Nelson Cruz (cruzne02)
Nelson Ramon Cruz
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 225 lb.
Nelson Cruz was on two Caribbean Series winners in a row. He was signed by scout Eddy Toledo for the New York Mets in February 1998. He played for the DSL Mets 1 in 1998-1999, DSL Mets 2 in 1999, and DSL Mets East in 2000. He was then traded to the Oakland Athletics for Jorge Velandia and spent 2001 to 2004 in the A's minor-league system. Acquired by Milwaukee before 2005, he was called up that year and batted .200 in 8 games. He was Milwaukee's Minor League Player of the Year in 2005. In 2006 he hit .302 with 22 doubles, 20 home runs, 73 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 104 Minor League games for the Brewers. Cruz came to Texas from the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline in 2006. He hit .223 with six homers and 22 RBIs, playing 41 games for Texas. Cruz then credited Ranger coach Rudy Jaramillo with helping him improve during the winter of 2006-2007. The pair worked on shortening Cruz's swing, patience at the plate and situational hitting.
He won the Rangers' starting right field job in 2007. The Rangers planned for him to become an everyday player on the major league level, but it did not take as he had a disappointing season, however, hitting .235 with 9 home runs in 307 at-bats. In the 2008 Caribbean Series, Cruz led the Tigres del Licey in average, hitting .407/.429/.667 to help them to a title. His Dominican League manager, Felix Fermin, was quoted as saying: "He's serious, and most important, he is a hard worker, ... very dedicated to his profession. He won't make the Rangers organization look bad if he is given the opportunity." However, he was sent back to AAA in 2008. There he had an outstanding season for the Oklahoma RedHawks and was named the Pacific Coast League's Most Valuable Player. In AAA that year, he hit .342/.429/.695 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI in 103 games on his way to the MVP title. He led the PCL in slugging, was third in average, was second to Brian Myrow in OBP, was second to Dallas McPherson in homers and was third with 24 steals, trailing Andres Torres and Tim Raines Jr. He continued hitting well with the 2008 Rangers, putting him once again in the picture for a full-time job in the outfield. He put up a batting line of .330/.421/.609 in 31 games with 7 home runs, 26 RBI and 17 walks.
Cruz was the left fielder for the disappointing 1-2 Dominican Republic entry in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He was one of their better performers, going 3 for 11 with 2 walks and a homer, the long ball coming off Manuel Corpas in their win over Panama. This good form carried over into the 2009 regular season, as Cruz showed excellent power, earning a spot on the All-Star team by having 22 homers at the break. He made the final of the Home Run Derby, losing out to Prince Fielder. He ended the season with 33 homers and 76 RBI in 128 games. In 2010, he only played in 108 games because of various injuries, but was excellent during when he was in the line-up. His batting line was .318/.374/.576 with 22 homers and 78 RBI. He was a one-man wrecking crew in the Rangers' win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, hitting 2 doubles and 3 homers in 5 games, then added 3 doubles and 2 homers in the ALCS against the New York Yankees, for a combined batting average of .375. He cooled down in the World Series in Texas's loss in 5 games to the San Francisco Giants, but still managed 2 doubles and a homer.
Nelson Cruz opened the 2011 season by hitting a homer in each of his team's first four games. Only Willie Mays (in 1971) and Mark McGwire (in 1998) had accomplished the feat before him. Not coincidentally, the Rangers opened the season with four straight wins. He had another very good season, hitting .263/.312/.509 with 28 doubles, 29 homers and 87 RBI. After going 1 for 15 in the ALDS against the Rays, he exploded in the ALCS facing the Detroit Togers: he hit 6 homers and 2 doubles, scored 7 runs and drove in 13 to propel the Rangers into the World Series for the second straight year. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the ALCS, unsurprisingly. He wasn't as dominant in the Fall Classic against the St. Louis Cardinals, but still managed a pair of home runs, with 5 runs scored. He appeared to have hit a third homer in the 6th inning of Game 7 off Chris Carpenter, but left fielder Allen Craig leapt to grab the ball over the fence. It was the Rangers' last real threat of the game, as they went down, 6-2, to fall short of the ultimate prize for the second straight year.
On May 25, 2012, Cruz had one of his best games against the Toronto Blue Jays: he went 4 for 5, hit a grand slam off Jason Frasor and drove in a career-high 8 runs, to lead the Rangers to a 14-3 win. He hit .260 with a career-high 45 doubles that season, paired with 24 homers and 90 RBIs, also a career high. However, the season ended in disappointment as the Rangers were passed by the Oakland A's for the AL West title on the last day of the season, and thus had to play the Wild Card Game against the Baltimore Orioles. Cruz went 2 for 4 in the game, played in Texas on October 5th, but the Rangers went down, 5-1.
Cruz accepted a 50-game suspension resulting from MLB's investigation of the Biogenesis Laboratories on August 5, 2013. He had been having an excellent season, going to the All-Star Game for the second time and was hitting .269 with 27 homers and 76 RBI in 108 games when his season ended because of the suspension. The suspension was supposed to last until the last day of the regular season and exclude the postseason, and the Rangers indicated that Cruz would be welcomed back should they make it that far. In fact, his services were required even before that, as the Rangers had to play a one-game playoff against the Tampa Bay Rays to determine the winner of the AL's second wild card slot; as the game was played on September 30th and his suspension had ended on the 29th, he was eligible to take part in that crucial contest. He was the Rangers' DH in that game, but went 0 for 4 and made the last out of the game as the Rays won and advanced to the Wild Card Game.
A free agent after the season, it took him a while to find a new team after turning down a qualifying offer from the rangers. Spring training was already started when on February 22nd, he signed a one-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles for $8 million. The issue of the compensation in the form of a draft pick that was to be paid for Cruz delayed his signing, as did that of a number of other top free agents. In Cruz's case, there were also questions about how he would bounce back from his PED suspension. He had a great first game as an Oriole, homering off Jon Lester and scoring both of his team's runs in a 2-1 win over the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day, March 31st. He continued to be one of the hottest hitters in the majors over the first two months of the season. By hitting 2 homers against the Brewers on May 28th, he increased his season's total to 19, leading the majors; his 48 RBIs also put him atop the leader board and his batting average stood at .306 at that point. On May 31st, he became the first major leaguer with 20 homers when he went deep against Jerome Williams of the Houston Astros in a 4-1 win. He was elected the starting DH for the American League in the 2014 All-Star Game and while his home run production slowed down after the All-Star break, the Orioles took command of the AL East race. On September 7th, he had a career day, driving in all 7 Orioles runs in a 7-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, hitting two homers and a triple. That gave him 39 homers and 101 RBIs, and he was still leading the major leagues in long balls. On September 23rd, he became the 6th player in Orioles history to have a 40-homer season. That number ended up being enough to lead the AL. In the postseason, he went 6 for 12 with a pair of homers, 4 runs scored and 5 RNI to lead the Orioles to a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the Division Series, then was for for 16 with a double as the O's were swept in turn by the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS.
Nelson cashed in on his great season on December 1st when he signed a four-year free agent deal with the Seattle Mariners for $57 million. He got off to a quick start for his new team, as between April 11-15, 2015, he homered in five consecutive games, including a two-homer game on the 13th. On April 19th, he hit a pair of homers against the Rangers to bring his major league-leading total to 8, but it was a two-out single in the bottom of the 9th, driving in Seth Smith with the winning run for his fifth RBI of the game, that gave the Mariners an 11-10 win. He was named the AL Player of the Month for April on the strength of a .322 average, 10 homers, 14 runs scored and 22 RBIs. He was the American League's starting DH at the 2015 All-Star Game, then had a second streak of five consecutive games with a home run in late July and early August. He was only the fifth player in major league history to have two such streaks in the same season. The second five-game stretch came in the middle of a career-best 19-game hitting streak during which he hit a scorching .422 with 6 doubles, 11 homers and 15 RBIs. He extended the hitting streak to 20 games the next day, although his string of 9 straight games with an extra-base hit ended. He made it 21 straight games with a hit on August 11th when he hit his 34th homer of the year in the 1st inning against the Baltimore Orioles, but he had to leave the game in the 7th with neck spasms. He finished the season with a .302 average, 44 homers and 93 RBIs in 152 games and won a Silver Slugger Award for the first time of his career. He was also 6th in the MVP voting.
During batting practice on May 28, 2016, he became only the second man to hit a ball out of Safeco Field and the first Mariner to do so. (Glenallen Hill, a former Mariner, did it in 2000 while with the New York Yankees). The ball was hit down the left field line between two pillars that hold up the stadium's retractable roof. On July 23rd, he had another tremendous game against the Blue Jays: with a grand slam off R.A. Dickey in the 3rd and a three-run homer off Drew Storen in the 8th, he drove in 7 runs in a 14-5 win. It was the third time of his career he had driven 7 or more runs against Toronto, making him only the second player in history, after Ralph Kiner, to do so against one team (Kiner's victims were the Brooklyn Dodgers). He hit .287 with 43 homers and 105 RBIs that season. In 2017, he had a year that was almost identical, as he led the AL with 119 RBIs, to go along with 39 homers and a .288 average in 155 games. That earned him a return to the All-Star Game - his 5th appearance in the mid-summer classic - and he was named the winner of the Silver Slugger Award at DH.
Cruz started the 2018 season red hot, hitting a homer in his first two games, but in the second of these on March 31st, he suffered a freak injury. He twisted his ankle on the dugout steps after his blast off Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians in the 6th inning and had to leave the game. He was placed on the disabled list a day later. He came back on April 14th and made his 6th All-Star team that season. He played 144 games and while his batting average went down to .256, his power numbers remained strong, with 37 homers and 97 RBIs. At 37, he was still one of the most productive DHs in the league and put up an OPS+ of 135. However, the season was a major disappointment for the Mariners, who started strong and seemed a cinch to make the postseason, only to see the Oakland Athletics come out of nowhere and vault past them into second place, behind the uncatchable Astros. With the New York Yankees winning 100 games to earn the first wild card berth, the M's were left with nothing to show for their 89 wins, their highest total since 2003. This prompted upper management to decide to start again from scratch, as they proceeded to run a fire sale after the season, trading just about all of their veteran players. In the circumstances there was no way they were going to re-sign Cruz, who was a free agent, in spite of his four solid seasons in the Pacific Northwest. On December 27th, he signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Twins, worth $14.3 million.
Cruz was at the center of the Twins' emergence as one of the top teams in the American League in 2019, as they threatened to set new home run records. As the team's main designated hitter, he helped them get off on the right foot by hitting 5 homers and driving in 15 runs in March and April, then after slowing down in May and missing the second half of the month with an injury, was back at it in early June when he homered in four consecutive games from June 5-June 9th. On July 25th, he had a three-homer game for the first time of his career in a 10-3 win over the Chicago White Sox. The three long balls came in the first 5 innings, but he wasn't able to add a fourth in his final two trips to the plate. At 39 and with 382 long balls on his ledger before the game, it was rather remarkable that he had yet to achieve a game with three of them! He did not have to wait long for the second one, though, as on August 3rd he again went deep three times, this time against the Kansas City Royals in an 11-3 win. On August 8th, he ruptured a tendon in his left wrist and was placed on the injured list, but was reactivated after the mandatory ten-day period as it was announced that he was able to play through the injury. He finished the year at .311 with 26 doubles, 41 homers and 108 RBIs in 120 games and was a Silver Slugger Award winner for the third time. In the Division Series, he went 2 for 10 with a homer as the Twins were swept in three games by the New York Yankees in a match-up of 100-game-winning teams.
In June 2020, he was awarded the 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, given by ESPN in recognition of his work in support of the reconstruction of his hometown of Las Matas following a devastating hurricane.
- 2008 MVP Pacific Coast League Oklahoma RedHawks
- 6-time AL All-Star (2009, 2013-2015, 2017 & 2018)
- 2011 ALCS MVP
- 3-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2015/OF, 2017/DH & 2019/DH)
- AL Home Runs Leader (2014)
- AL RBI Leader (2017)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 11 (2009-2019)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 7 (2009 & 2014-2019)
- 40-Home Run Seasons: 4 (2014-2016 & 2019)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (2014, 2016, 2017 & 2019)
- Russell Dorsey: "After 382 career HRs, Cruz has 1st game with 3", mlb.com, July 25, 2019. 
- Do-Hyoung Park: "Cruz amazes with 2nd 3-HR game in 10 days: Baldelli: 'What we’re watching right now...I haven’t seen anything like it'", mlb.com, August 4, 2019. 
- Tracy Ringolsby: "Community never far from Cruz's mind: Slugger's generous moves include donating firetruck, helping with education", mlb.com, June 13, 2016.