Carlos Baerga: Late Nineties Mets Second Baseman (1996-1998)

Carlos Obed Baerga was born November 4, 1968, in Santurce, Puerto Rico. The five-foot eleven infielder got signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Diego Padres when he was 16 years old. Baerga was a top prospect soon getting traded along with Sandy Alomar Jr. & Chris James to the Cleveland Indians for Joe Carter.

He quickly was called up to the Indians after batting .380 in twelve games at AAA Colorado Springs. He began his career as a third baseman & short stop, making 14 errors in 89 games (.944%) in 1991.

By 1992 Baerga became Cleveland’s regular second baseman and would hit over .300 four straight seasons. He hit over 20 HRs and drove in over 100 runs two straight years as well (1992-1993).

Those stats made him the first second baseman since Hall of Famer, Rogers Hornsby to reach those offensive numbers. He made three All Star teams and was considered twice in the MVP voting. Baerga would also hit over 25 doubles seven straight seasons, bashing thirty plus twice.

In 1992 he hit .312 (6th in the AL) had 205 hits (second in the AL) & drove in 105 runs (tenth in the AL). He also hit 20 HRs, with 92 runs scored, 32 doubles & nine sac flies. At second base he led the league in put outs, assists & games played.

Switch Hit HR In Same Inning: On April 8th, 1993, he made history, becoming the first switch hitter to homer from each side of the plate in the same inning. It happened at home in Cleveland’s Jacobs Field, off the AL New York's club pitchers Steve Howe & Steve Farr.

That year he had career bests in batting average .321 (fifth in the AL) HRs (21) RBIs, 114 (sixth in the AL), & on base % (.355%). For the second year in a row, he had 200 hits (second in the league).

In 1993 he also won a Silver Slugger Award & was one of the best all round second baseman in the AL. In his six and a half years in Cleveland he saw the team develop into the powerhouse unit they became in the mid 1990’s. 

In 1995 the Indians won 100 games finishing in first place for the first time since 1954. Baerga led the club in hits (175) & was tied for second on the club with Jim Thome in batting (.314) as well as third to Albert Belle & Thome in runs (92).

1995 Post Season- ALDS: In the 1995 ALDS against the Boston Red Sox he drove in a run & batted .286.

1996 ALCS: In the ALCS win over the Seattle Mariners he batted .400 going 10-25. In Game #6 Carlos hit a solo HR off Randy Johnson in the 4-0 clincher sending the Indians to their first World Series in 41 years.

1995 World Series: In the World Series loss to the Atlanta Braves, Carlos drove in four runs, with a pair of doubles batting .192 (5-26). He made the last out of the World Series, flying out to Atlanta’s centerfielder Marquis Grissom wrapping up Tom Glavine's 1-0 shutout. Overall, in the post season, he hit .292 with one HR and four RBIs.

Baerga had become a very popular player in the blue-collar city of Cleveland. He was a very
popular player in his native Puerto Rico as well playing winter ball & attending events.

Rumors & Drama in Cleveland: By the 1996 seasons, there were rumors in Cleveland that Baerga was sleeping with Indians closer Jose Mesa’s wife. Reportedly Mesa told the Tribe one of the two of them had to go. The front office chose to get rid of Baerga. The team cited that Carlos had been out of shape, gaining a good twenty pounds by Spring Training. They also claimed his work ethic was an issue. 

In 1996 after 100 games, Baerga was hitting .267 with 10 HRs 55 RBIs & was traded to the New York Mets along with Alavaro Espinoza in exchange for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino.

Mets Career: At first Baerga was welcomed in New York & his expectations were big for an organization on the rise. On July 30th, Carlos debuted as pinch hitter at Shea Stadium in the first game of a double header in a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He collected a pinch base hit in both ends of that twin bill. 

On August 11th, he hit one of his two Mets HRs that year, coming in a 5-3 win at Florida. In August he had three multi-hit games but at the end of the month he went down with an injury that shut him down for two weeks. Overall, he struggled for the remainder of the season hitting just .193 with two HRs & 11 RBIs in 26 Mets games. 

1997: Baerga became the Met regular second baseman for manager Bobby Valentine, but he wasn’t able to hit like he did in Cleveland. Valentine let it be known he wasn't happy with Baerga's approach to hitting calling it an embarrassment. 

In the month of April to start the season, Carlos only hit .188.

Things got better in May, as he batted .368 with eight extra base hits & 15 RBIs, his best month of the season. On May 3rd, he had a four-hit game, with a pair of doubles in a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea. In a mid-May he hit safely in ten of eleven games with a five-game stretch where he collected ten hits with three multi-hit games. On May 17th he drove in two of the Mets three runs in a 3-1 win over the Rockies. 

Four RBI Games: On May 28th in Montreal, Carlos hit his first HR of the season, a two-run shot off the Expos, Pedro Martinez. Carlos collected three hits & drove in four runs that day in a 7-0 Bobby Jones two hit shutout.

On May 31st, three days later he had another four RBI game, with a pair of RBI singles off Mark Leiter in a 10-3 Mets win over the Phillies.

On June 3rd he had an 8th inning game winning single off Pedro Martinez to beat the Expos 2-1. 

Walk Off Hit:
On June 24th, Baerga had a three hit, three RBI game against the Braves at Shea Stadium. In the bottom of the 8th, he tied the game with a two run HR off Mike Bielecki. 
In the bottom of the 9th, with the score tied 5-5, he collected a walk off base hit off Mark Wholers for the 6-5 Mets win.

On August 7th, he had a four-hit game against the Rockies at Shea, hitting a solo HR off Bill Swift, his 7th HR of the year. Carlos added a n RBI double & a pair of RBI singles driving in four runs in Mark Clark's complete game victory.

That month Carlos hit .329 with 24 hits & 11 RBIs. He hit safely in 12 of 15 games raising his average up to the .295 mark for the year. 

On August 21st, Carlos hit a 6th inning two run HR off the Dodgers Tom Candiotti leading the Mets to a 3-2 win.

Game Winning Walk: On August 22nd, he collected two hits in a game with the San Diego Padres at Shea Stadium. In the bottom of the 11th, he drew a walk with the bases loaded from pitcher Will Cunnane for a walk off 9-8 win.

That year the Mets finished third 88-74 in Bobby Valentine's first full season as manager. In his first full season with the Mets, Baerga hit a solid .281 with 25 doubles 9 HRs 52 RBIs & a .311 on base %. 

It certainly wasn’t the All-Star caliber hitting he had been doing a few seasons ago, along the shores of Lake Erie. At second base he made 14 errors at second, posting a .978 fielding percentage turning 88 double plays with Rey Ordonez up the middle.

1998: This year his fielding improved as Carlos would make only nine errors in 144 games at second base. But at the plate he struggled.

In April he didn't get over the .200 mark until the last day of the month, after playing in 22 games.

Things picked up in May, as he batted .368 that month with 35 hirs, hitting 5 HRs & driving in twenty runs.

On May 13th he hit a first inning three run HR leading the Mets to a 4-3 win over the Padres at San Diego. From May 20th to June 1Sst he had an eight-game hit streak, hitting four HRs & driving in 11 runs in that stretch. That week his hitting helped spark a Mets ten game win streak getting them ten games over .500.

Walk Off Hit: On June 25th, in an inter league game at Shea with the Baltimore Orioles, Baerga had a walk off RBI single off Armando Benitez, to beat the O's 3-2. 

On June 28th, he collected an RBI single off Orlando Hernandez in the 2-1 subway series win at Shea Stadium. He was batting over .300 in early June but his average slowly began to fall as the season went on. 

Four RBI Game:
On July 24th in a double header centerfieldmaz traveled to at Wrigley Field. Carlos had a three-hit day night cap, driving in a season high four runs in the 7-3 Mets win. He collected a 6th inning two run double off Terry Mulholland & a 9th inning two run single off Tony Fossas. The Mets took both ends of the 
doubleheader in Chicago.

After hitting a HR on May 20th, he went on a three-month HR drought, not hitting another until August 30th in a 4-2 loss at Dodger Stadium. He would hit one more in September & drive in just eight runs in the final two months of the season as his average dropped to .266.

Overall, Carlos hit just 7 HRs with 27 doubles & 53 RBIs posting a .303 on base % & .667 OPS. He did lead the team in pinch hits (6) as well as sac flies (7) but with the fans were not happy with his overall performance.

The Mets organization also had expected more of him, as the team improved to finish in second place going 88-74 for the second straight season, their best finishes in eight years. 
The Mets would mov Edgardo Alfonzo over to play second base, then sign Robin Ventura for third base as they went on to a wild card berth & two straight post season appearances.

Mets Career Stats: In his three-year Mets career, Baerga batted .267 with 283 hits 55 doubles 18 HRs & 116 RBIs in 306 games played.

Post Mets Career: In the off season, Baerga was let go to free agency & signed with the Cardinals but was released during Spring Training. He signed with the Reds & got released as well. He then was signed by San Diego Padres where he hit .250 in 33 games before getting his contract purchased by the Indians where ended the season.

 Korean Baseball: In 2000 he found himself playing baseball in Korea & then in the Independent League. 

In 2002 he returned to MLB with the Boston Red Sox where he made a good come back hitting .280 in 73 games. He then went on to play utility roles with the Arizona Diamond Backs (2003-2004) & Washington Nationals (2005).

Career Stats: In his 14-season career Baerga hit an impressive .291 lifetime with 1583 hits 279 doubles 17 triples 731 runs scored a .332 on base % and 774 RBIs playing in 1630 games. 

At second base he played 1063 games with a .976 fielding % making 130 errors turning 759 double plays. 

Retirement: On a personal note, Carlos became a born-again Christian. He also converted former professional boxer friends- Alex Sanchez & Felix Trinidad.

Since his playing days Carlos has worked as an analyst on the ESPN Spanish Despotes channel. He has been a manager & owner of a team in the Puerto Rican National Baseball League.

Family: Carlos & his wife Miriam (Cruz) have two children together.

Carlos is recognized by fans and fellow co-workers as "Carlos Obed".

Honors: In the 2016 World Series Baerga threw out the ceremonial first pitch of Game #2 in Cleveland. He also joined his former teammates in the 1995 Indians team reunion.


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