It’s time to revive my favorite series for Standing Room Only: Memorable Careers. In this series, Scott and I pick some of our all time favorite players. The only rule we have here is that the players we pick to profile cannot be major franchise icons. They have to be players that may fly under the radar, but either have a great personality or something that stood out to you. So, my next pick for Memorable Careers is Jake Westbrook.
For anyone that’s an Indians fan, you remember Jake Westbrook being a long term staple of the franchise for 10 years. After being acquired by the Indians from the Yankees in 2001, Westbrook became a regular member of the Indians rotation starting in 2002. He was never someone who threw incredibly hard. He was a ground ball machine with his signature pitch being the sinker. With guys like CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and the man who later turned out to not be Fausto Carmona headlining the Indians rotations, Westbrook sometimes was the forgotten man.
I was lucky enough to meet Jake Westbrook when I was in middle school in 2007. My family made several spring break trips to Florida to watch Indians Spring training, and Westbrook was one of the players to stand out to me in camp. He would come out and sign autographs to anyone who wanted them. He would strike up conversations with the crowd and always seemed happy to interact with the fans. Moments like that is why Jake Westbrook stands out to me today.
After Westbrook signed a 3 year $33 million extension, there were some tough times. The 2007 team that was only one win away from the World Series was dismantled, Westbrook received Tommy John Surgery, and the hope in Cleveland seemly ran out. When Westbrook returned to action in 2010, he became a trade piece for a team in desperate need of young talent.
On trade deadline day in 2010, Westbrook was shipped to the Cardinals in a three team trade that the Indians netted an unknown AA pitcher named Corey Kluber from the Padres. In the long run, things worked out for everyone. The Indians received a future two time Cy Young Award winner and Westbrook received the World Series ring that he so desperately coveted just a year later with St. Louis.
Baseball is an amazing game. While fans might by the jersey of the star players, true baseball fans don’t forget the genuine good guys of the game. For me, Jake Westbrook was just as much as a franchise staple in Cleveland as was Grady Sizemore and CC Sabathia. He certainly left his mark on the franchise, both as a player and for the pitcher he helped bring to Cleveland in his 2010 trade.