Best Spokane Indian Ever Head-to-Head: No. 4 Ron Cey vs. No. 5 T - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Best Spokane Indian Ever Head-to-Head: No. 4 Ron Cey vs. No. 5 Tommy Lasorda

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It's almost diabolical to pair up a former player with his manager at two levels, but we did. (Photo: Spokane Indians) It's almost diabolical to pair up a former player with his manager at two levels, but we did. (Photo: Spokane Indians)
With the voting in our best-ever Spokane Indian poll heating up, SWX will take a look at the matchups over the next few days to help you make a more educated vote, if not a slanted and biased one based off of local media trying to persuade you to vote for their man! Here is the pairing between seeds No. 4 and No. 5.

You can cast your vote for all of the final field of eight here: bit.ly/1klQ0MS

No. 4 seed Ron Cey: Cey It With Me: The Penguin is the Greatest Spokane Indian Ever (by Neil Stover)

There are really two ways to approach the conversation of “who’s the greatest Spokane Indian of all-time?” One can either A) look strictly at what each candidate did in his time with the Indians, or B) consider his overall playing career, including what he accomplished at the Major League level. But no matter which criterion one chooses, Ron Cey is an obvious choice.Let’s start at the minor league level, where Cey played the 1971 season with the Indians, when they were an AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. If statistics are your thing, buckle up, because Cey put up numbers both sabermetricians and tradionalists alike can appreciate. All Cey accomplished that season was a .328 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .588 slugging percentage in 500 at-bats. All totaled, “The Penguin” compiled an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) nearing 1.000. Wow! For comparison’s sake, when Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera hit for the Triple Crown in 2012, he had an OPS of .999, just .011 points higher than Cey’s 1971 total. But perhaps you’re more into home runs and RBIs. Well, how about Cey’s 23 bombs and 123 runs batted in? Is that good enough for you?

These days, it is easy to say, “well, those are just minor league stats. Those don’t actually mean anything.” Okay, fair enough, let’s take a look at what Cey accomplished at the Major League level. In his 17-year career with the Dodgers, Cubs and A’s, Cey was a .261 hitter, launching 316 home runs and driving in 1,139 runs. The third baseman was also a six time all-star (1974-79), during which time he AVERAGED 5.7 wins above replacement (WAR) per season. For those unfamiliar with the sabermetric line of thinking, Fangraphs.com classifies a 5-6 WAR player as a “superstar,” and anything above 6 WAR equating to an “MVP” caliber performance. Cey twice posted WARs above 6.0.

Yet, no matter what sport, someone somewhere will inevitably judge a player by whether or not he ever won anything. Well, if that’s you, you’re in luck; Cey was a key component of the 1981 World Series champion Dodgers, even winning the World Series MVP award.

So, no matter what your criteria for analyzing a player as the potential “greatest Spokane Indian of all-time,” Ron Cey likely meets and exceeds each one. From his offense, to his defense, to his “ability” to win the big game, Cey left little to be achieved during his career in the Majors and Minors.

Oh, and by the way, he’s a local boy. Cey grew up in Tacoma before attending – and starring at – Washington State University. Certainly, that alone does not qualify him as the “greatest Spokane Indian of all-time,” but with all of the objective reasoning backing him, who doesn’t appreciate a little subjective, local-boy love to push him over the top?


No. 5 seed Tommy Lasorda: The Case for Tommy Lasorda (by Sam Adams)

The easy argument against Tommy Lasorda for greatest Spokane Indian of All-Time is going to be “he’s a manager… he doesn’t count.” To which I answer, “so what?” That’s like trying to keep Connie Mack or Tony LaRussa out of Cooperstown because they were great managers, not players. The title, simply put, is “Greatest Indian of All-Time.” Nowhere in that title is the word “player” or “pitcher” mentioned. Greatest Indian. And there was arguably no greater Spokane Indian than Tommy Lasorda.

He presided on a 1970 Spokane Indians team that is generally regarded as the greatest minor league baseball team of all-time. Let me say that again: greatest minor league baseball team… of all-time.

Granted, that team was loaded with talent. There’s no denying that. The players on the roster that season would go on to appears in 23 World Series and 21 All-Star Games. But let’s not forget that it was Lasorda who managed all of those spectacular players, and got them pulling in one direction. Remember, this was the AAA affiliate for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Many of these players were focused on getting to the big leagues, not necessarily winning the Pacific Coast League. One could argue that it was Lasorda’s deft hand that helped convince these guys to buy in and live up to their enormous potential.

If not for Tommy Lasorda, perhaps the 1970 Spokane Indians wouldn’t be known as the greatest minor league team of all-time, but rather the most talented minor league team of all-time. There’s a big difference, and Lasorda was on watch to make sure his team won the PCL title and cemented its legendary status.

Voting for this poll has closed! Make sure you vote in the semi-final round starting on Tuesday, June 3, at 9:00 a.m. PDT!
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