The most correct answer to the now-famous question Frank Costanza shouted at George Steinbrenner during that classic episode of Seinfeld was “on-base-percentage.” That’s why the Boss traded today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to the Mariners for Ken Phelps in July of the 1988 season. Phelps had put together OBP’s of .400 plus during his last four seasons in Seattle at about the same time Bill James was emerging as baseball’s new statistician guru and preaching that players who could get on base were more important to a team’s success than players who could drive in runs. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Jay Buhner became very good at doing both.
Buhner had originally been drafted by the Pirates in 1984. The Yankees acquired the Louisville, Kentucky native along with Dale Berra in a December 1984 trade with Pittsburgh in exchange for Steve Kemp and Tim Foli. He caught the attention of lots of Yankee fans when he hit 31 home runs in 1987 for New York’s Triple A team in Columbus. He would get two call-ups to the Bronx, including one in May of the 1988 season, when Billy Martin gave him his only real shot at making an impression in pinstripes. He wasn’t successful, averaging just .228 and striking out almost every other at-bat.
Unfortunately for Yankee fans, the team’s impatience with their young outfielder was not rewarded because Phelps turned out to be a failure as a Yankee while Buhner quickly evolved into an offensive force as a Mariner. He went on to become a legend in Seattle, reaching his peak by 1995 when he began a stretch of three-straight 40-homer, 100 RBI seasons. The man who came to be known as “Bone” played until 2001, retiring with 310 career home runs and a lifetime OBP of .359. Buhner made headlines in 2012 when he told an interviewer that he would “vomit” if Seattle re-signed his successor as Mariners’ starting right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki to another contract.
|SEA (14 yrs)||1440||5828||4922||790||1255||231||19||307||951||6||788||1375||.255||.360||.497||.857|
|NYY (2 yrs)||32||99||91||8||18||2||0||3||14||0||4||31||.198||.253||.319||.571|