

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Mark David Lewis

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Biographical Information[edit]

Mark Lewis was the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year in 1988. He set national high school standards for career hits and RBIs, then was selected by the Cleveland Indians second overall in the 1988 amateur draft, after Andy Benes.

He played in the major leagues for 11 seasons, from 1991 to 2001, but never developed into a star. He did start off well, hitting .264 while getting regular playing time at second base and shortstop as a rookie with the Indians in 1991, and then following that in 1992 by hitting .264 again, in 122 games,, with 21 doubles and 5 homers as the team's starting shortstop. He was only 22 at the time and looked set for a long and productive career, but he was sent back to the minor leagues in 1993. That year, he hit .284 with 30 doubles and 17 homers for the Charlotte Knights of the International League, and .250 in 14 games in the big leagues. Still the Indians were not ready to make him a regular again, and in spite of having nothing to prove in AAA by that point, that's where he spent most of 1994 as well, hitting. 259 in 86 games for Charlotte. In 20 games with Cleveland, he hit only .205, but that was in only 73 at-bats.

Clearly not in the Indians' long-term plans, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on December 14, 1994, in return for Tim Costo, another high draft choice who had failed to find a home in the majors. The Reds moved Lewis to third base in 1995 and he hit very well in limited opportunities, .339 in 171 at-bats, with 30 RBIs. The Reds won a division title and Mark continued in the postseason, hitting a homer in two at-bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, and then going 1 for 4 as the Reds were swept by the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. He finally got another chance to play regularly in 1996, after he was traded to the Detroit Tigers as the player to be named later to complete a deal during the previous season which had brought P David Wells to Cincinnati. He played 145 games as the Tigers' starting second baseman that season and hit .270 with 30 doubles, 11 homers and 55 RBIs. But the Tigers were not ready to commit to him on the longer term, and now increasingly considered a bust, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants after the season, with the Tigers only getting a minor leaguer in return.

Lewis's last few years in the majors must have been increasingly frustrating for him. He would earn a regular job with a team one year, perform decently, and then be let go after the season, only to see the pattern start anew. In 1997, he hit .167 in 118 games for a Giants team that won a division title, splitting his time between third and second base, but started only one game in the postseason. He went 3 for 5 against the Florida Marlins in that Division Series game, but that was also his last game in a Giants uniform. He became a free agent and in 1998 was playing with the Philadelphia Phillies, starting at second base and hitting .249 with 9 homers in 142 games. In the high-octane offensive days of the late 1990s, that was good only for an OPS+ of 73, though, and he was not retained for the following season. In 1999, he was still just 29, but was now back with the Reds, already his sixth career stop. He played 88 games, hit .254 with some doubles and a handful of homers, and lo and behold, was still around at the start of the 2000 season. That did not last though, since after 11 games, he was hitting .105 and was placed on waivers. The Baltimore Orioles claimed him and he hit .270 in 71 games for them. In 2001, he finished his career where it had started, with the Cleveland Indians, but played only 6 games. He did hit .299 in 48 games for the AAA Buffalo Bisons that season, so he was still a potentially productive player, but he retired after the season.

He attempted a comeback with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League in 2007 but played in just one game, going 0-for-2. Looking at his career, while it is true that he only maintained an OPS+ over 100 in one year, and that was in part-time play with the Reds in 1995, it seems a shame that no team gave him a chance to stick for a couple of seasons at a position and grow as a hitter. The underlying talent was there, but the constant changes of team and position really stunted his career. In 902 major league games, he hit .263 with 48 homers and 306 RBIs, not bad production for someone who could handle all three infield positions.

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