After nudging out California’s Garret Anderson for the 1995 AL Rookie of the Year Award, Marty Cordova appeared headed for a long career filled with offensive fireworks. But his stock fell precipitously following a string of disappointing seasons, before he rediscovered his swing and enjoyed a renaissance at the plate with Cleveland in 2001.
As a rookie, the right-handed hitting outfielder batted .277 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI over 137 games with Minnesota. In the process he tied Twins’ Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew’s team record of homering in five straight games and joined Larry Hisle and Kirby Puckett as the only Twins to notch 20 homers and 20 steals in the same season. While slipping to 16 longballs during his sophomore campaign, Cordova more than made up for his power decline by raising his average to .311 and driving in a career-high 111 runs.
In 1997 however, a lingering plantar fascitis injury contributed to a sharp decline in production which saw his average slide to .246. Following two more mediocre seasons in Minnesota, Cordova fell out of favor with the Twins and was granted free agency by the club in October 1999. He signed with the Red Sox the following January but was released before the start of the season. The Blue Jays quickly picked him up, but after earning steady playing time early in the year Cordova appeared in just 19 games during the second half. His career looked all but over before Cleveland took a gamble and signed the 31-year-old outfielder to a minor-league contract in December 2000. Cordova rewarded the Indians by winning a spot in left field and opening the season on a torrid hitting tear, adding another potent bat to the club’s intimidating lineup.