Winter memories: Revisiting the Alomar trade

Tribe launches '90s tear on heels of Alomar-Baerga acquisition at 1989 Winter Meetings

December 7th, 2017

CLEVELAND -- The smoke cleared from the Opryland Hotel room long ago, but the impact of the trade made between the Indians and Padres nearly three decades ago can still be seen at Progressive Field. During Tribe games these days, Sandy Alomar Jr. takes up residence in the first-base coach's box.
Alomar was the signature piece in the 1989 deal that made for arguably the most memorable Winter Meetings in team annals, and serves as one of the most important moments in club history. The franchise-defining trade that shipped slugger Joe Carter to the Padres also reeled in Carlos Baerga, and provided Cleveland with two critical bricks for the foundation of its incredible '90s teams.
"The trade for Sandy and Carlos really jump-started the organization," John Hart, then a special assignment scout for the Tribe, said when he was inducted into the Indians' Hall of Fame alongside Baerga four years ago.

Hart went on to become the general manager of the Indians from 1991-2001, but he worked under former Indians GM Hank Peters when the Winter Meetings were held at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., in '89. As the story goes, by the time Hart knocked on Jim Turner's door, a heavy cloud of cigarette and cigar smoke filled the room being used by Carter's agent.
Turner and Jack McKeon -- San Diego's manager and GM, respectively, at the time -- were deep into negotiations on a contract extension for Carter. That step needed to get done in order to bring this trade to fruition, and there was only a 24-hour window in which to complete that aspect of the agreement.
"Ultimately they got the deal done," Hart said.
As for the players involved, the Padres were willing to discuss Benito Santiago or Alomar, and Cleveland pushed for the latter. For the second piece, Hart was insistent about a young infielder named Baerga. San Diego was reluctant and offered the names of outfielders Thomas Howard and Jerald Clark.
"Baerga was the guy that held up the deal," Hart said. "Baerga was a guy that we wanted. Didn't look like it was going to get done. Jack finally relented."
And, with that, the Tribe's 1990s renaissance was set into motion.
During the 1990 campaign, Alomar won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in his first of 11 seasons with the Indians, as part of a 20-year Major League career. Alomar went on to be a six-time All-Star, Gold Glove Award winner and the MVP of the '97 All-Star Game in Cleveland. For the past eight seasons, Alomar has served as either a first-base coach or bench coach for the Indians' staff.

Baerga broke into the big leagues in 1990 as a 21-year-old utility player, but went on to be a key cog at second base for Cleveland. He was a three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner in his eight years with the Indians, who reached the World Series in '95 with Baerga in the fold.

The Indians' strike-shortened 1994 campaign snapped a string of seven consecutive losing seasons, and the club went on to win the AL Central crown each year from '95-99 and AL pennants in '95 and '97. Baerga was part of the teams that got that momentum going, and Alomar remained a fixture through the 2000 season.
Carter also went on to be a cornerstone player for run of postseason appearances, but did so for the Blue Jays, not the Padres. He spent just that 1990 season in San Diego before being dealt to Toronto -- with Roberto Alomar -- for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff. Toronto went on to win back-to-back World Series titles in '92-93, with Carter belting his famous walk-off homer to defeat the Phillies in Game 6 of the '93 Fall Classic.

That defining moment for the Blue Jays, and the success experienced in Cleveland in the 1990s, can be traced back to that smoke-filled room in Nashville.
"It was Alomar all the way. We made that clear," Hart said of the negotiations. "Baerga was really the holding point. The young player that we were going to add to Sandy was critical. I went out to see them at Las Vegas and Baerga just stood out. He was the guy we held out for. We just weren't going to make the deal without Baerga."