"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Spring Training

Yankee for a Minute: 1996

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 >;)

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

1996 New York Yankees Roster

Pitchers

  • 41 Brian Boehringer
  • 29 Ricky Bones
  • 59 Billy Brewer
  • 36 David Cone
  • 39 Paul Gibson
  • 11 Dwight Gooden
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 52 Mark Hutton*
  • 28 Scott Kamieniecki
  • 22 Jimmy Key
  • 27 Graeme Lloyd
  • 54 Jim Mecir
  • 57 Ramiro Mendoza
  • 43 Jeff Nelson
  • 47 Dave Pavlas
  • 46 Andy Pettitte
  • 56 Dale Polley*
  • 42 Mariano Rivera~
  • 17 Kenny Rogers
  • 52 David Weathers
  • 35 John Wetteland
  • 55 Wally Whitehurst
  • 27 Bob Wickman

 Catchers

  • 25 Joe Girardi
  • 13 Jim Leyritz
  • 60 Tim McIntosh
  • 55 Jorge Posada~ 

Infielders

  • 12 Wade Boggs
  • 18 Mariano Duncan
  • 20 Robert Eenhoorn
  • 45 Cecil Fielder
  • 26 Andy Fox*
  • 33 Charlie Hayes
  • 38,99 Matt Howard*
  •  2 Derek Jeter~
  • 14 Pat Kelly
  • 24 Tino Martinez
  • 19 Luis Sojo

 Outfielders

  • 20 Mike Aldrete
  • 39 Dion James
  • 21 Paul O’Neill
  • 31 Tim Raines
  • 28 Rubén Rivera
  • 39 Darryl Strawberry
  • 51 Bernie Williams
  • 29 Gerald Williams

 Other batters

  • 39 Matt Luke*

Offseason

  • December 4, 1995: Jalal Leach was drafted by the Montreal Expos from the New York Yankees in the 1995 minor league draft.
  • December 7, 1995: Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock were traded by the Yankees to the Seattle Mariners for Tino Martinez, Jeff Nelson and Jim Mecir.
  • December 11, 1995: Mariano Duncan was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • December 21, 1995: David Cone was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • December 28, 1995: The Yankees traded a player to be named later to the Chicago White Sox for Tim Raines. The Yankees completed the deal by sending Blaise Kozeniewski to the White Sox on February 6, 1996.
  • February 20, 1996: Dwight Gooden was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • February 24, 1996: Tim McIntosh was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • March 31, 1995: Rafael Quirico was released by the Yankees.

Notable transactions

  • June 4, 1996: 1996 Major League Baseball draft
    • Nick Johnson was drafted by the Yankees in the 3rd round. Player signed June 14, 1996
    • Scott Seabol was drafted by the Yankees in the 88th round. Player signed June 25, 1996.
  • June 12, 1996: Rich Monteleone was traded by the Yankees to the California Angels for Mike Aldrete.
  • June 12, 1996: Wally Whitehurst was selected off waivers by the Yankees from the Montreal Expos.
  • July 4, 1996: Darryl Strawberry was purchased by the Yankees from the St. Paul Saints.
  • July 31, 1996: Rubén Sierra and Matt Drews (minors) were traded by the Yankees to the Detroit Tigers for Cecil Fielder.
  • July 31, 1996: Dave Weathers was traded by the Florida Marlins to the New York Yankees for Mark Hutton.
  • August 22, 1996: Luis Sojo was selected off waivers by the Yankees from the Seattle Mariners.
  • August 23, 1996: Bob Wickman and Gerald Williams were traded by the Yankees to the Milwaukee Brewers for Pat Listach, Graeme Lloyd and a player to be named later. The Brewers completed the trade by sending Ricky Bones to the Yankees on August 29.
  • August 30, 1996: The Yankees traded a player to be named later to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Charlie Hayes. The Yankees completed the deal by sending Chris Corn to the Pirates on August 31.[18]
  • September 6, 1996: Robert Eenhoorn was selected off waivers from the Yankees by the California Angels.
  • September 12, 1996: Wally Whitehurst was released by the Yankees.

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 >;)

Yankee for a Minute: 1995

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…

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

1995 New York Yankees Roster

Pitchers

  • 54 Joe Ausanio
  • 25 Scott Bankhead
  • 31 Brian Boehringer*
  • 36 David Cone
  • 47 Dave Eiland
  • 41 Sterling Hitchcock
  • 47 Rick Honeycutt
  • 57 Steve Howe#
  • 28 Scott Kamieniecki
  • 22 Jimmy Key
  • 34 Rob MacDonald
  • 38 Josías Manzanillo
  • 19 Jack McDowell
  • 39 Jeff Patterson*
  • 56 Dave Pavlas
  • 33 Mélido Pérez
  • 46 Andy Pettitte~
  • 42 Mariano Rivera~
  • 35 John Wetteland#
  • 27 Bob Wickman#

Catchers

  • 13 Jim Leyritz
  • 62 Jorge Posada~
  • 20 Mike Stanley

Infielders

  • 12 Wade Boggs
  • 24 Russ Davis
  • 50 Robert Eenhoorn
  • 26 Kevin Elster
  •  6 Tony Fernández
  •  2 Derek Jeter~
  • 14 Pat Kelly
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 43 Dave Silvestri
  • 18 Randy Velarde

Outfielders

  • 39 Dion James
  • 21 Paul O’Neill
  • 17 Luis Polonia
  • 17, 25 Rubén Rivera+
  • 26 Darryl Strawberry
  • 45 Danny Tartabull
  • 51 Bernie Williams
  • 29 Gerald Williams#

Offseason

  • December 14, 1994: Jack McDowell was traded by the Chicago White Sox to the New York Yankees for a player to be named later and Keith Heberling (minors). The New York Yankees sent Lyle Mouton (April 22, 1995) to the White Sox to complete the trade.
  • December 15, 1994:Tony Fernández was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.

Transactions

  • April 12, 1995: Randy Velarde was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
  • June 5, 1995: Josías Manzanillo was selected off waivers by the New York Yankees from the New York Mets.
  • June 8, 1995: Kevin Elster was released by the New York Yankees.
  • June 19, 1995: Darryl Strawberry was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
  • July 1, 1995: Kevin Maas was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
  • July 16, 1995: Dave Silvestri was traded by the New York Yankees to the Montreal Expos for Tyrone Horne (minors).
  • July 28, 1995: David Cone was traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Yankees for Marty Janzen, Jason Jarvis (minors), and Mike Gordon (minors).
  • July 28, 1995: Danny Tartabull was traded by the New York Yankees to the Oakland Athletics for Rubén Sierra and Jason Beverlin.
  • August 11, 1995: Luis Polonia was traded by the New York Yankees to the Atlanta Braves for Troy Hughes (minors).

Draft picks

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.

Shaping Up

I saw today that Kenny Singleton will retire from the broadcast booth after this season. He’s had a good run with the Yanks, a welcome, even-handed and amiable presence. We’re certain to appreciate spending one last summer with him.

I haven’t been following spring training too closely—only the quotidian peek to make sure nobody has been terribly injured—but did see the Yanks signed Neil Walker on the cheap. That feels like a nice bit of insurance to have at second base. Left-handed pop, Yankee Stadium, Mmm, mmm, good. Plus, a little more seasoning in the minors could be just what uber-prospect Gleyber Torres needs. Over at The Athletic (subscription required), Marc Carig reports:

“It’s way too early to critique the bat because he’ll get it going when he’s playing every day with a little less pressure,” said one talent evaluator, who said Torres’ spring performance did little to change his belief that Torres could be a special player.

Torres is ranked as the Yankees’ top prospect and No. 5 in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline. He will almost certainly be summoned at some point during the season….

“Any experience he can get to prepare him for his future role is a huge plus,” the evaluator said. “He played defense very well and just needs the ABs.”

Picture by Bags

Yankee for a Minute: 1994

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.

And then this s*** happened

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…

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

1994 New York Yankees Roster

Pitchers

  • 25 Jim Abbott
  • 54 Joe Ausanio*
  • 35 Paul Gibson
  • 34 Greg Harris
  • 31 Xavier Hernandez#
  • 41 Sterling Hitchcock
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 52 Mark Hutton
  • 28 Scott Kamieniecki
  • 22 Jimmy Key
  • 46 Terry Mulholland
  • 34 Rob Murphy
  • 19 Bob Ojeda
  • 39 Donn Pall
  • 33 Mélido Pérez
  • 54 Jeff Reardon
  • 27 Bob Wickman#

Catchers

  • 13 Jim Leyritz
  • 43 Bob Melvin
  • 38 Matt Nokes
  • 20 Mike Stanley

 Infielders

  • 12 Wade Boggs
  • 24 Russ Davis~
  • 50 Robert Eenhoorn*
  • 19 Kevin Elster
  •  2 Mike Gallego
  • 14 Pat Kelly
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 47 Dave Silvestri
  • 18 Randy Velarde

 Outfielders

  • 26 Daryl Boston
  • 21 Paul O’Neill
  • 17 Luis Polonia
  • 45 Danny Tartabull
  • 51 Bernie Williams
  • 29 Gerald Williams

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 >;)

Offseason

  • November 27, 1993: Andy Stankiewicz and Domingo Jean were traded by the Yankees to the Houston Astros for Xavier Hernandez.
  • December 9, 1993: Spike Owen was traded by the New York Yankees with cash to the California Angels for Jose Musset (minors).
  • December 20, 1993:Luis Polonia was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • December 22, 1993:Sam Horn was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • January 28, 1994:Bob Ojeda signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • February 9, 1994:Bobby Muñoz, Ryan Karp, and Kevin Jordan were traded by the Yankees to the Philadelphia Phillies for Terry Mulholland and a player to be named later. The Phillies completed the deal by sending Jeff Patterson to the New York Yankees on November 8.
  • February 15, 1994:Jeff Reardon was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.

 Notable transactions

  • March 21, 1994:Paul Assenmacher was traded by the Yankees to the Chicago White Sox for Brian Boehringer.
  • March 29, 1994:Kevin Maas was released by the Yankees.
  • May 1, 1994: Kevin Elster was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
  • May 5, 1994: Bob Ojeda was released by the New York Yankees.
  • May 6, 1994: Jeff Reardon was released by the New York Yankees.
  • June 23, 1994: Sam Horn was released by the New York Yankees.
  • July 3, 1994: Greg A. Harris was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
  • July 13, 1994: Greg A. Harris was released by the New York Yankees.

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!

Yankee for a Minute: 1993

“…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…

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

Pitchers

  • 25 Jim Abbott
  • 43 Paul Assenmacher
  • 34 Andy Cook*
  • 26 Steve Farr
  • 35 Paul Gibson
  • 42 John Habyan#
  • 53 Neal Heaton
  • 34 Sterling Hitchcock
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 53 Mark Hutton*
  • 42 Domingo Jean*
  • 43 Jeff Johnson
  • 28 Scott Kamieniecki
  • 22 Jimmy Key
  • 34 Sam Militello
  • 55 Rich Monteleone
  • 54 Bobby Muñoz*
  • 33 Mélido Pérez
  • 47 Lee Smith
  • 31 Frank Tanana
  • 27 Bob Wickman
  • 39 Mike Witt

 Catchers

  • 38 Matt Nokes
  • 20 Mike Stanley

Infielders

  • 12 Wade Boggs
  •  2 Mike Gallego
  • 14 Pat Kelly
  • 13 Jim Leyritz
  • 24 Kevin Maas
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 17 Spike Owen
  • 47 Dave Silvestri
  • 35 Andy Stankiewicz

Outfielders

  • 29 Mike Humphreys
  • 19 Dion James
  • 31 Hensley Meulens
  • 21 Paul O’Neill
  • 45 Danny Tartabull
  • 18 Randy Velarde
  • 51 Bernie Williams
  • 13 Gerald Williams

Offseason Moves:

  • November 3, 1992: Roberto Kelly was traded by the Yankees to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul O’Neill and Joe DeBerry (minors).
  • November 6, 1992: Greg Cadaret was purchased from the Yankees by the Cincinnati Reds.
  • November 17, 1992: Charlie Hayes was drafted from the Yankees by the Colorado Rockies with the 3rd pick in the 1992 MLB Expansion Draft.
  • December 4, 1992:Spike Owen was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • December 6, 1992: J.T. Snow, Jerry Nielsen, and Russ Springer were traded by the Yankees to the California Angels for Jim Abbott.
  • December 7, 1992: Sherman Obando was drafted from the Yankees by the Baltimore Orioles rule 5 draft.
  • December 10, 1992: Jimmy Key was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • December 15, 1992: Wade Boggs was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.

Notable Transactions:

  • July 30, 1993: John Habyan was traded by the Yankees to the Kansas City Royals as part of a 3-team trade. The Chicago Cubs sent Paul Assenmacher to the Yankees. The Royals sent Tuffy Rhodes to the Cubs.
  • August 31, 1993: Rich Batchelor was traded by the Yankees to the  St. Louis Cardinals for Lee Smith.

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?

Yankee For A Minute: 1992

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…

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

Pitchers

  • 41 Tim Burke
  • 25 Greg Cadaret#
  • 26 Steve Farr#
  • 35 Lee Guetterman
  • 42 John Habyan#
  • 36 Shawn Hillegas
  • 54 Sterling Hitchcock~
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 49,43 Jeff Johnson
  • 22 Scott Kamieniecki
  • 54 Tim Leary
  • 43 Sam Militello*
  • 55 Rich Monteleone
  • 34 Jerry Nielsen*
  • 33 Mélido Pérez
  • 21 Scott Sanderson
  • 36 Russ Springer*
  • 31 Bob Wickman~
  • 35 Curt Young

 Catchers

  • 12 Jim Leyritz
  • 38 Matt Nokes
  • 20 Mike Stanley

 Infielders

  • Mike Gallego
  • 28 Charlie Hayes
  • 14 Pat Kelly
  • 24 Kevin Maas
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 59 Hensley Meulens
  • 56 Dave Silvestri*~
  • 60 J. T. Snow~
  • 17 Andy Stankiewicz~
  • 18 Randy Velarde

 Outfielders

  • 29 Jesse Barfield
  • 27 Mel Hall
  • 31 Mike Humphreys
  • 19 Dion James
  • 39 Roberto Kelly
  • 45 Danny Tartabull
  • 51 Bernie Williams
  • 13 Gerald Williams~

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.

Offseason

  • November 13, 1991: Ramiro Mendoza was signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees.
  • November 20, 1991: Eric Plunk was released by the New York Yankees.
  • December 2, 1991: Bob Geren was selected off waivers from the Yankees by the Cincinnati Reds.
  • January 6, 1992: Danny Tartabull was signed as a free agent with the Yankees.
  • January 8, 1992: Darrin Chapin was traded by the Yankees to the Philadelphia Phillies for a player to be named later. The Phillies completed the deal by sending Charlie Hayes to the Yankees on February 19.
  • January 9, 1992: Mike Gallego signed as a free agent with the Yankees.
  • January 10, 1992: Steve Sax was traded by the Yankees to the Chicago White Sox for Bob Wickman, Domingo Jean and Mélido Pérez.
  •  

Notable transactions

  • April 9, 1992: Shawn Hillegas was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • June 1, 1992: Derek Jeter was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 1st round (6th pick) of the 1992 amateur draft. Player signed June 27, 1992.
  • August 22, 1992: Tim Leary and cash were traded by the Yankees to the Seattle Mariners for Sean Twitty (minors).
  • August 22, 1992: Shawn Hillegas was released by the New York Yankees.

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.

Yankee For A Minute: 1991

The year 1991 brought reality to the Yankees; the turnaround from George’s style of management to something more akin to the rest of baseball was not going to be a quick fix. Michael was not going to land the biggest fish in the ocean because George said so, and at this point it wasn’t looking like anyone of true All Star caliber was interested in joining them. Aside from soon-to-be All-Star ace Scott Sanderson and hard-luck starter Tim Leary (who was involved in a dicey trade with the Reds for future good hitter Hal Morris) and perhaps Roberto Kelly, Kevin Maas, Matt Nokes and some kid named Bernie Williams, there wasn’t much to speak of about the 1991 Yanks (well, besides Mel Hall terrorizing Bernie in the locker room among many other things).  Stump Merrill was in his first full season as Yankee manager, having taken over from Bucky Dent, who was shockingly fired while in Boston for a series with the Red Sox in 1990 by Steinbrenner, a month or so before he himself was “fired” by baseball.  Stump continued the status quo with the major league team, losing far more games than winning through little fault of his own.

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

Pitchers

  • 25 Greg Cadaret#
  • 51 Chuck Cary
  • 60 Darrin Chapin*
  • 28 Dave Eiland
  • 26 Steve Farr#
  • 35 Lee Guetterman
  • 42,57 John Habyan
  • 40 Andy Hawkins
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 43 Jeff Johnson
  • 40 Scott Kamieniecki~
  • 54 Tim Leary
  • 50 Alan Mills
  • 45 Rich Monteleone
  • 34 Pascual Pérez
  • 33 Eric Plunk#
  • 21 Scott Sanderson
  • 41 Wade Taylor*
  • 36 Mike Witt

 Catchers

  • 53 Bob Geren
  • 38 Matt Nokes#
  • 48 John Ramos*

 Infielders

  • 14 Mike Blowers
  • 20 Álvaro Espinoza
  • 14 Pat Kelly~
  • 12 Jim Leyritz
  • 13,43 Torey Lovullo*
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 12 Carlos Rodríguez*
  •  6 Steve Sax
  • 18 Randy Velarde#

Outfielders

  • 29 Jesse Barfield
  • 27 Mel Hall#
  • 36 Mike Humphreys*
  • 39 Roberto Kelly
  • 17 Scott Lusader
  • 31 Hensley Meulens
  • 17 Pat Sheridan
  • 51 Bernie Williams~

Other Positions

  • 24 Kevin Maas

Hey, remember Pat Kelly? He was kinda touted as the second basemen of the future while with the Yanks, and he stuck around long enough to win a ring with the 1996 team, although he only played 13 games the whole season. But how many remember that in 1991, Kelly was a third baseman? He came up as a replacement for the recently-departed Mike Blowers, who was traded to Seattle for a bag of balls. Blowers for his part would become a regular with Seattle, so he would qualify as a player who was (much) better somewhere else, like Jay Buhner before him. Kelly switched to second in 1992 and remained there for the entire tenure of his career with the Yanks and beyond.

Scott Kamieniecki is definitely a name that stands out; he was one of their best pitchers during the dark ages if you will, but I somehow misremember him as being in the rotation in the 80s. I guess when you have Chuck Cary, Richard Dotson, Ron Guidry and Dave LaPoint on your staff at any given moment, you’re going to misremember quite a few things (and try to forget others, like giving away Doug Drabek, grrr…) Kamieniecki was not the best pitcher on staff, but the fans knew him well enough over the next few seasons and I suppose you could consider him one of the Hard Luck Boys of the early 90s. Hard luck followed him into the championship days as well, when for whatever reason, the Yanks decided not to give him a ring for being with the team in ’96, though he spent much of the year on the DL. He later blasted the Yanks for “strong-arming him to the DL with a fake injury” and for “putting on a show” by having him sized for a ring that he never received after the team was criticized for leaving him and a few other players out of the ceremony. He was definitely not a fan of Joe Torre, whose glare at certain players was an automatic ticket to the Doghouse, if not the kiss-off to their Yankee tenure.  I’m guessing though Scott and the Yanks have pretty much made up at this point

Steve Howe was interesting. He had been out of baseball for four years before the Yanks signed him, and he was very effective most of the time.  However, he was a drug addict throughout most of his career well before coming to the Yanks, so much so that he had already been suspended several times. It was his effectiveness as a reliever that kept him in baseball, and though he was banned for life the next season, he was reinstated upon appeal and went on to have one of the best seasons in his career. There was a lot of debate about him while he continued to play, get banned and then be reinstated; was the league enabling his habits because he was a good pitcher? Howe wasn’t the only player who had a drug problem, but he was probably the only one who kept coming back after falling down the well many times. As things go, Howe’s Yankee (and MLB) career was ended with him being released in June 1996, making him indeed a member of the Hard Luck Boys. Sadly, his ignominious death ten years later in an accident that eerily resembled Billy Martin’s death has rendered him a cautionary tale of the glamour of the baseball life. Say his name and/or look him up on Wikipedia and you just can’t help but shake your head and wonder, “why?

Scott Sanderson, on the other hand, was a legit anchor and ace of the staff, as it were. His two seasons with the Yanks were good enough to hope that any of your five (six?) starters for 2018 could at least match. In a fairly solid career with the Expos, Cubs and a good season with Oakland prior, 1991 would in fact be his first and only selection to the AL All Star team. He became a partner at Moye Sports Associates in 1996, who currently represent Austin Romine and Jaime Garcia. However, his moralizing during and after his career could be considered problematic to some (particularly in New York)…

Here are the moves the team made prior to and during the season:

  • October 5, 1990: Wayne Tolleson was released by the New York Yankees.
  • November 19, 1990: Tim Leary was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
  • December 3, 1990: Frank Seminara was drafted by the San Diego Padres from the New York Yankees in the 1990 rule 5 draft.
  • December 31, 1990: Scott Sanderson was purchased by the New York Yankees from the Oakland Athletics.
  • January 13, 1991: Rick Cerone was released by the New York Yankees.
  • March 19, 1991: Torey Lovullo was traded by the Detroit Tigers to the New York Yankees for Mark Leiter.

Notable transactions

  • April 1, 1991:Steve Balboni was released by the New York Yankees.
  • April 5, 1991: Scott Lusader was selected off waivers by the New York Yankees from the Detroit Tigers.
  • May 9, 1991: Andy Hawkins was released by the New York Yankees.
  • May 17, 1991: Mike Blowers was traded by the New York Yankees to the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later and cash. The Seattle Mariners sent Jim Blueberg (minors) (June 22, 1991) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.
  • May 25, 1991: Andy Pettite was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent.

Draft picks

  • With the first overall pick in the MLB draft, the New York Yankees selected Brien Taylor. He was a Left Handed Pitcher from Beaufort, North Carolina who competed at East Carteret High School.

With the release of Wayne Tolleson, the Yanks could now tell who was who between him and Alvaro Espinoza. Tim Leary was drafted by the Mets in 1978 and spent his first four seasons in the majors there before he managed to win a ring with the 1988 Dodgers. Rick Cerone had the last of three stints with the Yankees, previously having been a starter from 1980-84 and a backup in 1987.  Mark Leiter, like his brother Al, was sent away and became a better pitcher with his next teams, but unlike Al, he never returned to the Yanks. Torey Luvullo? Pat Sheridan? Scott Lusader…? Balboni would try one more season in 1993 with Texas before saying bye-bye to major league baseball for good.

And Brien Taylor… *sigh*

Yankee For A Minute – 1990

Honestly, this was the best card picture of him as a Yankee that I could find. He looked downright miserable in others. Not that anyone could blame him at the time.

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:

Pitchers

  • 59 Steve Adkins*
  • 25 Greg Cadaret#
  • 51 Chuck Cary
  • 58 Dave Eiland
  • 35 Lee Guetterman
  • 61 John Habyan
  • 40 Andy Hawkins
  • 26 Jimmy Jones
  • 42 Dave LaPoint
  • 54 Tim Leary
  • 56 Mark Leiter
  • 41 Lance McCullers
  • 28,69 Alan Mills*
  • 55 Rich Monteleone
  • 38 Clay Parker
  • 34 Pascual Pérez
  • 33 Eric Plunk#
  • 19 Dave Righetti
  • 43 Jeff Robinson#
  • 22 Mike Witt

Catchers

  • 11 Rick Cerone
  • 28 Brian Dorsett
  • 53 Bob Geren
  • 38 Matt Nokes

Outfielders

  • 50 Oscar Azócar*
  • 29 Jesse Barfield
  • 27 Mel Hall
  • 39 Roberto Kelly
  • 31 Hensley Meulens
  • 21 Deion Sanders
  • 17 Claudell Washington
  • 31 Dave Winfield

Other batters

  • 22 Luis Polonia#

Infielders

  • 45 Steve Balboni
  • 24,21 Mike Blowers*
  • 20 Álvaro Espinoza
  • 12 Jim Leyritz
  • 24 Kevin Maas
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • Steve Sax
  • 2 Wayne Tolleson
  • 18 Randy Velarde#
  • 63 Jim Walewander 

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.

Offseason
Notable transactions

  • October 1989: Dickie Noles was released by the Yankees.
  • October 4, 1989: Steve Kiefer was released by the Yankees.
  • November 20, 1989: Rafael Santana was released by the Yankees.
  • November 21, 1989: Pascual Pérez was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • December 12, 1989: Hal Morris and Rodney Imes (minors) were traded by the Yankees to the Cincinnati Reds for Tim Leary and Van Snider.
  • December 20, 1989: Rick Cerone was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • February 17, 1990: Mariano Rivera was signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees.
  • March 13, 1990: Orlando Miller was traded by the Yankees to the Houston Astros for Dave Silvestri and a player to be named later. The Astros completed the deal by sending Daven Bond (minors) to the Yankees on June 11.
  • April 29, 1990: Luis Polonia was traded by the Yankees to the California Angels for Claudell Washington and Rich Monteleone.
  • May 11, 1990: Dave Winfield was traded by the Yankees to the California Angels in exchange for Mike Witt.
  • June 4, 1990: Clay Parker and Lance McCullers were traded by the Yankees to the Detroit Tigers for Matt Nokes.
  • September 24, 1990: Deion Sanders was released by the Yankees.

Draft picks
June 4, 1990: 1990 Major League Baseball Draft

  • Carl Everett was drafted by the Yankees in the 1st round.
  • Robert Eenhoorn was drafted by the Yankees in the 2nd round of the 1990 June Draft. Player signed June 10, 1990.
  • Sam Militello was drafted by the Yankees in the 6th round.
  • Jalal Leach was drafted by the Yankees in the 7th round. Player signed June 8, 1990.
  • Ricky Ledée was drafted by the Yankees in the 16th round. Player signed June 5, 1990.
  • Andy Pettitte was drafted by the Yankees in the 22nd round, but did not sign.
  • Jorge Posada was drafted by the Yankees in the 24th round. Player signed May 24, 1991.
  • Shane Spencer was drafted by the Yankees in the 28th round. Player signed June 7, 1990.

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.

Yankee For A Minute

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? >;)

Up in the Air

flowers flying

Lousy news for Andrew Miller and the Yanks.

[Photo Credit: Claire Droppert via This Isn’t Happiness]

Warmer

bo bartlett

I’ve had tennis on the brain over at Esky Classic this week—here, here and here—but baseball is a-near, ain’t she? Some kind of day in Cuba, right?

Hey, how is Nathan Eovaldi looking this spring?

Picture by Bo Bartlett via This Isn’t Happiness.

Step Up (to get your Rep Up)

CC

Over at the Players’ Tribune, C.C. Sabbathia talks about his alcoholism. Worth a look.

Photo Via: TMZ.

Whadda Ya Hear, Whadda Ya Say?

cupofbags

This might be the first season since I started the Banter where I’ll put up posts so I can learn more about the team from you guys.

I’m pleasantly out-of-the-loop. I’m just so busy with other things that baseball and the Yankees is not my priority. That said, I like not knowing what is going on, only half-paying attention. It’ll make the season more of a discovery because I’ll turn the game on one day, not recognize half the roster, and then settle in to get to know them.

So, what’s the deal? Who is worth watching? Who are we worried about? Fill me in.

Picture by Bags

And Now We Know

chapboxweb21s-web

Aroldis Chapman gets 30 games.

[Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/N.Y. Daily News]

Leap of Faith

reading

Good Lord, game threads. Right. What’s a game thread?

Are we there already? Man, I’ve got to get up to speed on this spring training business.

Luckily for us, Chad Jennings is on the case—as always.

I tell ya, I’m feel more disconnected with the daily happenings of the team than I have since I began this blog in 2002. But not in an unpleasant way. I kind of like the distance. This way, everything carries an element of surprise—learning about the new guys (who?), remembering the veterans (he’s still around?). The further away I get from the 365-day news cycle, the happier I am, and the easier it is for me to just show up as a fan and root.

Picture by Bags.

 

Ahhhh….

springtrainingweaver

Pitchers and catchers.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

Illustration by Robert Weaver via The New York Times. 

Up The Middle

Robert Refsnyder

The Yankees starting and back-up shortstops are hurt. So they picked up a futility infielder.

As usual, the intrepid Chad Jennings has the skinny. 

[Photo Via: Lo Hud]

Coming Soon

ccd

As in next week: baseball. Our man Chad Jennings with some thoughts about the state of the Yanks. 

And here’s more from River Ave Blues. 

This is the 13th season we’ve covered here at the Banter. For many years, this was a Yankee and baseball site. I wrote and wrote and had some terrific contributors. Now, the site is more a culture blog with a dose of baseball. It’s also become far more visual. I don’t write about baseball as much. Somewhere along the line I exhausted everything I had to say. As I began to get freelance work as a writer I moved away from giving away all my thoughts on the blog, preferring to save some stuff for longer pieces.

But I still love following the game, and, especially, the Yanks. I love hosting the Banter. The vibe of the place may have changed but just because I write less, doesn’t mean I’m not present. I just share myself more with links and pictures.

The Banter is still my home and my heart. Thanks for hanging out with me.

[Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky/AP]

Have Glove, Will Travel

didi

Here’s something to make you excited about the season. Ken Rosenthal on Did Gregorious’ fielding, featuring some nifty analysis from Alex Rodriguez.

[Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP]

Monday Matinee

pickingonions

Yanks exhibition game is on the MLB Network this afternoon for those of you who’re around a TV.

[Photo Credit: Chris Carlson/AP via It’s a Long Season]

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver