Deivi (Day-Vee) Cruz is one of those oft-forgotten Steroid Era singles hitters. I have a feeling that if Cruz played today, he would be much less obscure than he was during his Major League playing days, which lasted from 1997-2005. He was last seen suiting up for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League in 2006.
Cruz was originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Giants in 1993. He was selected by the Dodgers in the Minor League Draft in 1996, and was immediately flipped to the Tigers later that day, December 9. For some reason, Detroit was the only team that wanted Cruz, and it was for the Tigers that Cruz debuted in 1997.
That year Cruz sprung onto the scene, appearing in 154 games for the Tigers in his rookie season. He played both shortstop and second base, two positions between which he flipped throughout his career. In ’97, his efforts had him finishing fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting, and Cruz finished the season with respectable numbers for a rookie.
Cruz made improvements every year for the next few, before his best season in 2000. That year he appeared in 156 games, and batted a solid .302, with 10 home runs and a career-high 82 RBI. Cruz, who came into the Majors with virtually no power to speak of, developed his stroke and posted a .767 OPS in 2000, a good figure for a shortstop. He also collected 176 hits that year, another career best.
Injuries hampered Cruz the following year, and Deivi eventually moved on to San Diego, and then Baltimore in 2002-2003. Deivi Cruz hit a career-high 14 home runs for the Orioles in 2003, a mini-renaissance for Cruz, who was clearly on the back nine of his career by then. The next two years saw Cruz move back to the Giants, by whom he was originally signed. In 2005 San Fransisco traded Deivi to the Nationals, for whom he played his last Major League game on October 2.
For his career, Cruz posted a .269/.293/.682. He played nearly a decade in the Majors, and hit 70 career home runs, mostly for the Tigers. He was the reason that, the summer I got my license, all I wanted in the whole world was to drive to Bridgeport, CT, to see a Bluefish game starring Deivi Cruz. I’ll always hold that over my father.