Carlos Baerga was born in San Juan
, Puerto Rico
, in 1968. He broke into the majors in 1990 with the Cleveland Indians
, and quickly won a job as their starting second baseman
. Baerga was an important piece of the up-and-coming Indians, eventually batting third in front of slugger Albert Belle
. From 1992 to 1994, Baerga was the best second baseman in the American League
. In 1992 he batted .312, with 20 home run
s and 105 RBI. His 1993 season was even better. Baerga posted career highs in virtually every offensive category, batting .321, with 21 homers, 114 RBI, and 105 runs scored. Baerga even managed to steal 15 bases. In the strike-shortened 1994 season, Baerga had 19 home runs and 80 RBI. Had the season lasted the usual 162 games, Baerga would have posted similar numbers to 1992 and 1993.
Baerga seemed poised on the brink of superstardom. His power numbers declined slightly in 1995, but he still batted .314. In 1996, Baerga inexplicably lost it. Through 100 games, he was batting only .267, a figure that stands out even more considering that Baerga NEVER draws walks. The Indians were aggressively shopping their All-Star second baseman, and finally dealt him to the New York Mets for second baseman Jeff Kent and outfielder Ryan Thompson.
Even as the Mets go, this was a boneheaded trade. Baerga never recovered his form, while Jeff Kent developed into a feared hitter with the San Francisco Giants half a year later. The fact that Baerga was a positive clubhouse influence, while Kent was a malcontent everywhere he went, did not mitigate the pain of Mets fans. In 1997, despite a strong start, Baerga only managed 9 home runs and 52 RBI. That year, Kent posted 29 HR's and 121 RBI.
Baerga's offense was even more feeble in 1998, and his defense and baserunning were also below average. The Mets didn't re-sign him, and he bounced around the majors and minors in 1999. The St. Louis Cardinals invited him to spring training but released him, and he ended up playing a reserve role on two other teams, the San Diego Padres, and the Indians once again. Baerga batted only .241, and was temporarily gone from major league baseball at year's end.
Baerga next turned up playing for the independent league Long Island Ducks, who played only a short distance away from Shea Stadium, the home of the New York Mets. Baerga poured salt in the wounds of Met fans by tearing up independent league pitching, but he failed to draw the attention of major league teams, and spent 2001 playing overseas.
Baerga's comeback began in 2002 with the Boston Red Sox, where he batted .286 in a limited role as a pinch hitter and reserve infielder. For 2003, he latched onto the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he has gotten off to a torrid start, driving in seven runs in one game, and nearly ousting Arizona's Junior Spivey from his starting spot.
mauler mentions that Carlos Baerga ate his way out of the big leagues in the late 1990s, and he is correct. Baerga's nicknames while a member of the Mets were "Chunky" and "Mister Met", because he resembled the Mets' rotund, baseball-headed mascot.