|Name:||Thomas Caesar Candiotti||Position:||Starting Pitcher|
|Tribe Time:||1986-91, 1999||Number:||49|
|Best Season (1986)||16||12||0.571||3.57||36||17||252.1||234||100||18||106||167||1.35||6.0||.236|
The tale of Tom Candiotti is an underdog story of a throw back pitcher coming up in the early 1980's. After going undrafted in 1979, Canditotti signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals in 1980. He had played the prior season with the independent Victoria Mussels, throwing 70 innings with a 2.44 ERA, more than good enough for a chance in the Royals minor league system. At the end of that season, he had yet to make it to the majors and was taken in the rule five draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. Candiotti may have been initially overlooked because he wasn't a hard thrower like the big names of the era. Instead, he was a soft tossing knuckle-baller who was able to finish what he started, rather than throwing heat and being burned out by the sixth inning.
He played in just 18 games for the Brewers in five seasons before Milwaukee became the next team to give up on him. In December of 1985, Candiotti's luck changed however when he signed as a free agent for just $60,000 with the Cleveland Indians. He was immediately thrown into the starting rotation and lead the league in complete games including three shut outs. The Indians rotation was in shambles and Candiotti became the default ace, leading all Indians starters in wins, ERA, IP and strike outs (by almost twice as many as the next best pitcher). He had never shown that level of talent, but all he needed was as the chance and he excelled.
Candiotti remained the ace the next season as the lack of an offense and any pitching besides him lead to an incredibly disappointing 1987 campaign. With no supporting staff, Candiotti had the worst season of his career, losing 18 games with a 4.79. Even two Hall of Famers couldn't help as the Indians tried a doomed experiment by bringing in an aging Steve Carlton and Phil Neikro.
In 1988, a few things changed. Greg Swindell took over the pressure of being the ace and Scott Bailes and John Ferrell helped round out the rotation. The situation remained similar the rest of his time with the team and he remained consistent, winning at least 13 games ever year and ending his career with the Tribe with an ERA of 3.63. Despite playing just five full seasons and throwing just over 1,300 innings, he still remains one of the greatest starters in Indians history.
With free agency looming and the Indians still a few years away from seriously contending, the Indians traded away Candiotti just before the trade deadline in 1991 in exchange for Glenallen Hill, Hard Hittin' Mark Whiten and Denis Boucher. Whiten then came in sixth in the rookie of the year voting and Hill made a serviceably fourth outfielder through 1993. Candiotti didn't remain long in Toronto (a year too soon for a ring), and finally got paid with a six year deal worth more than $20M from Los Angeles in the winter of 1991. After another bout with free agency and another year with a California team (the 1998 Oakland Athletics), Candiotti finally made his way back to the team that gave him his first chance. He re-signed for a short period with the Indians in 1999, but only pitched 14 innings and was left off the post-season roster.
In the end, Candiotti had given his best years to the Indians and the Dodgers paid for it. While far from a Hall of Famer, his success is impressive for an undrafted free agent, finishing with 151 wins and 1,735 strike outs. He tried to make one more comeback after the Indians, signing with the Angels in 2000, but was unable to make it past Spring Training. After this, he came back to the Indians as a special assistant to the GM through 2001 before he left to become an announcer. He has since worked as a commentator for ESPN and the Toronto Blue Jays and is currently a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks radio crew.