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Observations From Cooperstown: Brian and Bernie

Posted By Bruce Markusen On January 7, 2011 @ 2:06 pm In 2010s,Bronx Banter,Observations From Cooperstown,Yankees | Comments Disabled

“Merry Christmas, Schlitter’s full!”

That’s sort of what Randy Quaid’s character, “Cousin Eddie,” said in the comedy classic, Christmas Vacation. And that’s the first thing I thought of when I heard that the Yankees had picked up reliever Brian Schlitter on waivers from the C

Giggles and smirks aside, I like the Yankees’ acquisition of the 25-year-old right-hander. A few scouts have expressed surprise that the Cubs thought they could slip Schlitter through waivers. Big and burly, the six-foot, five-inch Schlitter throws a fastball in the 92-95 mile-per-hour range, augmented by some heavy sinking action. With a good spring, and some improved control, he could easily make the Yankees’ Opening Day roster, joining Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Mo Rivera as fellow right-handers in the bullpen. Schlitter figures to do battle with Daniel Turpen, a Rule 5 pickup from the Red Sox, non-roster invite Mark Prior, and minor leaguer Romulo Sanchez, who is out of options.

Schlitter didn’t exactly thrive for the Cubs last year (an ERA of 12.38 in seven games is positively ghoulish), but he did post good numbers at Triple-A Iowa. In 37 games, Schlitter put up an ERA of 3.15 and struck out 42 batters in 45 innings. He’s also someone who is well known to new Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who spent the last eight seasons working for the Cubs.

Let’s just hope that Schlitter doesn’t throw any splitters. I’m not sure if John Sterling or Michael Kay could handle such a tongue twister…

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No ex-Yankees earned election to the Hall of Fame this week, which is no great surprise, unless you were expecting a late wave of support for Kevin Brown and Al Leiter. Both received fewer than five per cent of the vote, resulting in them being dropped from the ballot. First-year eligibles Tino Martinez, John Olerud, and Raul Mondesi also dropped off the ballot, leaving Don Mattingly, Rock Raines, and Lee Smith as the only ex-Yankees who will return to the ballot in 2012.

Next year’s ballot figures to have more Yankee staying power, as Bernie Williams becomes eligible for the first time. Williams won’t receive anywhere near the 75 per cent needed for election, but he figures to pick up at least 25 to 30 per cent of the vote, which will keep him on the ballot and allow him to build some momentum over time.

Williams is one player we’ve never heard associated with steroids. He also had a good relationship with the same writers who will be doing the voting. Those factors will help Bernie, but his candidacy will be afflicted by two major flaws in his game: a very poor throwing arm and a lack of good baserunning instincts, which hurt his stolen base totals. But anyone who watched Williams play during his prime years will understand his value to the Yankee dynasty. Williams’ arrival as a top prospect in 1991 marked the beginning of the Yankee turnaround from the dismal days of 1989 and ‘90. His disciplined hitting style, his knack for drawing walks, his power, and his range in center field all became epitomizing trademarks of the Yankees’ four world championship seasons under Joe Torre. The switch-hitting Williams was also one of the Yankees’ most versatile hitters, with enough patience to bat first or second, and enough power to bat fourth, fifth, or sixth. That versatility, along with Williams’ small ego, made Torre’s life much easier when it came to making out lineup cards.

At his peak, Williams was simply a terrific hitter. From 1996 to 2002, he put up OPS numbers of better than .900 each year, a remarkable stretch for a center fielder. He also performed solidly in October, reaching base 37 per cent of the time over the course of 25 postseason series.

Would you vote Williams into the Hall of Fame? I probably wouldn’t, because of the arm and baserunning issues. Then again, there would be no shame in seeing Bernie’s bronzed image in the plaque gallery. That would actually be a pleasant sight…

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Since this is the first column of the new year, it might be a good time to poll readers on preferences? Which kind of article do you like more, “Card Corner” or “Observations From Cooperstown?” What old-time Yankees would you like to see profiled in future editions of “Card Corner?” Are there other types of articles that you’d like to see us feature in this spot in 2011? Give us your feedback by posting right here at Bronx Banter Blog. And as always, thank you for reading.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.


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