Jose Ramon Nova Mesa
2 Time All-Star (1995-1996), Relief-Man of the Year (1995), Top 5 MVP (1995), Top 2 Cy Young (1995)
Best Season (1995)
Post Season Career
Mesa became the Indians first dominant strike out closer for the Cleveland Indians, becoming a relief pitcher in 1994 after being in the starting rotation from 1992 to 1993. Although the Indians could see Mesa's raw talent, it didn't show through when he started and he was the worst pitcher in the rotation each of those two seasons. In 1994, Mesa was replaced in the rotation by free agent starter Dennis Martinez and thrown head first into the bullpen, where he proceeded to have the best season of his career, setting career bests in ERA, WHIP, K/9 and BAA. In 1995 he replaced Jeff Russell as closer, a year after Russell lead the team with eight save opportunities. In 1995 Mesa has 48 save opportunities and set an Indians record with 46 saves.
1995 was a perfect combination of a lot of things, leading to the Indians first World Series appearance since 1954. Mesa was a huge part of that, throwing what was probably the greatest season in Indians history as a relief pitcher. Mesa allowed 8 runs during the entire season and, although he blew two saves, never took a loss. The Indians had a penchant for comeback wins that year and Mesa was a huge part of their ability to keep a lead. Along with being an Indians record, his 46 saves lead the AL as well and were enough to win him the Rolaids Relief-Man of the Year award for top reliever. He continued his success through the first two rounds of the playoffs, allowing just a single run in 6 innings, but in the World Series it all came apart. Mesa's luck had run out and he would never be as good as he was during the regular season of 1995 again.
Through 1996 and 1997, Mesa remained the closer, but with just 55 total saves across the two years after 46 in a strike shortened season the year prior. In his final season with the Tribe, Mesa was replaced as closer by Mike Jackson (another of the Indians top ten all-time closers), then traded to the Giants for a utility player and a short inning relief pitcher. Like many closers, Mesa was a fire that burned hot and quickly going from a beloved pitcher for the Tribe to a hated villain in just a few short years.
On the first page of Omar Vizquel's autobiography Omar!, Vizquel wrote that Mesa's eyes were dead and basically accused him of blowing the 1997 World Series. Because of this accusation, Mesa threatened to kill Vizquel the next time he saw him and years later was given his chance, after both players were long gone from the Indians. Mesa threw at Vizquel's head with his first pitch, was ejected from the game and suspended. Mesa still pitched through 2007, playing for eight teams, but the he still spent more years in Cleveland than with any other team. Because of his negative personality traits and short career with the Tribe, Mesa is unlikely to be enshrined in the Indians Hall of Fame, but he was still important enogh to be mentioned as an All-Time Indian.