|Name:||Miguel Angel Reyes Dilone||Position:||Left Field|
|Accolades:||Top 25 MVP (1980)||DOB:||November 1, 1954|
|Best Season (1980)||132||528||82||180||30||9||0||40||28||45||61||18||77%||.375||.432||.341||.807|
In the 1980’s there was a stolen base revolution. After going from 1915 through 1976 without a season where 3,000 bases were stolen across baseball, it would happen nine times in the 1980’s and twice in the late 1970’s. Not just a function of the increase in teams and games played, by the end of 1988, 20 of the top 28 single season steal totals came from 1974 on with only Maury Wills holding marks that didn’t come from prior to 1916 or after 1974.
For the Indians, this break was more distinct. In 1917, two base runners took 50+ bases, Braggo Roth and Ray Chapman, but after that point the steals dried up. In just 13 seasons between 1918 and 1978 an Indians base runner took more than 20 bases and there were 17 where no individual stole more than ten. In 1979, the team strategy finally shifted, a few years behind the rest of the league, as Rick Manning, Jim Norris, Toby Harrah and Bobby Bonds all attempted 25 or more steals. However, they weren’t particularly successful beyond Manning as Bonds was caught 23 times in 57 attempts and Norris 10 out of 25. Part of this philosophical change included the purchase of Miguel Dilone from the Cubs after he had stolen 83 bases in 116 attempts in his first three full seasons.
It may be surprising that such an electric player was available, but Dilone was a below average player through 1979, hitting .220 with a .550 OPS while playing average defense at best. This removes some of the surprise that the Pirates, Athletics and Cubs would give up a super speedy outfielder in the age of the steal.
The deal for Dilone occurred mid-season on May 7th and immediately, he would become the regular left fielder, playing 132 games in 1980 for the Tribe. He’d start off hot and stay hot, batting an incredible .341 mark, the highest for an Indians hitter since Bobby Avila in 1954 (min. 500 AB). The average was good for third best in baseball, but no where near number one as George Brett had one of the best seasons in baseball history, worth 9.4 wins and a .390 average on his way to MVP. Dilone still garnered a few MVP votes and finished 22nd.
Finally getting on base at a decent pace, Dilone was able to get to full speed. He broke the Indians single season steals record with 61 and was caught only 18 times (the previous record being 52 in 1917 by Chapman). To this day, only one player (Kenny Lofton) has surpassed Dilone’s 1980 steal total although he did so in three separate seasons. An overall great year, Dilone also hit nine triples, 30 doubles and scored 82 runs, the first two numbers leading all Indians.
It appeared the Indians had finally found a second star to play alongside Manning in the outfield, but in the strike shortened 1981 season, Dilone would be unable to repeat his incredible first year in Cleveland. He still batted an impressive .290, but he hit just five doubles and five triples as both his OBP and SLG dropped to extremely low levels. He still was a force on the bases, stealing 29 in 39 attempts, but he was nowhere near being an MVP candidate.
Dilone’s 1982 season would see some improvements and some return to his pre-Tribe days. He would steal 33 bases and only be caught five times, at the time the second most efficient base stealing season in Indians history behind only Manning the year before (among those with at least 25 attempts). This has since been surpassed by Roberto Alomar (2000), Grady Sizemore (2008), Jason Kipnis (2014) and Rajai Davis (2016), but remains an impressive feat in both total steals and success rate.
While his batting average dropped to .235, Dilone improved his BB/K rate and hit 12 doubles to make up for some of the lost value. While he played in over 100 games, by the end of the year the Indians had soured on the speedster and after 32 games of hitting .191 in 1983, he was traded to the White Sox to complete a previously made deal to acquire Rich Barnes. This deal wouldn’t be very effective for either site as Barnes pitched in just four games to end 1983 and never played in the Major Leagues again and Dilone would play just four games for the Sox before being traded to the Pirates. Dilone would have one more decent season in 1984 after signing as a free agent with Montreal, stealing 27 bases in 29 attempts and posting the second best batting line of his career. This would disappear quickly, however, and he would leave the Majors for good after his age 30 season in 1985.
For the Indians, Dilone was the poor franchise’s Ricky Henderson or Lou Brock. Despite playing just three seasons as a regular and never playing in more than 140 games in a year, he ranks 17th in Indians history in total steals and fifth in stolen base success rate. Of those ahead of him in total steals, ten played the majority of their careers before 1920, three were his contemporaries (Manning, Brett Butler and Julio Franco) and three were from the distant future, essentially making him Cleveland’s greatest base stealer from 1921 through 1991.
During and after his playing career in the US, Dilone played in the Dominican League for 22 seasons and managed there as well towards the end of his career. In 2009, Dilone lost his left eye while coaching his son when he was hit by a foul ball that ricocheted off the batting cage.