- Gardner LF
- Judge RF
- Stanton DH
- Gregorius SS
- Sanchez C
- Hicks CF
- Austin 1B
- Andújar 3B
- Torreyes 2B
Starting – Severino
(Maybe Judge and Didi can switch places for a while, that seemed to work a whole lot last year, ijs…)
Starting – Severino
(Maybe Judge and Didi can switch places for a while, that seemed to work a whole lot last year, ijs…)
Well now, as the present team continues to whittle down its roster and take form, we look at what the team was doing over twenty years ago as it was about to embark on a journey that would take them to, in baseball terms anyway, the Promised Land. The off season was fraught with changes; some in response to the disappointment of losing the first -ever Wild Card series with a team that was anticipated to carry the day into the World Series, and some because Mt. Vesuvius was back in charge and about to kick some major ash;m that is if he wasn’t headed off at the pass to some degree. While Showalter was likely made the scapegoat for the Yanks not going deep into the playoffs (never mind that Seattle had a helluva team with three of their own legends-in-the-making in their midst among others), Stick deflected some of the wrath from his young core by jumping out of the front office hot seat to become VP of Scouting, installing a new man to put the finishing touches on what was already a very solid contender; that man was former Houston outfielder and GM Bob Watson, who happened to have a few interesting notes of baseball trivia on his resume: the first player to hit for the cycle in both the AL and NL (in the same season, no less), being awarded for scoring the 1,000,000th run in MLB history (four seconds before Dave Concepcion, though it was later discovered that neither was close to being the one who accomplished that feat and that no one would ever know who did it), having made a cameo appearance along with several Houston teammates in a Bad News Bears movie (yeah, but not the good one) and becoming the first African American general manager in MLB history. Now he was about to be the first one for the Yankees. It was a little bit of a homecoming for Watson as well; he played for the Yanks from 1980-82, 1981 being his only and the team’s last World Series they appeared in for going on fifteen years (in which he batted .319 with two HRs and 7 RBI). Watson was a tough character, a solid player during his day and the fortitude it seemed to withstand the maelstrom that was Steinbrenner. That said, few were prepared for the next big news item…
Joseph Paul Torre; built in Brooklyn some fifty-five years beforehand and looking every bit as Brooklyn as one could imagine back in the day, having played 18 years of baseball (nine of them worthy of being voted as an All-Star and one as the MVP, with a Gold Glove and batting title mixed in for good measure) and collecting well over 2,300 hits, 1,185 runs batted in, 252 HRs and hitting .297 lifetime, was undoubtedly in a rut. His managerial career started in 1977 as a player-manager for the Mets, a title that he shortly gave up by retiring as a player after 18 days to focus on managing. Despite his earnestness, the Mets of that era were no better off than the crew of the Hesperus as his hollowed-out roster from year -to-year won no more than 67 games a season, including the strike-shortened 1981 season, after which he was fired. However, his next gig brought him to Atlanta, where he had an immediate impact replacing Bobby Cox and guided the Braves to a National League West title, their first since the season of the Amazin’ Mets (whom Torre had just left). For his efforts, Torre won his first Manager of the Year award; first person to win that and an MVP in major league baseball. Subsequent seasons were a little less successful, culminating in an 80-82 season in 1984, after which Atlanta also let him go.
Torre moved into the TV broadcast booth from there, working for another five seasons providing color commentary for the California Angels and for NBC’s Game of the Week. When the St. Louis Cardinals fired popular manager Whitey Herzog, they called Torre to replace him, and he guided the franchise to winning records in each of the first three seasons he managed them. However, the Cards could never break into the playoffs, and after a teardown season in 1995 in which Anhauser-Busch prepared to sell the team, Torre was unceremoniously dumped. All-in-all, Joe Torre was a familiar face, but a manager whose won/loss record was the definition of mediocrity; up to this point, his managerial record was 894-1,003 (.471), and though there was an MVP as a player and a Manager of the Year award way back in his early days of Atlanta, there was little reason for anyone to believe that he could be a candidate for the suddenly open position of Manager of the New York Yankees; much less for a historically demanding and difficult owner given to moments of unstable and unpredictable polarity.
However, Stick must have seen something in Torre the same way he saw something in Bernie, in Paul O’Neill, in Pettitte, Posada, Jeter and Mo that he wanted to keep them around, so he recommended him to George. Molloy was also impressed with Torre, and he supported hiring Torre. The whole front office (save one: Asst. GM Brian Cashman), even George’s personal flack Arthur Richman were on Torre’s side. Perhapshis calm demeanor in the see-saw racket of wining and losing impressed them more than anything else; to his credit, he made good use of what talent he managed to have on his roster to better ends than pundits predicted. Torre’s Braves and Cardinals were not too different than what the Yankees had built themselves to be at this point, and his calmness represented an about-face to Showalter’s intensity in some minds. All George knew at this point was that he wanted him. Watson was telling the press that he was still interviewing candidates when the hire was announced; a ruse? Or was it a commandment handed down from above that got slowed down at the station before reaching the general manager’s ears? For his part, Watson said nothing more and praised Torre as the only guy interviewed, and the only one they considered afterward.
Not that this pleased anyone beyond the vaunted gates of Yankee Stadium (outside of Mets fans, perhaps)… as it turned out, the enormous blowback from the media and fans had George running scared, now trying to find a way to bring Showalter back. After all, Buck was younger, a proven winner and had a more impressive winning percentage than Torre, plus he knew the system and the players in it. So what that George kicked him to the curb in a devious and cowardly manner, he was New York’s Golden Boy of the Moment. Why didn’t he deserve a chance to take the team he actually helped build to a championship? Clueless Joe was an interloper, a usurper; some middle-aged Brooklyn bum who had proven over and over again that while he came across as a mensch and a nice guy, his skill as a leader of a baseball team was meh, whatevah… in all this, Steinbrenner was singled out as the Yankees’ biggest and greatest liability to contention and glory; his obsessive meddling, well-worn pragmatism and oblique judgement led him to make yet another serious bungle at the worst time, but this time New Yorkers weren’t taking his s***. And so it went, as the Yanks prepared to venture into territory they hadn’t seen in about eighteen years, with “Clueless Joe” at the helm.
And… you know what happened after that >;)
1996 New York Yankees Roster
Jalal Leach was drafted in 1990 in the sixth round; he progressed at a moderate pace through the system, reaching Columbus in 1994, where he hight too lightly for an outfielder to be called up. Being taken by the Expos in the minor league draft, although bad timing professionally, did help him directly to improve his batting as he bat well over .300 and gained a little pop for the next five minor league seasons between Montreal, Seattle and San Francisco. It was with the Giants that he finally got his cup of coffee; collecting a hit and two walks (all against Octavio Dotel, which at the time wasn’t saying much) in three games and ten at bats while playing the corner outfield positions. He never did get any MLB time after that, and continued for a few more years in Mexico before retiring and coming back to the Yanks as a scout, where he stayed until 2015 when he returned to the Giants in the same capacity.
Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock became serviceable players for Seattle, while obviously Tino and Nelson became pillars of the lineup and bullpen respectively. Jim Mecir is the only one here who didn’t really pan out long term for the Yanks; the next season he was traded as a player to be named later in a previous transaction with Boston that saw Mike Stanley return to the Yanks. He was later drafted by the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays and played for three seasons before signing with Oakland for four seasons, then finishing out his career with the then-Florida Marlins. However, if you look him up, or if you like to read novels or non-fiction books about sports (baseball in particular), you’ll find some interesting facts about Mecir, which puts his career in a somewhat remarkable context.
Mariano Duncan was a known name in the 90s; he started his career as an undrafted free agent infielder with the Dodgers in 1982, spending three years in the minors before getting called up; he finished third in ROY voting. However, though he had speed and stole quite a few bases for the Dodgers, he was a light hitter, which caused him to spend the entire ’88 season in the minors while the Dodgers won the World Series, He came back the next season and did a little better, but not enough to avoid being traded (with future Yank for a Minute Tim Leary) to Cincinnati, where he finally came into his own and became a successful cog in the team’s 1990 World Series Championship campaign. He moved onto Philly two seasons later and became an All-Star at 2B, but in August 1995 when Philly tried to sneak him through waivers, he was snatched up by the Reds and finished out the season there. Perhaps this experience motivated him when he came to the Yanks in 1996, because the relatively light hitter, emergency-subbing for both Pat Kelly and Tony Fernandez who were both injured, turned in a 340/.352/.500 slash line as a super-utility and handpicked mentor. “We play today, We win today, Das’ it!” was his and one of his young charge’s spontaneous motto, and quickly became the team mantra. Older Mo’s success stopped short at the World Series that year though; he hit 1-19 in the final series, but the Yanks won despite his shortcoming at the plate. Duncan was traded for a minor leaguer the next season after falling back to norm and closed out his MLB career at season’s end. After playing one season in Japan, he become a coach; most notably on Torre’s squads with the Dodgers, and currently is the hitting coach for a low-minors team in the Chicago Cubs system. Considering that he played big brother to Jeter, Posada and The Other Mo and taught them to be prime professionals, it’s a wonder the Yanks don’t have him in their system (a little shade for Cashman if you don’t mind)…
Blaise Kozeniewski never got a sniff at the big leagues; perhaps his big game college stuff didn’t translate consistently as a pro, perhaps because he was one of several potential replacement players during the 1994 strike. His one notable point of history with the Yankees was being the PTBNL in a trade for future HOFer and second fastest man currently in baseball Tim Raines. His stats show that he didn’t even play ball beyond the 1995 season, so that turned out to be a heavily one-sided trade.
By 1994, Dwight Gooden was at the end of his rope. When he was suspended a second time for testing positive for drugs, his wife found him the next day in the bedroom with a loaded gun to his head. His legacy was in tatters; thoughts of the young “Doctor K” from his glory days with the Mets were long gone, along with any significant signs dedicated to him around the city. But fate smiled on him in the person of Ray Negron; a Yankee associate with an interesting backstory of his own. Negron, who had helped Strawberry get a shot with the Yankees that season, convinced Steinbrenner to give Gooden a chance as well; he even drew up the contract terms for him, though he was not an approved agent (which drew the attention of Player’s Association counsel Gene Ozra). The story almost retreated to sadness again as Gooden did not perform well in Spring or for his first couple of starts, but instead of being released he agreed to go to the minors to work out his mechanics. When he came back in May, he brought some of his old Doctor K style with him: he no-hit the Mariners, winning 2-0 and helping exact a measure of revenge for the Wild Card series loss last season.
Tim McIntosh and Rafael Quirico: McIntosh was a journeyman backup catcher/OF drafted by Milwaukee in 1985 and made his debut in the majors in 1990. He bounced from the Brewers to the Expos, usually as a depth player for their minor league system, then played in Japan for the Nippon Ham Fighters in 1995 before signing on with the Yanks to again add depth at Columbus. After three at-bats in September, he was released at the onset of the post-season, effectively ending his major league career and finishing pro ball in 1999 with independent Sacramento. Quirico, another unfortunate soul who missed the Yankee Dynasty by thatmuch, though when looking over his stats, he might have been better off not having made the cut under any circumstances with the Yanks. Drafted as a 19 year-old in 1989, he made steady progress up the ranks until he hit Columbus, where batters hit him… often. by 1996, he had stalled out in both Columbus and back down to AA Norwich, from where he was released. The Phillies picked him up and assigned him to A+ Clearwater to reboot him, and he made it to Scranton Wilkes-Barre (where the Yanks’ AAA team currently resides), then finally getting a start in the first game of a mid-season double-header in June 1996… where he promptly bombed, lasting only an inning and two-thirds, giving up seven runs on four hits, walking five and getting one strikeout. The team thanked him for his services, sent him back to the minors and promptly forgot about him.
Nick Johnson was supposed to be the heir apparent to Don Mattingly when he was drafted; he was known to have an excellent bat and good instincts around first. Admittedly, when he did manage to make it to the big club, there were flashes. But the flashes often came between injuries that waylaid him much of his time with the Yanks, and apparently sapped much of his promise as a top prospect. despite his shortcomings, the Yanks made an awful trade involving him, Randy Choate and Juan Rivera (no relation) for Montreal Expos pitcher Javier Vasquez a season before the Expos relocated and renamed themselves the Washington Nationals. After some productive years in DC, he returned to the Yanks for the 2010 season, where he resumed his inability to stay healthy enough to play a significant amount of games.
Scott Seabol; career mostly spent in the minors with the Yanks and other teams, he became a utility player with St. Louis and saw limited action in 2006, then played overseas for a few years before calling it a career.
There were quite a few significant pieces added to this puzzle, obviously: the return of Darryl, who was lighting up St. Paul with monster home runs when he re-signed with the Yanks on the dramatic Fourth of July, and proceeded to hit dramatic home runs. There was also a maturity that he had seemingly lacked in his days with the Mets and Dodgers; though personal problems still floated on the periphery (including a short bout with prostate cancer), his presence among the rookies and younger players in the clubhouse was rather stately and demure; he seemed to embrace his new role and the Yankee Way as it is often put, and he put all of it to good use. Cecil Fielder though was almost a bad fit for this team, as his presence was mainly as a home run threat, which he suddenly found rather hard to fulfill as he did not have the steady at-bats that he was used to with Detroit (where he routinely hit home runs in his sleep). However, the home runs he did hit in 1996 for the Yankees turned out to be timely and he managed to help put the team over the top during the World Series. His run of dominance officially ended with the Yanks though, and he signed with Anaheim after the 97 season. Hmm, who do you think was better in his prime, Cecil or his son Prince?
I was sorry to see Wickman and Gerald Williams go; they were serviceable players, and particularly with Gerald rather likable. What they got in return basically turned out to be the dominant LOOGY of his time, and not a bad guy to have on your side in a fight. Bones, a pesky sort of pitcher, didn’t really add much value and Listach was… well, he was there. David Weathers was also there, and though his stats don’t tell you, he did manage to get a lot of critical outs; yet the beginning of 97 put him squarely in Steinbrenner’s crosshairs and he was ordered off the team, which they accomplished mid-season. It sort-of worked out that he got small revenge for the move as Cleveland ousted the Yanks in the ALCS and he had a small hand in that. Overall, he pitched 19 seasons in the majors.
But my favorite underrated move in this season was getting Luis Sojo off the scrap heap from Seattle. Sojo did not look like a ballplayer, much less an infielder. But somehow he managed to get critical hits when least expected, and he made critical defensive plays that shocked you even more. Still, there was one play where he got tripped up over his own feet and fell flat on the ground; fortunately it was not a critical error, and everyone from the players on both sides to the fans laughed their behinds off. His gaff was immortalized by a poster in the Sunday pullout section of the Daily News during their postseason run that year; a cartoon of Sojo with a goofy smile and his shoelaces tied together about to throw to first. He played the majority of his career with the Yanks as the fan and coach favored utility player of their Dynasty years. Sojo’s value cannot be understated, as the Yanks searched far and wide for a similarly favored replacement after retirement, with mixed results.
So that is 1996, I’m sure there’s more to be said, but I’ve already said too much >;)
Yanks signed Neil Walker on Monday afternoon; late of the Pirates, Mets and most recently Milwaukee, on a 1-year/$4 mil deal to ostensibly be the start at second on Opening Day, but more likely to act as the veteran bridge for both Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. While Walker is essentially a downgrade offensively from Starlin Castro, his defense is considered a valuable upgrade; the hope being that he can stabilize both the right side of the infield and the bottom of the lineup while the Andujar and Torres are being groomed for third and second, respectively (and it doesn’t hurt for the organization that it adds another year of control for both of them). Everyone and their moms knew that Cashman was not going to go straight in with the rookies to start the season, so he played the market and got a solid player for a bargain.
That sort of selectivity didn’t come from just anywhere; Cashman had started his Yankee career as an intern in the 80s and received an education on how Steinbrenner and the Yanks did business; having a front row to the highs and lows of the organization from the field to the front office. Steinbrenner introduced a young Cashman to his lieutenants by saying, “pay attention; he’s going to be your boss someday.”
In 1995, The Strike continued on into the beginning of April. The players, who didn’t trust the team owners for a minute after they’d forced Commissioner Fay Vincent to resign in 1992 and never bothered to officially replace him, were purportedly striking to prevent the institution of a salary cap planned by the owners, who complained that revenues were down all over and threatened to bankrupt small market teams that didn’t have the capacity of big market teams to be profitable on their own. Revenue sharing was part of their plan, but holding costs down by instituting a cap was preferred. Naturally, this didn’t go over well, and the players’ union sued after walking out. The owners decided to use “replacement” players; mainly baseball players from the minors or independent leagues who would likely not have made it to the bigs at any rate. Striking players discouraged so-called replacement players from considering crossing their picket for the most part, but there were eventually enough players to field teams for each organization to kick-start the new season (though there was not much excitement and a lot of resentment from both players and fans for such a move). Fortunately for baseball (in the long run), an injunction was issued against the owners (by Bronx-bred Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Sonia Sotomayor; aka future Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), forcing them to meet the players and work out a deal while still abiding by the previous expired CBA. By April 2, the strike was over and baseball plotted for a shortened season.
In 1995, The Boss was Steinbrenner once again; having been reinstated in 1993, but remaining low-key as his son-in-law Joe Molloy kept things in order and supported Michael and Showalter as they rebuilt the team from the ground up. Molloy invested in scouting and development; something that had been taken seriously for granted during Steinbrenner’s blustery and blundering run through the 80s. Molloy remained a general partner after George’s return. Within a few years, however, he would leave the organization and the Steinbrenner family mainly due to George’s “managing style”.
In 1995, Buck Showalter would lead the Yankees into the postseason as the first wildcard team in the AL for the new playoff format, but would lose in heartbreaking fashion to a stacked Seattle Mariners team which boasted future Hall of Famers, team favorites as well as former and future Yankees. Steinbrenner, once again being Steinbrenner, wanted among other things a blood sacrifice for this “failure” in Rick Down, Buck’s hitting coach, during negotiations for an extension. Buck, figuring this was part of the negotiations, replied no, I can’t accept a contract under those circumstances, and waited for a reply. The reply came from his wife, who informed him that reporters were calling to get his response after being let go. Buck and George had been butting heads for some time, with George again doing what he normally did in taking potshots at players or making veiled threats against the coaching staff. Buck, by most accounts not an easy man to get along with himself, pushed back against the onslaught, the tension permeating the Stadium and the clubhouse. Whether or not you can blame Buck for not keeping his players loose or George for disrupting the peace that had settled in his absence, Steinbrenner took advantage of the rejection to cut ties with Showalter altogether. The burn would last seemingly forever.
In 1995, on August 13 at 2am, the legendary and uncompromisingly American Mickey Mantle left our world. Flags were hung in half mast and bittersweet tears were shed across the Yankee universe as people of all thoughts who knew what a baseball was for reflected on all of what made him The Mick.
Donnie Baseball finally made it to the postseason, which had sadly eluded him throughout his career. He acquitted himself well; going 10 for 24 with a .417/.440./708 slash line; four doubles, six ribbies and a homer in Game 2. All the more heartbreaking, Mattingly played like a man rediscovering his lost childhood and trying to reach heaven; the fans willing him along every step of the way. The stadium conducted the electricity of excitement and relief, as well as the cold gusts of desperation. Mattingly wanted it. The fans wanted. The team wanted it. The whole city wanted it. But the Mariners, led by a strong mix of youth and veteran grit that included Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr. Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Tino Martinez and phenom shortstop Alex Rodriguez, outlasted the dream.
Stick, for reasons I don’t really know of at the moment, yet at an oddly appropriate moment, resigned as general manager at the end of the season and took on the mantle of Vice President of Scouting with the team. Despite the playoff loss, the Yankees were set up for a marathon run. Along with Molloy, he made two crucial recommendations for the next hires…
1995 New York Yankees Roster
June 1, 1995: Donzell McDonald was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1995 amateur draft. Player signed July 22, 1995.
June 1, 1995: Future NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 26th round (730th pick) of the 1995 amateur draft. Culpepper was drafted out of Vanguard High School.
Dante Culpepper… the Yanks sure love their foosball QBs (they just had one in for a week or two of Spring Training, didn’t they?). Danny Tartabull, who had become a frequent target of Steinbrenner, was traded for the indomitable Ruben Sierra, who somehow managed to miss a championship with the Yanks in two tours with the team. Polonia was traded away for a minor leaguer who never made it to the bigs. David Cone finally did make it to the Yanks though, after several years of trying to get him. Kevin Maas made a cameo appearance on a minor league contract, but did not play for the big club, soon moving onto Milwaukee’s minors and then Japan. How many knew or remember that Strawberry actually had two separate stints with the Yanks? Though not separated by much, Darryl first signed with the Yanks mid-season in 1995 after having been suspended for drug use (cocaine, an old-fashioned drug suspension by today’s standards). However, he started out in 1996 with the indie St. Paul Saints, mainly to clean himself up and get into real baseball shape. The Yanks resigned him on July 4, 1996 and the rest is written about in many biographies of him, other players and of the Yankee Dynasty.
Octavio Antonio Fernández Castro; better known as Tony Fernandez. A stalwart of the Toronto Blue Jays from the early 80s-on (though he only played and won with the Jays in the second of their back-to-back championships due to having been traded to San Diego a few seasons earlier, then traded from the Mets back to Toronto in mid-season), he was considered one of the premier shortstops in baseball for a combination of clutch hitting and sparkling defense earlier in his career, but then his prolific production stalled by the early 90s and he never managed to reach the pinnacle of personal stardom; he was one of three young shortstops in 1983 predicted to be a sure-shot Hall of Famer; the other two being Alan Trammel and Cal Ripkin, Jr., whom all played together in the All Star Game in 1987. However, in these parts Tony is known best for getting injured in May of 1995, which opened the door for another shortstop who ended up sticking around for a good while. Oh, he did have some heroic moments, like in 1997 when he hit a home run off of Orioles reliever Armando Benitez to clinch the pennant for Cleveland, and he did contribute a lot to Toronto winning their second championship in a row, and he even helped them win their first division title way back when. But because his career stats didn’t add up to dominant player status, the damned voters dropped him off the ballot after his first try in 2007.
John Wetteland, old reliable, was traded to the Yanks from Montreal for a player with a last name that you probably have to pause before saying and an interesting career of his own. Wetteland had originally been drafted by the Mets in 1984, but he turned them down and was drafted by the Dodgers a year later. In December 1987, he was a Rule 5 selection by the Detroit Tigers, but was later returned. In 1991, he was involved in the trade that brought Reds All-Star Eric Davis to L.A. to be united with his homeboy Strawberry. He was subsequently flipped with someone else to the Expos for Dave Martinez, Willie Greene and somebody else, where he finally established himself as a star reliever. Stick closed in on that promise and swung an easy deal, one that greatly benefitted them in the long run. However, Wetteland’s stay with the Yankees was relatively short compared to other places; his longest tenure being with the Texas Rangers, with whom he signed as a free agent for the first time in his career; a move that shocked and likely annoyed him at the time, but worked out again for the Yankees in the long run.
For some reason, I remember Scott Bankhead’s name, though not him as a player so much. He was a first round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals in 1984 and quickly debuted for them in 1986, but ended up being part of a trade that brought Danny Tartabull to the Royals from Seattle. The bulk of his career was with the Mariners from then until 1991, when injuries diminished his pitching ability and he was eventually released. He reinvented himself as a reliever and played for Boston until his contract was bought by the Yanks in 1994, but the strike prevented him from playing. When he did, it was basically a one-and-done deal; barely used and barely missed. Rick Honeycutt I remember from the Oakland A’s of the late 80’s with their dominant pitching, from starters to relievers. Honeycutt probably represents the last of the Mohicans in that respect; the remaining player from that particular championship team either poached or signed on the cheap in their late career stage by the Yanks, this time for a postseason push in late September. He didn’t help much, and ended up with the Cardinals the following season, finishing out his long career with them a year later.
And then there’s “Black Jack” McDowell. Sigh. He was actually pretty good for the Yanks in his lone season, but the infamous “Jack Ass” incident when he walked off the mound after being bombed out by his former team to a cascade of boos and subsequently giving the fans a defiant finger not only torpedoed whatever good will might have existed for him to that point, but effectively put a hex on his career from then on. It was McDowell who gave up the wild card series-winning hit to Mariners hero Edgar Martinez in Game 5 that year, and it was he who Steinbrenner derided the most at every opportunity he got. Luckily for him, he was a free agent at the end of the season and he signed with Cleveland, who was another team on the come-up, but he had lost his mojo by that point and retired four years later after being released by Anaheim. At least he had his music to fall back on, though it’s been said that it was a night of drinking with his musician buddies that led to the Jack Ass incident.
Lastly, before I forget, the + after Ruben Rivera; cousin of the legend with the same name. This Rivera was the almost exact opposite of his cousin; highly anticipated to be a prolific outfielder with all kinds of tools, he made little impression on the Yankees in his first two seasons beyond being highly promising, but highly immature and was traded in 1997 season to San Diego, where he played the bulk of his major league career. But even as a starter, he was a poor hitter and was subsequently released by the Padres. After two seasons of failing as a role player for Cincinnati and Texas, he was once again signed by the Yanks, largely on the strength of his cousin.
So what does he do? Steal Jeter’s glove and bat and sell them for $2,500. What is worse, honestly: that he stole his teammate’s work tools, or that he sold them so cheaply? His teammates voted him off the team, and the front office followed suit and released him. He made one last ditch effort to salvage his MLB career with San Francisco, but it just didn’t work. After a couple years in team minors, he ended up making his way to Mexico, where he was ironically able to put together a highly respectable career, and at age 44 (though it was erroneously announced that he’d retired as a player in 2015), he is still playing pro ball. All of which is to say: nepotism guarantees nothing more than an opportunity most people have to fight hard to get, if they get it at all. But in baseball, there always seems to be some form of redemption.
Well, I did kind of expect this to move along at a faster pace, but then I had to go and do something over the weekend; the lead-up to and the aftermath of which have definitely been one of the most interesting parts of my life to say the least, but then here we are well into March and spring training talking about 1994 >;)
I suppose that is appropriate enough; after all, 1994 is when things got really interesting for the Yanks. The clubhouse demons were being scrubbed away little-by-little, replaced with a mix of developing young stars and aged grit. Stick was fitting pieces of the puzzle to a potential 100-plus game winning team that was practically steamrolling the competition. Jimmy Key, the certified ace of the staff, was on pace to win 24 games. Paul O’Neill was also realizing the potential that Stick saw in him, batting a league-leading .359. They had the best record in the AL, and second best in all baseball. Fans, casual and razed alike, were prepping to see New York favorite Donnie Baseball in his very first post-season series of his storied career.
Baseball came to a complete standstill with the players’ strike. Gone were the post-season aspirations for Mattingly and the Yanks. Gone was the trust and interest in baseball in general; the local teams having scuffled in the early 90s. Gone was a chance to join their brethren NY pros in basketball and hockey to host championship series in the same year, with the Rangers finally getting the Stanley Cup after years of struggles and almost-there’s, while the Knicks were a couple of missed foul calls and a Starks-raving mad hoist-a-thon from winning a long-awaited championship of the own. To the fans, particularly in NY, the players betrayed their trust and their dreams, leaving them with a series of “what-ifs”. Baseball; emotionally at least, was over…
1994 New York Yankees Roster
Ah, there are quite a few names that stand out; Xavier Hernandez, who posted great numbers with Houston in the previous three seasons, but was demoted to middle reliever during his lone season with the Yanks; Terry Mulholland, who was the definition of a journeyman pitcher during his 11-team odyssey through the major leagues (and connoisseur of the pick-off move); Bobby Ojeda, one of the many anti-heroes of the 1986 Champion Mets, who the year before survived a tragic boating accident that claimed the lives of two of his teammates on the Cleveland Indians; Jeff Reardon, who had claimed the title of All-Time saves leader against the Yanks in 1992, up-and-coming rookie 3B Russ Davis; Kevin Elster (another survivor of the 86 Mets team, who was recently out of baseball after a second shoulder surgery and contemplating retirement); Daryl Boston, the former White Sox and Mets (post-championship) outfielder who seemed to always bedevil the Yanks in particular throughout the 80s, and the return of Luis Polonia from NY baseball pariah status, likely due to his solid ability to get on base. Future MLB manager Bob Melvin also made a cameo appearance on the roster. Of all of those players, Davis, Elster and Polonia would make it to 1995, though none of them would reach the end of that season. Polonia, in fact, is the only new player on the 1994 team who would actually experience a championship with the Yanks after a late-season trade in 2000.
Might I bring your attention to the rookie shortstop, Robert Eenhoorn. Who? Really dyed-in-blue-and-pinstripes Yankee fans would know Mr. Eenhoorn; the Dutch-born infielder was a phenom playing in the highest league of professional baseball in the Netherlands at age 16. Six years later, the Yanks drafted him out of Davidson College in North Carolina and began in 1990 by tearing up the NY-Penn League on his way to being named the top prospect in the league. His next few seasons however, were up-and-down; batting well over .300 across two Class-A teams, but struggling in AA, after which he lost his blue-chipper status. However, he would advance to Triple-A for 1994 and was a late-season call-up that year before the strike ended the season prematurely. The next season; his last with the Yankees, Eenhoorn would become the answer to the trivia question favorite, “who was the last starter at shortstop before Derek Jeter?”
For what it’s worth, however, he was a good player in his heyday, and he went on to manage and serve as technical advisor (general manager) with several Dutch national teams, including the one that won the 2011 World Baseball Cup, earning him knighthood. So, he’s more than just a footnote in Yankee lore >;)
Good-bye, Stankie, goodbye Domingo Jean. Goodbye Spike Owen, hello… Sam Horn??? Yeah, that happened. Kevin Maas was released by the Yanks during the offseason, but he would return on a minors contract in 1995 before signing with Minnesota for a little while , then Korea and then across three different organizations in their minors before calling it a career. Reardon and Ojeda were signed as free agents, but were released in early May. Assenmacher gave way to Brian Boehringer from the White Sox. And Greg A. Harris, the switch-pitcher of the Yanks before there was a Pat Vindette, only stuck around for less than two weeks before he was summarily dismissed. Thus was the increasingly micromanaging angst of Buck Showalter, who managed to bring the team to the brink of glory that had been missing since 1981, only for the rug to be pulled out from under him, the Yankees, all of baseball and most importantly, the fans. With all the controversies, ineptitude and general infighting in the sport, it seemed at that point we’d all had enough…
…although if there was one good thing to say about it, it’s that Michael Jordan was forced to realize he was not a top-notch baseball player, so he went back to what he knew… three-peats!
“…while Hall reveled in the status that being a Yankee conferred, he was hardly deferential toward the organization’s tradition. During Old Timer’s Day in 1992, he walked out onto the field and asked Showalter, by then the Yankee manager, “Who are these old fucking guys?”
“That’s when I knew he had to go,” said Showalter.” – Greg Hanlon; SB Nation
Out with the old and in with the new. Buck Showalter, going into his second season with the Yanks as the manager, presumably had collected enough intel on the clubhouse to know what changes needed to be made, and together with Stick began to reshape the clubhouse. Beyond Mel Hall, it’s anyone’s guess who the guys were that they thought needed to be shipped out due to their behavior, but the dark cloud choking the clubhouse was beginning to dissipate, and the Yankees embarked on a long and unbroken string of winning seasons that endures to this day. Culture was the word of the season, and Stick addressed this even further by importing players who in their eyes had a good combination of winning and character. The end result would be an 88-74 record, which put them in second place in the AL East; not quite as remarkable a turnaround as it was for the worst-to-first Atlanta Braves of 1990-91, but for Yankee fans, a great portend of things to come…
Okay, so the obviously strong additions were Paul O’Neill, Jimmy Key, Jim Abbott and Wade Boggs. I remember not being too particularly thrilled at the time with the Roberto Kelly-for-Paul O’Neill trade as Kelly was a recognized homegrown product, but O’Neill came three seasons removed from a World Series championship with the Cincinnati Reds, while Key was a two-time champion starting pitcher late of the Toronto Blue Jays. The acquisition of Abbott was in the works for over a season, so that was pleasant, though not surprising (losing J.T. Snow was sort-of a blow, but his eventual replacement more than made up for it.). Getting Boggs was quite shocking though; it hardly ever happens that a renowned star from your arch-enemy willingly comes over to your side; well, ever since the No-No-Nanette thing.
However, do you remember Spike Owen (also a renowned cog of the enemy wheel) did the same thing less than two weeks earlier? And whatever happened to Rich Batchelor (you know, the minor leaguer traded for some guy named Lee Smith, who happened to be one of the most dominating relievers in all baseball)? Now Lee Smith is one of the poster children for this series; after spending the bulk of his career with the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals (with an extended stopover in Boston in between), he was almost literally a Yankee for a minute: traded on August 31st of the 1993 season, he pitched a total of 8 innings in the last month as the closer, earning three saves while giving up 3 hits, 5 walks and striking out 11. He didn’t even have time to quantify an ERA+… (he didn’t allow a run anyway, so…). But for reasons unknown, Smith filed for free agency at the end of the season and the Yanks didn’t retain him; which was a shame because he was actually great the following season with the Orioles (P.S.: Eras committee, put this man in the Hall of Fame; screw the writers).
Spike Owen, on the other hand, is not going to get any looks from that committee anytime soon, we can imagine. It’s funny, when I think of him, it’s as a shortstop for the Red Sox, but he actually spent more time with both Seattle (who drafted him in the first round as the #6 overall pick in 1982) and with Montreal (where he started at shortstop also for four seasons before signing with the Yanks). While he was here for a season; ostensibly to help push the Yanks into the playoff picture (and at the expense of fan favorite Stanky), he pretty much did little to nothing offensively to justify that theory, and coupled with some suspect defense, it was pretty much a waste of one year of everyone’s life.
Frank Tanana was here, too. For a minute. So was Paul Assenmacher, whose main trivia is that he was involved in a three-way trade with Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes, who a couple of years later embarked on an extended career as a prolific home run hitter in the Nippon Baseball League (where he also faced a young Yu Darvish in the 2009 Pacific League Climax Series). Meanwhile, Assenmacher was to become the second of two pitchers in major League history to give up home runs to both Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Time flies, doesn’t it?
You could say that 1991 was when the franchise hit rock-bottom by losing 91 games and coming in fifth in the AL East (at the time, there were only two divisions in each league; no Central and no wild card) and 20 games behind the talent-laden Toronto Blue Jays; led by former player and Blue Jays hitting coach-turned-third year manager Cito Gaston, who initially declined taking over after manager Jimy Williams because he liked what he was already doing (the players rallied to change his mind, and good for them). Black History Moment: 17 years after Hall of Famer Frank Robinson became the first African American manager in Major League Baseball, Clarence Edwin “Cito” Gaston became the first African American MLB manager to win a World Series, then went ahead and did it again next season. He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and inducted into both the Ontario and San Antonio Sports Halls of Fame, not to mention was awarded the Negro League Hall of Fame Legacy Award (aka Jackie Robinson Award). Way to go, Cito!
Meanwhile back in 1991, when the Yanks survived a lot of underground chaos within the clubhouse and the organization to make it to 1992… when they finished in fourth place (tied with Cleveland) and improved by five games, but somehow still 20 games behind the eventual champion Toronto Blue Jays. Stump Merrill would be moved out of the managerial hot seat to make way for one of his lieutenants, third base coach William Nathanial “Buck” Showalter III. Before he was Buck, he was “Nat” Showalter, an All American at Mississippi State and a fifth round draft pick by the Yanks in 1977. He would spend seven years in their farm system, wracking up fairly solid numbers by future coach standards, finally making the jump in 1985; collecting honors and working his way up the ladder. in 1992, Buck Showalter arrived, and the transformation of the Yanks kicked into a new gear.
Gene Michael; operating as the chief architect of the new brain-trust that included Buck, a gallery of respected scouts and talent evaluators and a newly-appointed owner/managing partner Joe Malloy; George’s son-in-law via his daughter Jessica, set to making deals as soon as the 1991 season ended. When the season began, he had a new ace in the rotation, a new starting right fielder, third baseman and shortstop, not to mention a couple of new draftees who would also become mainstays in future rosters. Yet even with all of that, there were some even larger moves that were attempted, but for various reasons did not work out. And man if they had, they very likely would have entirely changed the history of Yankee franchise as we know it…
So as usual I had some trouble with categories with some players:
Sterling Hitchcock was heralded coming up and was part of the staff for his first four seasons, but his better seasons were spent as a starter with San Diego. He came back via trade in 2001, but was largely ineffectual and used in long relief and spot-start duty until he was traded in mid-2003. So yeah, he was a heralded rookie who had better years elsewhere; didn’t really pan out with the Yanks and was not even a big part of their 2001 WS team.
Russ Springer was kind of the same; he started off with the Yanks, but had better success elsewhere, as well as longevity. It’s hard to consider him a heralded rookie, though I kind of remember him being touted to some degree. Like Hitchcock, he was never an All Star, but he was a useful arm on other teams’ staffs.
Bob Wickman also was a rookie, though he started out inn the Chicago White Sox farm system, coming over with Melido Perez and Domingo Jean in a trade for 2B Steve Sax. While getting Melido at the time seemed like a boon for a rebuilding team, the real prize in the brain trust’s mind was Wickman:
“We considered Wickman one of their top arms and I think they did, too,” said Brian Sabean, the Yankees’ vice president of player development.
Indeed, Wickman showed promise two seasons later, but not enough to prevent him from being traded in the midst of the team’s successful run at a World Series two seasons further. He reached his potential as a reliever with Milwaukee in closing and high leverage situations, then spent the predominant part of his career in Cleveland in the same role, earning quite a bit of respect in a fairly long career before finishing out in Atlanta and Arizona respectively in 2007.
Melido was solid for the Yankees, but he couldn’t move the needle for his older brother, who had spent a significant amount of time on the injured list after arm surgery in 1990 before being suspended during spring training for the entire 1992 season for a failed drug test, which all but ended his career. Melido for his part enjoyed a career year in 1992, with the second highest total in strikeouts in the AL (behind Randy Johnson), but his career also ended abruptly in 1995, with a tear in the elbow of his pitching arm. He attempted a comeback in 1997 with Cleveland, but didn’t make the cut from spring training. Today, Melido is mayor of the town of San Gregorio de Nigua… the same town where his erstwhile older brother Pascual was found murdered after a home invasion in 2012.
Curt Young spent the majority of his career with Oakland, he was on the pitching staff for the teams that won back-to-back in 1989-90. When he came to the Yanks, it was at the tail end of a relatively successful career working in the shadows of Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Storm Davis, Scott Sanderson, Mike Moore, Rick Honeycutt and of course Dennis Eckersley.
Jack Thomas “J.T.” Snow was of course heralded as Mattingly’s eventual successor; he had a pedigree in sports as the scion of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Jack Snow of the L.A. Rams, who developed J.T. as a first baseman from a young age, and played with a number of sports luminaries as a three-sport star in high school and college and was drafted by the Yanks in the fifth round in 1989. He made his debut at the tail end of the season with the Yanks, but in the off-season he was traded along with Russ Springer and Jerry Nielsen to the California Angels for one Jim Abbott. Welcoming the trade as a respite from “playing in oblivion behind Mattingly”, he won two Gold Gloves with the Angels before moving on to San Francisco and becoming an All-Star fixture along with former Met Jeff Kent and former Pirate Barry Bonds (who, surprise, was almost was a Yankee himself in 1992).
Lastly, there’s Gerald Williams. selected in the fourteenth round in 1987, Gerald had a down and up minor league career, alternately struggling and showing big promise. He debuted in September 1992, spent the bulk of 93 in the minors again and returned to stay in 94. By 1996 he was getting the bulk of the starts in left field, but in late August he and Wickman were dealt to Milwaukee. Both received World Series rings at the end of the 96 season as they had played the significant part of the year with the Yanks. Gerald would go on to be a regular bench guy with Atlanta and Tampa Bay (then known as the Devil Rays) before returning for a second stint with the Yanks for their 2001-03 seasons; the last year of which he was traded to the Florida Marlins, only this time he won a ring after the trade with his new team. He finished as a Met in 2004-05, and has recently been a regular at Old Timer’s Day with the Yankees. Although he wasn’t any type of star like his other namesake Bernie (no relation), perhaps his greatest contribution as a Yankee was being best friends with a young Derek Jeter, who credited him as being like a big brother “always looking out for me.” Jeter returned the favor when he invited him as a VIP guest to his retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium (which I was lucky enough to be in attendance for) and personally thanked him during his speech.
The first act of the offseason was one of the most significant, if rather underrated. Ramiro Mendoza became the prototype for middle reliever/spot starter/do-all throughout the Yankees championship run in the 90s (and for another team in particular which shall remain unmentioned). However, it may be surprising to realize that Mendoza was not part of the post-season roster on several occasions, largely due to his unsteadiness during certain seasons, but when he did pitch in post-season play, he was usually a highly-effective mid-game stopper. Signed two years after fellow countryman and best friend Mo, Mendoza became the Yoeman of the pitching staff (similar to yoeman bench player Clay Bellinger) and was very much liked by his teammates. Mike Axsia of River Avenue Blues has a more in-depth analysis of his career and impact on the Yankees.
I only note the acquisition of Charlie Hayes to explain that this was the first of two relatively short stints with the Yanks, though Hayes made an indelible mark on Yankee history in his second coming. Here in 1992, he hit .257 and struck out a career-high 100 times. After the season, the new expansion team Colorado Rockies drafted Hayes, but the Yankees fought his selection on the grounds that the expansion Florida Marlins were not fairly compensating the Yankees for taking away their minor-league territory in Ft. Lauderdale, were the Yanks had a long-situated minor league team and played many of their spring training home games. However, Commissioner Fay Vincent (perhaps still cranky over Steinbrenner’s banishment or his subsequently imminent return) ruled against them, and Hayes became an inaugural member of the Rockies. The loss was not unnoticed by Yanks brass and fans alike, though his records tell us he was actually much better with the Rockies than anywhere else. His post-season play in his second stint was unremarkable except for his steady defense at third, and the image of him catching Mark Lemke’s foul pop-up off of third in Game 6 of the 96 series is perhaps his identifying career image and moment. It was mostly downhill after that; he was traded during the following season and bounced around between the Ginats, Mets, Brewers and Astros, retiring in 2001. However, he has not fallen into obscurity as one would think; he operates a baseball academy in Texas and is a base coach for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. He also has two sons who played professionally; son Tyree was a pitcher from 2006-12, while son Ke’Bryan was the 32nd overall pick by the Pirates in 2015; the team Charlie played for before rejoining the Yanks in 1996. And just like his old man, he’s a third baseman. A helluva third baseman, in fact…
With Steinbrenner, the Yanks had a penchant for pilfering players from World Series-winning teams; the theory of course being that such players would contribute to winning ways on the Yankees. That tradition continued unabated in fact, though under Michael it was probably for a different reason. Mike Gallego, late of the Oakland A’s and a contributor to their on-field success was obviously such a signing; although the starting second baseman with Oakland, Gallego played mostly at shortstop for the Yanks, while also playing second and third throughout his tenure. Trivia: Gallego is the last Yankee player to wear No. 2, right before it was to become synonymous with RE2PECT. Gallego was known more for his glove and being able to move the runner over than as a hitter; in fact his best year as a hitter was with the Yanks in the following season when he inexplicably hit double digits in home runs, but after 93 he returned to normal and returned to Oakland for one more season in 95 before finishing out his career with two seasons in St. Louis with his old boss, Tony LaRussa. Today, he’s the director of player development for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Sean Hilligas, on the other hand, did not have an extended stay with the Yanks and was gone by the end of August. He was drafted by the Dodgers and made his debut in 1984, having a very decent rookie year in the rotation, but by 1988 he had pretty much fallen off the radar in L.A. and was traded to the White Sox during the Dodgers’ stretch run to the championship. The Yanks picked him up in 1992 as rotation depth, but he continued to disappoint, leading to his inevitable release. He continued bouncing around for another year before finally retiring, never to return to baseball again (but occasionally talking about it).
Oh yeah, speaking of RE2PECT…
I also want to get back to what i said earlier about 1992 being just as much about what the Yankees didn’t do (besides play at least .500 ball; the last season that this ever occurred by the way). As we know, Stick was trying hard to turn things around in Steinbrenner’s absence, and he wasn’t afraid to go after a big name if he really felt it would move the timeline faster without disrupting the architecture. This lead him to go after the biggest free agent in the winter of 1991: Barry Bonds. Barry was one of two godheads in Pittsburgh; the other being his assumed soul brother Bobby Bonilla, who left a season earlier to attach to the Mets (who to this day are still paying his salary, no joke). There was mutual interest between the two; Barry was far and wide the best hitter on the market, while Bonds (whose father Bobby played for the Yanks in the early-to-mid 70s) was unafraid of the bright lights and big city mentality of New York. However, Bonds and his agent stood pat on a long-term, high salary contract that was apparently a year too long for Stick’s comfort. “We have to draw the line somewhere,” Michael said. “I have no regrets saying we did not offer him a sixth year. We offered him a fantastic contract for five years. We really went out of our way to make a nice offer.” Apparently, 6yrs/$43 million was a vast and uncrossable difference from 5yrs/$36 million for a 28 year old MVP (Hmmmmm…), while on the flip side Barry didn’t think $36 mil was an appropriately high enough offer for a player of his caliber (he may have been right at the time, even though both were ghastly sums of money). After Stick abruptly ended negotiations with Bonds and his agent, he turned his attention to the rotation, seeking an audience with free agent Cubs ace Greg Maddux, who took time to think and pass around the Yanks’ offer before settling on Atlanta, where he continued his career as a pitcher extraordinaire unabated. Michael also considered trading for aces like Greg Swindell or David Cone before finally trading off a significant piece in starting second baseman Steve Sax for Melido Perez and company.
Question: how different would the Yankees look in the enduing years if they had both Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux in the fold? They already had one future legend playing backup in the clubhouse, with four more on the way. Would Bernie have been purged to accommodate Bonds’ salary and ego at any point? More than likely, one of Jesse Barfield or Mel Hall and one or two others would have been moved off the roster in subsequent trades in order to keep Roberto Kelly and Bernie (though with Bernie, there were questions about his fortitude early on, but that’s an entirely different story). Would Michael have been willing or able to make a trade for Paul O’Neill (probably not), Jim Abbott (maybe, but not very likely), David Cone (again), Tino Martinez (perhaps?) and so-on? It’s safe to say they wouldn’t have signed Danny Tartabull; with right field shut down for 5–6 years, that wasn’t going to happen even on a DH level. As things turned out, Michael didn’t regret not signing Bonds, but he did lament not getting Maddux for a time, especially when he, Smoltz and Glavine not only brought the Braves from worst to first, but also to their first championship in the city of Atlanta a few years later. But as things turned out in the long run, I kinda think Stick knew he did a good job after all.
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.
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:
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*
I decided to begin with the year 1990 for one reason: I believe this was the year that the perennially contending Yankees as we know them actually began, with the ouster of Steinbrenner and the functional head of the organization now being Gene Michael (Steinbrenner’s last official act as managing partner of the Yankees was to fire the current GM Harding Peterson in favor of Michael), the Yanks began the process of reinventing themselves into an organization that valued growing and developing players first, rather than simply being the highest bidder for the biggest star in the free agent market, or trading away developing prospects for tried-and-true veterans whom somehow either flopped or otherwise failed to live up to expectations. Michael’s method valued potential over past results, and that method yielded some genuine value in both prospects and veterans (signed or traded for) who became franchise mainstays.
But within this process, there had to be players who either didn’t fit into the plan long term for one reason or another; perhaps they didn’t make the cut and were either relegated to the minors or released or traded, perhaps they were at the tail end of their careers and were basically picking up another check before they bid the major leagues adieu. Or, in some cases, they started out with the Yanks but didn’t make it with them, so they went somewhere else and became All Stars, or at the very least fan faves with another team. Many will be surprised at who donned the famous pinstripes at one point or another in their careers. Many know of the players who got a second wind with the Yankees after their stars had dimmed elsewhere; Strawberry, Gooden, Cone, Boggs, Fielder, Justice and the like. But as we start with 1990 and make our way to last season, you’ll find names that would have never occurred to you unless someone (here!) brought them to your attention. You can tell me if it’s fair or not to include them as “honorable mentions” or “who dat’s”, but that’s what I hope will keep the discussion lively. Feel free to contribute any stories about mentioned players that you might find interesting.
I’m going to build a key here and hope that it sticks:
- Opening Day Starters: underline
- Also Played: #
- Regulars On Roster: blank
- Renowned From Other Teams: bold
- Unheralded Rookie/Prospect: *
- Unheralded Vet: italics
So, here we go:
Of that list, I had a little trouble categorizing Bob Geren, Claudell Washington, Rich Monteleone, Oscar Azócar and Mike Blowers because they were known/heralded, but not great players. The last two in particular were part of a pre-Michaels youth movement that also had rookies Steve Adkins, Mark Leiter, Jim Leyritz, Kevin Maas and Alan Mills making their major league debuts in 1990. Of this group, Leyritz would remain as a fixture, Maas would become a fan favorite for a time (but never a productive cog in the the team’s ambitions as Leyritz would be), Mills would star in Baltimore (but was often foiled by his former team), and Leiter went onto greater things with Detroit among other teams. Hensley Meulens was very much heralded and made his debut in 1985, but by 1990 was pretty much a permanent shuttle inhabitant between Columbus and the Bronx. But he did become a fixture and hero of The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, and he almost became the Yankees’ new manager recently, so there’s that.
Deion Sanders obviously has to be the name that jumps out the most, but he was well known for being a two-sport star; at the time playing for the Atlanta Falcons. If he had not struggled in his first two seasons with the Yanks and had Bo Jackson not suffered the injury that effectively ended his sports career, not to mention his “Prime Time” persona that rubbed quite a few baseball people the wrong way, Deion might have had a longer career with the Yanks. However, Stick released him after an unproductive second season and contentious contract extension talks, saying that football was stunting his growth as a baseball player. Perhaps this stung Deion in some way, or maybe the ease of being in the same city for both professions helped; when he signed with the Atlanta Braves, he suddenly became Bo Jackson Lite and was an immediate contributor to the teams that won two NL pennants in 1991-92. Consider it one of Michael’s few missteps.
This was also Dave Winfield’s last season with the Yanks, before he was traded in mid-May for pitcher Mike Witt. We all know the story with Winfield, which led to George’s ouster, but Witt was formerly a solid, if not ace-quality pitcher with the California Angels until he suddenly lost his mojo, and after the trade it never came back, with Witt mercifully disappearing from baseball after little more than two seasons and a plethora of injuries.
June 4, 1990: 1990 Major League Baseball Draft
Whoa, what a fun draft that was. There are quite a few others to talk about here, so look them up and ask away or talk about any that stand out beyond who or what I highlighted. Do you think the indications are fair? You tell me.
Hat-tip to our own Mr. OK Jazz Tokyo for the idea!
I intend for this to be a mini-series throughout this year’s Spring Training, wherein we shine a desk lamp light on those former or future All-Stars (or solid players in any regard) who played for more or less one season with the Yankees during and after their 90’s Dynasty years.
Not that this is an anomaly for the Yankees exclusive to this era (anyone who rooted for the Yanks since Steinbrenner bought the team would know this became part of their DNA through the 80s), but I wanted to focus on this particular era, given that the strongest season from that era and in team history is now 20 years in the past…(!) The folks over at River Avenue Blues presented their annual (and highly recommended Retro Week before the beginning of Spring Training; this year highlighting interesting moments and insights of the super-duper 1998 season. While discussing this series, Jazz suggested writing about some of the well-known players who we (sometimes intentionally) forget were on the Yankee roster for a brief moment. Since it’s too early to forget Matt Holliday or Chris Carter (among others last season), we’ll leave them off this list. We’ll see…
For now, we’ll exclude players who were signed for specific roles, but then ended up becoming fixtures in the clubhouse (i.e. David Justice, Scott Brosius, Luis Sojo, et al) or prospects who played for the big club and stuck around longer than one season (Shane Spenser, Juan Rivera, Ricky Ledee, et al), and for the sake of this series and out of respect to the great writers at River Avenue Blues who indirectly inspired this series, we’ll not rehash Mike Lowell’s cup of coffee as a Yankee heir apparent; whose opportunity was usurped by a spectacular Brosius regular and World Series MVP season on the cusp of what turned out to be a fairly solid All Star career.
For now though, if you have any suggestions of who to highlight from say 1994 (the natural beginning of 90s dynasty-era dominance) to the present, feel free to comment below. I don’t have strict rules for the moment, but I am compiling a list and researching as much info as I can about each player; their bios, their accomplishments, what they’re up to now, as much as a guy who is a baseball fan and blog writer with no press credentials can muster and present in an interesting fashion. It would be easy to just wiki these guys yourself, but who else wants to bother to make the list and do that? >;)
Sooo… how ’bout that weather?
Indeed, it’s been an effort this winter to stay warm and in a cheery mood, not that Cashman and the Yanks haven’t tried to help. After all, snatching up a reigning MVP entering his prime from one league and pairing him with a homegrown runner-up MVP who also happens to be the unequivocal Rookie of the Year and still a couple years away from his prime (hopefully) has to qualify as a heat-seeking missile maneuver to say the least. Re-signing C.C. seems like posturing after the Mother Of All Dunks (hey, they ain’t called the Bronx Bombers for nothing…). Yet even with that, the ripples of time have dissipated far and long enough enough for us to see that this off-season has been in relative stasis; the iguanas falling out of the trees are frozen in expectation of better conditions to act within their nature.
So what are we waiting for?
I guess we’re still waiting on that market, huh? Yunnow, the one that seems to be getting busy later and later in the off-season these past few years? I dunno, with what amounts to a soft-cap looming over the proceedings and a new generation of smart shoppers analyzing everything with modified Hubble telescopes and probability vector algorithms, the Hot Stove has been as interesting as watching flies fiduciary-fiduciary-fiduciary… you get the picture.
To be honest, I’m quite pleased with the relative “restraint” the Yanks have shown in this and the last few seasons; Ellsbury notwithstanding. They’ve figured out how to add and subtract big contracts and farm pieces without putting too much pressure on their bottom line, but obviously the major factor in this formula working is the fact that their prospects are mostly living up to their rankings when they hit the big stage, which creates more capital to pull off a big trade such as Ultron for Rikki Tikki Tavi and two diamond pinkie rings. And so far, what they haven’t done has given them credibility going forward; not trading for Gerritt Cole, who not long ago gave us all the impression that he never wanted to be a Yankee to begin with to me makes up for the pre-dynasty years wasted on Jack McDowell. Now if they can only avoid making a long-term regret with Yu Darvish… I like Darvish and our old Toaster fam Mike Plugh was not wrong about him, but I also like that he purportedly skipped a ridiculously Ellsburyish offer with a 48-hr deadline, which probably means if he does sign with the Yanks, it’ll be for significantly less ducats. As is, the Yanks can live somewhere around $25-30 million under the luxury tax line without him.
So as presently constructed, what do you think we can expect from this influx of power and youth? Is it safe to consider the roster a go heading into February, or are we waiting for the fire to heat up now that certain teams are starting to make a few moves? Is Gleyber a lock at second or does Cashman want to let him warm up in SWB coming off an injury and all… is Miguel Andujar the answer at third or is Todd Fraizer going to slide in under the budget line somehow? Does Jacoby break with the team going north and turn in a Headleyesque barnburner of an April-May that gets him some admirers from far-flung contenders? Will Hicks continue to build on what the Twins didn’t have the patience for? Can Gardy… wait, do we still have to do the stupid “name-y” thing now that Joe’s gone? And who’s going to be our Achilles’ Heel bench guy who had one good season and is signed to keep the lineup human THIS year?
Oh yeah, and is Aaron Freakin’ Boone gonna do it or what? Will our new Ulysses prove Cashman to be the brilliant Texas Hold-Em Pragmatic Genius that we hope he is at this point, or will Cashman be forced to do a Dan Jennings The Elder and take over halfway through May? What’s it gonna be, Bob Brenly or Bucky Dent?
“Oh Look, it’s the Score Tru–“NEEEYYOWWWW!!!!
No, that would be the right fielder. Let’s just call him Score Truck so everyone can get out of his way. This guy is amazing (in the good way, not the Northern Blvd way). And the best part is that it seems like it hasn’t gone to his head yet. Here’s hoping that it remains that way for the entirety of his career and whatever follows. But I’m not here to anoint a new Chosen One; all things considered, Aaron Judge has been better than anyone could imagine so far, but that’s the thing: did anyone really expect this?
Well, later for that; what’s even more amazing is that he’s far from the only one doing major damage for this team. Everyone in the lineup from lead-off to the nine-spot has the potential (and pretty much has in this series) break out with a moonshot or two: ask the guy whose been playing serious catch-up lately, Gary Sanchez (thank goodness they wised up and put him back in the middle of the lineup instead of the two-spot? Really?) Ask Brett, Ask The Other One >;), Starlin, Matt, Didi, well not so much Chase though he could and has before… but Chris Carter is probably the home-runningest guy hitting ninth and that’s not getting into the nicks-and-scratches guys on the bench. These guys got that swing. The Mostly Baby-Faced Bosses were last seen making chicken pot pie out of the visiting Baltimore Orioles to the tune of 38 runs to the Orioles’ 8 over three days in the Bronx. Talk about a critical beatdown…
So yeah, that’s all I wanted to say for now. This team is pretty much speaking for itself and is constantly leaving people speechless. I suppose some folks are busy stuffing bad pizza in their orifices due to that unfortunate promotion offering half off anything when the Yanks score six or more runs in a game… but we won’t speak of that either. Chicken Pot Pie is a nice alternative for the time being. Starting pitching is still a hold-your-breath kind of issue, but so far I enjoy what I’ve seen for the most part. Happiness is a win in front of the home crowd, after all). Next up:
What’s good, everyone? My first post of the season happens to coincide with a couple of other firsts: first major league start for rookie lefty Jordan Montgomery, who impressed just about everyone with his steady Spring Training, and for yours truly, my first visit to the new iteration of Yankee Stadium. Yep, first time; thanks to my buddy Omar Nieve Capra for the belated birthday gift! I brought another buddy Joe Hunt with me to journey to this new planet…
And what a gift it was: Jordan Montgomery, part of a cadre of young and apparently effective farmhands making their presence known to us and the rest of the baseball world was making his major league debut at Yankee Stadium 2.0; a ballpark that from what I had always heard reminded me of an indoor mall with a baseball field in the middle. More on that later. Well, I wish I could say that Tiny (all 6’6″ of him) set the place on fire the moment he stepped foot on the tiniest grain of dirt on the edge of the mound (more on that later). He is a rookie, and the rookieness showed within his first few batters. After getting the first two outs on a couple of sketchy fly-outs, he walked the venerable Yankee pain-in-the-ass Evan Longoria worked out a walk. Rickie Weeks Jr…. Rickie Freakie-Deakie, Leakie WEEKS… JUNIOR fercryin’outloud… took a pitch and sent it packing over the left field fence, with Aaron Hicks kinda looking at it like it was a fine lady in a red dress on her way to Paris by levitation or something; just looking and wondering… where she was going, what she was doing, could he get them digits, well never mind. Back to work.
Joe was disappointed, but I figured that this would be a good opportunity to test the kid’s mettle. After all, he’s gonna be the fifth stater for a little while, and this is New York, and his parents were probably here watching from somewhere special, right? Give the kid a chance. He got the third out and the Yanks went to work.
Well, not exactly. Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell shut down the side fairly easily in the first. with a fly-out by Jacoby Ellsbury, a grounder back to Snell by Hicks and an infield pop-fly by Matt Holliday to end the inning pretty easily. Joe got the feeling that this might be a long and kinda rainy afternoon for the Yanks. No doubt a thousand others felt the same way after that inning, but I wasn’t about to give up. Let’s see how the kid does.
In fact, Tiny did pretty well. He sat down his side of the inning as well, and kept getting them out through the third and fourth. In fact, in the fourth the umps decided to help out a little when catcher Derek Norris lined a single to left, and for some strange reason decided that Aaron Hicks wasn’t good enough to get him out at second. As the throw came in, I saw that Norris didn’t know what the hell he was likely thinking as the ball was in Starlin Castro’s glove, waiting with open arms. Perhaps a little too open in fact; Castro applied a high tag to Norris, who managed to get his foot around him and on the bag at the same moment. From our right field foul pole vantage in the upper deck, it sure looked like he was out by a mile, but upon video review, we could see he beat the tag, so we waited for the inevitable reverse of the out-call. But guess what: it didn’t happen. The crowd erupted in glee as the umps held the bad call. Wowzers. Okay, one for us. Stupid umps. Tiny escaped the inning with no more base-runners and no runs, and the kid was proving to be kinda badass.
The fifth is where the train came in to the station; Tampa right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (what, another one?) doubled to left (maybe Norris was onto something?), but Tiny struck out CF Kevin Kiermaier and the surprisingly ineffective Longoria; not without a long battle that ran up his pitch count. “This is his last inning,” I predicted to Joe. “He can’t get anything but a loss,” Joe mused. “The Yankees haven’t done anything all day, aside from Castro getting a hit.” “Well,” I replied insistently, “all they have to do is get into Tampa’s bullpen and they can get back in it, Trust me, that’s all they need to do. ” Montgomery did in fact leave after that, having thrown about 89 pitches in 4-2/3rd innings, giving up 2 earned runs, walking two and striking out seven. Not bad, kid. Next, another kid: Bryan Mitchell. With a runner on second, Mitchell pitched to RickieWeeks, who dashed the ball to Castro at second, who somehow let the ball bounce away from him while Souza scored behind him, but then Weeks tried to go for two and, heh, he was thrown out without question.
In the bottom of that same inning, Chase Headley, who has taken upon himself to rebuild his stock as a viable third baseman, hit a hard single over the middle into center. Big Bad Aaron Judge (aka Mark Gastineau from Joe’s vantage point and hopefully the comparisons stop right there) walked, pushing Chase to second. Kyle Higashioka, who came up to spell Gary Sanchez while he recovers from a bicep strain, grounded lightly to third, and the play went to second to force out Judge. However, Girardi decided to challenge the call; from our vantage point it looked like he was out, but the video made it look closer than it was. In fact, the video so impressed the umps that they again reversed the call and Judge was safe. Lesson: Judge, but don’t judge…? Bases loaded. Defensive specialist Pete Kozma, starting at shortstop against the lefty for whatever reason, battled a bit, but popped out to second. Ellsbury, on the very first pitch, the very first pitch he saw… popped out in foul territory to third. Boooo! My buddy Joe kept reminding me that the Yanks really needed to make something of this, or they weren’t gonna win. Oh, Joe, just be patient. The bullpens will make the difference in this game. Hicks worked out a walk and Chase brought in the Yanks’ first run. The Tampa infield decided to hold a meeting and as I looked to the scoreboard to our right, I saw immediately that they had decided to do the inevitable.
“Oh look,” I said to Joe, “they’re bringing in Fat Bernie!” If Joe had anything in his mouth, he must have spit it out because he inexplicably collapsed in a fit of chuckles. “Don’t do that to me, Will,” he choked, “you know I wasn’t prepared for that. He even has the glasses, too!” Neither was I prepared for Fat Bernie, better known as Jumbo Diaz. As he jumbered out from the bullpen in center, I wondered if he was not in fact bigger than Aaron Judge. He certainly lived up to his name. More importantly, he could throw some gas, which is exactly what Tampa Bay brought him in to do. As a matter of fact, he spilled some behind the catcher as the ball bounced underneath his glove and Judge ran a tight end route to home with another run. Diaz continued to have issues as Holliday walked to again load the bases. But then Chris Human Out Machine Carter, with a pretty wide and rusty-looking swing, brought the rally to a halt with a ground-out. Yet I turned to Joe and said, “I told you so.”
Bryan Mitchell held the Rays in the top of the sixth, and Jumbo Diaz continued to spill gas in the bottom. Castro beat out an infield single that was close (but no replay) and Headley followed with a sharp single. It’s important to note that Chase Headley is actually making good contact and hitting the ball hard to various places, as he will have to be significant in order for the Yanks to have a shot at making it through April in good position, never mind being serious contenders by the All-Star Break. Judge followed with a single that allowed Castro to bring in the tying run. Higashioka, who I think is a better hitter than this, bunted toward third, but he did not lay it down like a bunt is supposed ++ to be, but popped it toward third, which created another fielder’s choice situation and this time Judge was forced out at second (with no replay). But by this time, the Rays had had enough and brought in Xavier Cedeño in relief of Diaz. Girardi countered with Brett Gardner for Kozma. Hmm, now we’ll get some runs in, I said. Where they stick him after that is beyond me, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Brett is one tough cookie, that’s for sure, He worked the count, getting 3-0 before letting the obligatory strike cross the plate, then fouling off another pitch. 3-2 with runners on first and third. one out. The pitch: a slow come-backer to the pitcher. Cedeño looked at around and then threw low to Weeks at first, but he couldn’t pick it cleanly and reached over the baseline to get the ball. *** WHAM!!! *** Two trains collided. Joe and I heard the impact from the upper deck. I watched the two fall away in opposite directions; two trees falling away from each other and into the river, struck by lightning as it were. Weeks remained face down while Brett, with a spark of life left, struggled to reach over and touch the base, then seemingly passed out. Both trainers bolted out of their dugouts and were the first to reach the prone bodies. The crowd, who had cheered the play as it happened, fell hush with uncertainty. Momentarily, Weeks climbed up and was ushered back to the Rays dugout, with applause from the crowd for his ability to walk away from the accident. Brett took longer. he lay face-up on the grass as several people attended to him, the look decidedly not good. After what was a good minute, but felt a lot longer than that, Brett sat up. The crowd cheered. A few more moments and he was up, walking back to the dugout, and presumably to the clubhouse.
You have to think… for a guy like Brett, who by most metrics is small for a major league outfielder at 5’10”, but is built like a tank if you get close enough to notice and gets injured often because he plays as hard as a tank, it’s hard to baseball. Harder than you think. But he keeps going. That play alone illustrates why it’s a hard notion to give him away to some other team so easily. Nothing about this cat is easy except his ability to be a good teammate. Maybe I’m getting a little soft in my getting-older age, but I was impressed, not by the knockdown, but the get up. Moreover, he got a run in. Yanks with the lead, yay. Shorty Ronald Torreyes, aka Brett’s Mini-Me, came in to run in his stead. Jacoby Ellsbury sort of redeemed his earlier fail with a sharp single that brought in Fielder’s Choice Higashioka, and Hicks, having a productive game himself, grounded in another run to bring the tally to six for the Yanks.
Tyler Clippard, yeah he’s still here, he took over relief duties and shut down the Rays in the seventh by sandwiching a groundout between two strikeouts. In the bottom, with Erasmo Ramirez in for the Rays, Chris Carter finally managed to swing and make decent contact, landing the ball softly in right. For the designated all-or-nothing guy with a country swing, we were willing to take it. After Castro popped out, Judge came back up. “Please Aaron,”, I pleaded softly, “hit one up here and into my hands. Knock Joe’s hipster hat of his head…” Well, to Judge’s credit, he tried. He looked for the right pitch and swung, hard, yet easy. However, the ball sailed in the wrong direction. Instead of right field down the line and well into the upper deck, he hit it fairly straight away to center field and over away from us, somewhere between Monument Park and the restaurant that have near it. Maybe somewhere behind those two. Wherever it landed, it wasn’t in my hands and Joe still had his hat on. I was slightly annoyed, but I gave Judge credit for listening and trying to fulfill a humble birthday wish. Dude is huge; gave the Yanks a huge lead, 8-3. “See, what did I tell you?” I reminded Joe. That capped the scoring for the Yanks.
After enduring the groundskeepers’ “YMCA” routine and standing for Kate Smith during the seventh inning stretch, I asked Joe if he wanted to stay or try to beat the rush out the door. Joe looked around, seeing that the stadium was already half-empty at this point, so figured that getting out wouldn’t be an issue and decided we should stay to the end. Good choice, because after Tommy Layne came on and gave a run back to Tampa Bay in the eighth (just for fun, I imagine), then Jonathan Holder couldn’t keep a couple of base runners off in the ninth, we got to see the fire. Remember the fire? That fire alluded to earlier in the recap? Yeah, that fire, aka Aroldis Chapman, aka Best Reliever in Baseball Right Now (among other things). And yeah, he brung it. What was left of the stadium crowd burst into flames, the scoreboard burst into flames, the sound system, the field, the Rays, everything burst into flames. There was definitely a theme; the sun decided to pay attention and brought shine and heat for the occasion. Tall, dark and handsome ran like a man with a mission to the mound, warmed up (hah!) quickly and got to work. Flame on! First pitch: woosh! 99! Second pitch: Zoom! 100! The pitch after that? Floof! 101! Chapman sets places on fire. If you’re still wondering why the Yanks paid stupid money to bring him back, stop. It was for this, for the hundreds. After that first pitch, he only threw two other pitches less than 100: one at 83? that badly fooled Souza who popped out to first, and I don’t even remember the other one. He struck out poor Kevin Kiermaier with a 101! is all I know, and that was that. Yankees win, Aaron Judge was the hero and the highlight.
– Aaron Judge will be a star for a good while if he maintains his health and a good work ethic. Please don’t trade him for anything. A combi of him, Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez, with Didi and maybe eventually Gleyber Torres and Clint Fraizer and the Yankees will have a monster team in a couple of years and for years to come (again, provided they all remain healthy and in good habits).
– Disappointed to not see Bird or Sanchez (or Betances for that matter) play, but ‘dems the breaks’. Perhaps we should revisit this in May or June…
– Revisit? Yankee Stadium 2.0 is certainly a remarkable edifice worthy of the team itself, but it’s different than the old stadium in quite a few ways. It’s brighter and fresher, more open air and inviting. But that’s just the thing: the old stadium was a factor. It was close and personal, dark and foreboding, yet familiar and exciting. In my youth, Yankee Stadium was some place you didn’t dare go alone to, but you were glad you went because you were part of something big, whether they were playing for something big or not. It didn’t necessarily have class, but it didn’t need it because it had spirit. New Yankee Stadium is charming and sparkly, but sort-of in a billion-dollar college sports complex kind of way. With stores and restaurants. It screams EXPENSIVE!! everywhere you walk. And if you were like my buddy Joe and spent $20 on a leftover footlong and a tall cup of light beer, you don’t want to be reminded of how EXPENSIVE!! everything is because when you get hungry again, you don’t feel like spending any more money. It adds up quicker than Chapman’s fastball. Sure, it was pretty much the same in the old stadium, but the old stadium gave you a lot more to think about. This is a paradise I can’t afford except when someone like Omar decides to give me a gift. How soon I revisit depends on how soon a friend wants to gift me with a ticket or two. Where we sit doesn’t really matter if it’s a good game.
This will be an interesting year for the Yanks. Despite their best efforts to handicap the filed by taking on a Chris Carter or batting Gary Sanchez second, they’ve got the firepower to take them far. But as I told Joe, it really depends on how they can (or IF they can) solidify the rotation with bonafide innings-eaters and an ace or two to take the stress off their surprisingly good bullpen. You can’t run your bullpen into the ground before mid-season, which is what I fear might happen if they can’t get their starters past six innings more often than not. So Jordan Montgomery still has some growing up to do, as good as his start was for the most part. They do have room to play with a handful of young considerables when needed, but hopefully nothing unfortunate occurs to force them to spend some of their considerable depth too soon if not at all. For now, I will say that they’re best bet is a wild card, but that won’t be easy.
Too tired to put up a real post and not wanting to spoil the tribute post to a recently passed well-known and respected contemporary jazz singer/entertainer, I’m tossing this up for discussions on various things baseball and Yanks related. Among those things:
Nick Swisher retired. Well, at least he didn’t drag it out too long. But he was one of those guys who always seemed to let the kid inside come out and play. I’ll miss that.
Both Tyler Austin and Mason Williams have injuries that, although not career-threatening, will certainly alter their destinations after Spring Training (unless they have super powers).
Front office is sounding quite jerky yet again. I mean, you can be right and correct, but you can also control the impulse to gloat about it, and Randy Levine continues to make the team (and its fanbase by proxy) look like complete [insert favorite expletive here]s. Which, maybe they are, but we don’t seem to want anyone else to say it. What it means down the road is almost obvious though, and it would be really disheartening to lose great talent because the person or people in charge are loose-lipped sociopaths, which is certainly a New York sports-related specialty of late.
Okay, never mind with the vague grinding of axes, let’s get on with the show already!
So far, there’s been relatively little of seriousness to discuss this off-season, which is par for the course these days around this portion of the year (unless you consider cashing in Brian McCann and his post-trade thoughts for a couple of futures worthy of going ballistic in the comments section). As I (meaning me) have suggested recently, it would be surprising if the Yanks made any tectonic-scale moves to bolster (replenish?) their starters in either the batting lineup or the pitching staff, but don’t be surprised if they swap out some guys for bullpen help or to shore up their bench. In fact, considering how well 2009 went regardless of our initial beliefs, anything’s still possible, so save that thought.
According to Mark Polishuk at MLB Trade Rumors (who apply their own accord on this to George A. King III), Yanks are in on our old pal Aroldis Chapman, though they are considerably wary of going five years with him. Similarly, but to a lesser extent, they are also interested in the hard-hitting Edwin Encarnacion, but are equally uninterested in a five-year deal with him. Both would represent considerably improvements in their area of expertise, though their need for Chapman outweighs their need for Encarnacion based on the presence of Gary Sanchez and (again) to a lesser extent the expectations placed on both Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. To this, we also add the possibility of the Yanks bringing back Carlos Beltran, though they might not get that chance either if they are trying to stay within their given budget parameters.
I would think that considerable attention should be paid to third base, where Chase Headley has been somewhat of a letdown and where the Yanks are considerably thin in their system having traded their former Trenton Thunder 3B Eric Jaigalo (their first pick overall in 2013 and by all accounts their closest-to-ready 3B prospect for the majors, even if he wasn’t really that close) and three others to bring in Chapman last off-season. Among their top ten prospects, none are slated to play third, which along with second has been a perennially overlooked issue with the Yanks of late. Maybe Cashman believes one of their infield prospects will take to the hot corner well enough to cover this seeming oversight, maybe he thinks Starlin Castro or Lil’ Ronnie Torreyes or a player to be discovered later will be good enough, or maybe he even thinks Headley can only go up from here. Perhaps, even, the Yanks can’t afford to go deep on any more starting infielders without trading for one that would ultimately upset the balance he’s creating with all of the prospects he’s stacking in the system at the moment (or because of, you know, the budget). Who really knows? As fans, all we can do is react and speculate, and I’m all out of Big League Chew…
So here we are, waiting to see if Cashman can figure out a way to bring back the best closer currently playing in the majors (who you still might be a little wary of considering how he was used by manager Joe Torr–err, Maddon during the post-season) without breaking the bank or the system or future plans in the process, and also hope that while you know in the back of your mind there’s not much hope for contention in the coming year, they can at least make it interesting for far longer than they did this past season.
Ahem, take your time processing all that, it looks like it’s gonna be a long winter at any rate.
Losing your engagement ring in front of how many thousands of fans at a baseball game… Then finding it again hours later and proposing, only for her to say “Let me think about it; you’re kind of a loser…” Well, that last part didn’t happen as far as I know (though technically it would be true if she did say it), but does summarize the 2016 Yanks and the relationship with its fan base this season, no? At any rate, if the kids play again tonight, expect them to bring some Wu tonight, because BlowSux…
Yanks arrive in Baltimore for a three game set and 2-1/2 games behind for the second wild-card spot. While that speaks volumes about their resilience throughout this largely mediocre season (and a little about how watered-down the playoff format has become of late), I am more impressed by how the Baby Bombers (Sanchez, Judge, et al) have made such impacts the moment they were entrusted with reasonable playing time. And now that it’s largely because of this impact that the Yankee September call ups has been more about strategy than development; the most intriguing of the Six Pack arriving being Jonathan Holder, who since being drafted two years ago has cruised through the minors with a 1.63 ERA and forced Cashman’s hand as they try to make their way once again into the playoffs.
Looks like reinforcements are on the way…