Michael Ray Jackson
Top 21 MVP (1998)
Best Season (1998)
Post Season Career
Before coming to the Indians in 1997, Mike Jackson was a journeyman reliever, bouncing from coast to coast, playing for Seattle and Philadelphia among other teams. He was never a fulltime closer Prior to the 1997 season, Jackson signed a 3 year, $6M contract to join an already impressive Indians bullpen. While he was just expected to be a regular right handed reliever, Jose Mesa's career meltdown during the regular season gave him a chance to shine.
Jackson saved 15 games that year and was the closer during the World Series as well. In fact, he threw in 13 games during that Post Season and allowed just a single run. While he didn't get any saves, he did win a game in the ALDS. In 1998 Mesa was traded away, allowing Jackson to take the fulltime closers roll for the entire year. He proceeded to put out one of the best seasons ever as an Indians closer with 40 saves in 45 chances and an ERA of 1.55. He was so impressive that he ranked in the MVP voting for the only time in his career.
His final season with the Tribe was still successful (39 saves out of 43 opportunities), but his averages fell of with his worst ERA since 1990 and worst WHIP since 1992. In just three seasons, Jackson moved into third ever in saves in Indians history (since passed by Bob Wickman and Chris Perez). He remains in the top top five among all Indians pitchers ever in saves, save opportunities and WHIP. His 89.5% save completion percentage is the greatest ever among Indians closers.
The Indians allowed Jackson to become a free agent prior to 2000 when he promptly injured himself and missed an entire season (his $3M salary that year was the most he ever made in a single season and he didn't play a single game). He only played three more seasons after that point and was never given another chance to closer, despite his extreme proficiency at converting saves.