The year 1991 brought reality to the Yankees; the turnaround from George’s style of management to something more akin to the rest of baseball was not going to be a quick fix. Michael was not going to land the biggest fish in the ocean because George said so, and at this point it wasn’t looking like anyone of true All Star caliber was interested in joining them. Aside from soon-to-be All-Star ace Scott Sanderson and hard-luck starter Tim Leary (who was involved in a dicey trade with the Reds for future good hitter Hal Morris) and perhaps Roberto Kelly, Kevin Maas, Matt Nokes and some kid named Bernie Williams, there wasn’t much to speak of about the 1991 Yanks (well, besides Mel Hall terrorizing Bernie in the locker room among many other things). Stump Merrill was in his first full season as Yankee manager, having taken over from Bucky Dent, who was shockingly fired while in Boston for a series with the Red Sox in 1990 by Steinbrenner, a month or so before he himself was “fired” by baseball. Stump continued the status quo with the major league team, losing far more games than winning through little fault of his own.
- Opening Day Starters: underline
- Also Played: #
- Regulars On Roster: blank
- Renowned From Other Teams: bold
- Unheralded Rookie/Prospect: *
- Unheralded Vet: italics
- Rookie Season (became regulars): ~
- 25 Greg Cadaret#
- 51 Chuck Cary
- 60 Darrin Chapin*
- 28 Dave Eiland
- 26 Steve Farr#
- 35 Lee Guetterman
- 42,57 John Habyan
- 40 Andy Hawkins
- 57 Steve Howe
- 43 Jeff Johnson
- 40 Scott Kamieniecki~
- 54 Tim Leary
- 50 Alan Mills
- 45 Rich Monteleone
- 34 Pascual Pérez
- 33 Eric Plunk#
- 21 Scott Sanderson
- 41 Wade Taylor*
- 36 Mike Witt
- 53 Bob Geren
- 38 Matt Nokes#
- 48 John Ramos*
- 14 Mike Blowers
- 20 Álvaro Espinoza
- 14 Pat Kelly~
- 12 Jim Leyritz
- 13,43 Torey Lovullo*
- 23 Don Mattingly
- 12 Carlos Rodríguez*
- 6 Steve Sax
- 18 Randy Velarde#
- 29 Jesse Barfield
- 27 Mel Hall#
- 36 Mike Humphreys*
- 39 Roberto Kelly
- 17 Scott Lusader
- 31 Hensley Meulens
- 17 Pat Sheridan
- 51 Bernie Williams~
- 24 Kevin Maas
Hey, remember Pat Kelly? He was kinda touted as the second basemen of the future while with the Yanks, and he stuck around long enough to win a ring with the 1996 team, although he only played 13 games the whole season. But how many remember that in 1991, Kelly was a third baseman? He came up as a replacement for the recently-departed Mike Blowers, who was traded to Seattle for a bag of balls. Blowers for his part would become a regular with Seattle, so he would qualify as a player who was (much) better somewhere else, like Jay Buhner before him. Kelly switched to second in 1992 and remained there for the entire tenure of his career with the Yanks and beyond.
Scott Kamieniecki is definitely a name that stands out; he was one of their best pitchers during the dark ages if you will, but I somehow misremember him as being in the rotation in the 80s. I guess when you have Chuck Cary, Richard Dotson, Ron Guidry and Dave LaPoint on your staff at any given moment, you’re going to misremember quite a few things (and try to forget others, like giving away Doug Drabek, grrr…) Kamieniecki was not the best pitcher on staff, but the fans knew him well enough over the next few seasons and I suppose you could consider him one of the Hard Luck Boys of the early 90s. Hard luck followed him into the championship days as well, when for whatever reason, the Yanks decided not to give him a ring for being with the team in ’96, though he spent much of the year on the DL. He later blasted the Yanks for “strong-arming him to the DL with a fake injury” and for “putting on a show” by having him sized for a ring that he never received after the team was criticized for leaving him and a few other players out of the ceremony. He was definitely not a fan of Joe Torre, whose glare at certain players was an automatic ticket to the Doghouse, if not the kiss-off to their Yankee tenure. I’m guessing though Scott and the Yanks have pretty much made up at this point…
Steve Howe was interesting. He had been out of baseball for four years before the Yanks signed him, and he was very effective most of the time. However, he was a drug addict throughout most of his career well before coming to the Yanks, so much so that he had already been suspended several times. It was his effectiveness as a reliever that kept him in baseball, and though he was banned for life the next season, he was reinstated upon appeal and went on to have one of the best seasons in his career. There was a lot of debate about him while he continued to play, get banned and then be reinstated; was the league enabling his habits because he was a good pitcher? Howe wasn’t the only player who had a drug problem, but he was probably the only one who kept coming back after falling down the well many times. As things go, Howe’s Yankee (and MLB) career was ended with him being released in June 1996, making him indeed a member of the Hard Luck Boys. Sadly, his ignominious death ten years later in an accident that eerily resembled Billy Martin’s death has rendered him a cautionary tale of the glamour of the baseball life. Say his name and/or look him up on Wikipedia and you just can’t help but shake your head and wonder, “why?”
Scott Sanderson, on the other hand, was a legit anchor and ace of the staff, as it were. His two seasons with the Yanks were good enough to hope that any of your five (six?) starters for 2018 could at least match. In a fairly solid career with the Expos, Cubs and a good season with Oakland prior, 1991 would in fact be his first and only selection to the AL All Star team. He became a partner at Moye Sports Associates in 1996, who currently represent Austin Romine and Jaime Garcia. However, his moralizing during and after his career could be considered problematic to some (particularly in New York)…
Here are the moves the team made prior to and during the season:
- October 5, 1990: Wayne Tolleson was released by the New York Yankees.
- November 19, 1990: Tim Leary was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
- December 3, 1990: Frank Seminara was drafted by the San Diego Padres from the New York Yankees in the 1990 rule 5 draft.
- December 31, 1990: Scott Sanderson was purchased by the New York Yankees from the Oakland Athletics.
- January 13, 1991: Rick Cerone was released by the New York Yankees.
- March 19, 1991: Torey Lovullo was traded by the Detroit Tigers to the New York Yankees for Mark Leiter.
- April 1, 1991:Steve Balboni was released by the New York Yankees.
- April 5, 1991: Scott Lusader was selected off waivers by the New York Yankees from the Detroit Tigers.
- May 9, 1991: Andy Hawkins was released by the New York Yankees.
- May 17, 1991: Mike Blowers was traded by the New York Yankees to the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later and cash. The Seattle Mariners sent Jim Blueberg (minors) (June 22, 1991) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.
- May 25, 1991: Andy Pettite was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent.
- With the first overall pick in the MLB draft, the New York Yankees selected Brien Taylor. He was a Left Handed Pitcher from Beaufort, North Carolina who competed at East Carteret High School.
With the release of Wayne Tolleson, the Yanks could now tell who was who between him and Alvaro Espinoza. Tim Leary was drafted by the Mets in 1978 and spent his first four seasons in the majors there before he managed to win a ring with the 1988 Dodgers. Rick Cerone had the last of three stints with the Yankees, previously having been a starter from 1980-84 and a backup in 1987. Mark Leiter, like his brother Al, was sent away and became a better pitcher with his next teams, but unlike Al, he never returned to the Yanks. Torey Luvullo? Pat Sheridan? Scott Lusader…? Balboni would try one more season in 1993 with Texas before saying bye-bye to major league baseball for good.
And Brien Taylor… *sigh*