The hype surrounding Masahiro Tanaka’s migration from a pitching God in the Japan Pacific League to a first year Yankee phee-nom was as intense as any New York free agent signing since Reggie Jackson. Just 24 years-old, coming off a perfect 24-0 regular season in his native country, the Yankees made it clear they were not going to be outbid for the right-hander’s services and they made sure they weren’t.
They gave this kid $155 million and from April to July, his performance on the mound made it seem as if he was underpaid. In his first twenty starts, he never gave up more than three earned runs and his record on July 4th of the 2014 season was 12-3 with a 2.27 ERA.
That’s when the injury jinx permeating the Yankee roster since the 2012 postseason hit Tanaka. On July 9th he went on the disabled list with soreness in his right elbow. Doctors discovered a slight tearing in the ligament of that joint. I admit I was shocked when New York’s front office announced the decision not to surgically repair the tear and even more shocked when they told the media they intended to put Tanaka back in the rotation after resting him for six weeks. As Joe Girardi’s crippled team slowly dropped out of AL East title contention and eventually from a shot at a Wild Card spot, I was one of many who figured the plan for Tanaka would change and he would be shelved for the entire season. We were all wrong.
Per their original rehab blueprint, New York started their young ace in a September 21st contest versus Toronto and you could just about hear the collective sigh of relief emanating from Yankee universe, when Tanaka pitched six strong innings and got the win. If his season ended there and then, I’d be supremely confident going into 2015 spring training that this young man would be ready to again dominate opponents in his second big league season. But six days after his return against Toronto, he was given another start against Boston and he got absolutely shelled, giving up 7 runs and only getting five hitters out before Girardi mercifully removed him from the game. It was a disappointing end to a brilliant season that had begun with so much promise.
When I first heard that the Yankees had acquired veteran Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks at the July 31st trading deadline of the 2014 season, I smiled. My aging in-laws in Florida have been huge Braves’ fans for years and the Venezuelan-born Prado had been one of their favorite players during his first seven big-league seasons, all spent with Atlanta. Since we watched plenty of Braves’ baseball whenever my wife’s parents were visiting, I could see why they liked the guy. His entire game was solid, not flashy but dependably solid.
That’s the reason why it was Prado the Diamondbacks accepted in a 2013 preseason trade that sent the multi-talented Justin Upton to Atlanta. After a year and a half with his new team, Arizona decided it did not want to pay his $11 million salary for the next two seasons so they sent Prado to the Bronx for minor league slugger, Pete O’Brien, a Yankee catching prospect who had already hit 33 home runs for two different New York farm teams during the 2014 minor league season.
The reason I liked Prado in a Yankee uniform was his versatility and style of play. He can play second, third or the outfield plus he’s a good fit offensively anywhere you need to put him in the lineup. His intangibles are solid as well. The guy hustles all the time and all indications are he’s a great teammate.
Sure enough, during the 37 games he wore the pinstripes last year, he played second, third and all three outfield positions and belted 7 home runs which is a pace that translates into a 30-homer full season. The only downside was the fact that he ended the year on the DL. I don’t expect this guy to be a 30-homer hitter for New York but we desperately need players who can stay healthy for full seasons.
With the December, 2014 signing of Chase Headley, the Yankees made it clear that they intended to make Prado their everyday second baseman in 2015. If he stays healthy, he won’t make Yankee fans forget Robbie Cano but he will win over New York fans big time..
Update: So as soon as I post a blog praising the Yankees for getting Prado Cashman trades him to the Marlins with David Phelps for the young unpredictable arm of Nathan Eovaldi and back-up first baseman Garrett Jones. I did not like the trade at all because I was ready to watch Prado have a great year for the Yankees. I do not think Eovaldi will even be an upgrade over Phelps in pinstripes. The only way this deal ever helps the Yankees is if Teixeira again falls apart physically and Jones steps up big-time or if Domingo German, the minor league pitching prospect New York also got in this transaction continues to pitch the way he’s been pitching in the lower rungs of minor league ball. So long Martin Prado. Yankee fans hardly got to know you.
|ATL (7 yrs)||683||2799||2546||355||752||168||16||52||286||30||197||308||.295||.345||.435||.780|
|ARI (2 yrs)||261||1100||1012||114||281||53||6||19||124||5||70||110||.278||.326||.398||.725|
|NYY (1 yr)||37||137||133||18||42||9||0||7||16||1||3||23||.316||.336||.541||.877|
The Yankees did not make the 2014 World Series and have just two members of their all time roster participating as players in this year’s Fall Classic, both with the Royals; Raul Ibanez & Jayson Nix. Ex Yankee closer Dave Righetti is the Giants’ very successful pitching coach. There have been however, many former and current Yankees who also played for the Royals or Giants. Here’s my all-time lineups for such players:
All Time Lineup of Yankees who were also Royals
1b Steve Balboni
2b Chuck Knoblauch
3b Wilson Betemit
SS Bucky Dent
C Don Slaught
OF Carlos Beltran
OF Lou Piniella
OF Johnny Damon
DH Raul Ibanez
P David Cone, Lary Gura
CL Steve Farr
MGR Dick Howser
All Time Lineup of Yankees who were also Giants
1b Dave Kingman
2b Jose Vizcaino
3b Jim Ray Hart
SS Hal Lanier
C Chris Stewart
OF Bobby Bonds
OF Bobby Murcer
OF Melky Cabrera
DH Jack Clark
P Don Larsen
CL Dave Righetti
MGR John McGraw
Back in the first part of the twentieth century, managerial changes were pretty much a rarity when it came to Big Apple baseball teams. The Giants had the legendary John McGraw as their skipper for thirty years. For the Yankees, it was Miller Huggins from 1918 until 1929 and it took the death of “Hug” for the Yankees to make a change. In Brooklyn, it was “Uncle Robbie.” Before he got the field skipper’s job with Brooklyn, however, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had been a very good catcher with the old Baltimore Orioles teams of the 1890’s, when that franchise was part of the original National League. He was sold to the Cardinals in 1900. Just a year later, the new American League was formed and Baltimore was granted a franchise. Robinson’s old Oriole teammate, John McGraw was named manager and he convinced Wilbert to return to Baltimore and play for the new team. The catcher did so but when McGraw was later suspended by AL President Ban Johnson, he left the league and took a job as the manager of the New York Giants. Robinson then became the Orioles’ player Manager in 1902. The Orioles finished 24-57 that season prompting Wilbert to accept McGraw’s invitation to become the Giant pitching coach, a job he held for over a decade. That same season, the Orioles AL franchise was relocated to New York and became the Highlanders.
In 1914, Brooklyn hired Robinson to replace Bill Dahlen as Dodger skipper. He stayed in that job for eighteen seasons and helped bring respectability to a franchise that had pretty much become a laughing stock for its ineptness. Under Robinson, Brooklyn won the NL pennant in both 1916 and 1920 and he compiled a 1,375 – 1,341 career record. He shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee reliever who also played in pinstripes.
Robinson’s Yankee(Orioles) seasonal and MLB career playing stats:
|BLN (10 yrs)||780||3073||2838||361||836||129||27||10||456||81||187||195||.295||.341||.370||.711|
|PHA (5 yrs)||372||1527||1453||180||330||50||13||7||155||88||66||75||.227||.265||.294||.558|
|BLA (2 yrs)||159||606||574||70||170||28||10||1||83||20||22||33||.296||.327||.385||.712|
|STL (1 yr)||60||224||210||26||52||5||1||0||28||7||11||20||.248||.291||.281||.572|
Robinson’s Yankee(Orioles) seasonal and MLB career managing record:
It was June of 1966 and the New York Yankees were dissolving faster than a wet Alka Seltzer. Two season’s earlier, the team had fallen three runs short of winning a World Series, but here they were, just twenty month’s later, floundering in seventh place in the AL standings. Everybody knew they needed major help immediately and that included their competition. It was fun for the other AL teams to watch the once mighty Yankees get their comeuppance. Even if their own ball clubs were in need of players, no other AL franchise was willing to help much with New York’s retooling effort via a trade except of course the good old Kansas City A’s. But unlike in years past when the A’s would serve up outstanding talent like Roger Maris, Clete Boyer and Hector Lopez to their Big Apple brethren, Kansas City’s front office had been taken over by the eccentric and extremely stingy Charley Finley in the early sixties. Well aware that the Yankees had exploited the A’s in previous player transactions, Finley refused to even deal with New York for years and when he finally did, the trades were no longer one-sided affairs.
So when a deal between the Yankees and A’s was made in June of 1966, instead of being announced with a bold back page headline in the New York City tabloids, it received a paragraph at the end of that day’s Yankee game recap. “The Yankees traded their former starting pitcher Bill Stafford, outfielder Roger Repoz and reliever Gil Blanco to Kansas City today in exchange for A’s catcher Bill Bryan and starting pitcher Fred Talbot.”
As things turned out, it was one of those trades that had little impact on either team. Talbot was immediately inserted into the Yankees’ starting rotation. He would go 7-7 for the Yankees during the balance of the 1966 season and then 6-8 the following year. But his ERA was north of four both those seasons and in 1968 he was demoted to the Yankee bullpen. He did worse as a reliever, finishing the year at 1-9. The Yankees traded him to the Pilots in 1969, getting Jack Aker in return, who turned out to be a great closer for New York during the next three seasons. Talbot, on the other hand did little for the Pilots except become fodder for Jim Bouton’s best-selling “Ball Four” chronology of the Pilot’s 1969 season. He then found himself back pitching with the A’s in 1970 and ’71, his final two big league seasons. He finished his 8-year career with a 38-56 record. Update: Talbot passed away on January 11, 2013, at the age of 71.
|NYY (4 yrs)||14||24||.368||3.99||89||52||14||6||0||0||374.1||357||193||166||43||147||183||1.346|
|OAK (4 yrs)||15||19||.441||4.40||63||46||10||2||1||1||286.1||277||148||140||34||122||163||1.393|
|CHW (2 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.68||18||12||0||3||2||0||78.1||85||32||32||7||24||36||1.391|
|SEP (1 yr)||5||8||.385||4.16||25||16||2||1||1||0||114.2||125||58||53||12||41||67||1.448|
I could find no former or current Yankee player, manager, coach, front office member or broadcaster born on this date but I did find one “unofficial Yankee.” Back in the late fifties and early sixties, the Yankees and Kansas City Athletics were accused of conducting an unholy alliance in which mighty New York would treat the lowly A’s like one of their farm teams instead of as an American League competitor.
The A’s, who had always called Philadelphia home, had been purchased and relocated to Kansas City in 1954, by a KC real estate magnate named Arnold Johnson. At the time, Johnson was actively involved in a lot of real estate partnerships with then Yankee co-owner, Del Webb. With Johnson now at the helm of the A’s, the two clubs would regularly play deal-making ping pong, sending players and (usually Yankee) cash back and forth whenever a special on-the-field need or off-the-field contract squabble arose. In addition to the reserve clause, it has been rumored that then Yankee GM, George Weiss was not averse to using the threat of a trade to Kansas City, to get hesitant players to accept his usually stingy annual offerings.
The relationship between the two teams was so incestuous that on occasion, they would not even bother to officially trade players, they’d just let the other team borrow the guy for awhile. This is exactly how a journeyman infielder named Wayne Terwilliger, became an unofficial Yankee during the early part of the 1960 season.”Twig” never got to play a single game in pinstripes. Instead, the Yankees sent him to their International League Triple A farm team. The accompanying photo is of Terwilliger, cropped from the 1960 photo of the Yankees’ Richmond Virginians farm team. He retired as a player at the end of that year and in 1961 was named the Manager of the Yankee’s Carolina League affiliate in Greensboro, NC. That began what would become a half-century-long career as a baseball manager and coach.
Let’s take a look at an all-time Yankee lineup of players who at one time also played for the Kansas City A’s:
1B Irv Noren
2B Billy Martin
3B Clete Boyer
SS Dick Howser
C Johnny Blanchard
OF Roger Maris
OF Bob Cerv
OF Reggie Jackson
P Catfish Hunter
P Vic Raschi
P Ralph Terry
P Bob Grim
CL Bobby Shantz
RP Bud Daley
Most Yankee fans around my age can clearly remember the famous shower-room scuffle between Goose Gossage and Cliff Johnson in 1979 but how many of you can recall a similar incident between Don Mattingly and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant that took place eight years later, during the 1987 season? At the time, the southpaw Shirley was in his fifth year as a Yankee pitcher. He had been signed by New York as a free agent after the 1982 season and went 5-8 as a member of Billy Martin’s starting rotation in ’83. After that inauspicious beginning, he was demoted to the bullpen and became the Yankees’ primary left-handed long reliever. He thrived in that role for the next two seasons and had his best year in pinstripes in ’85 when he appeared in 48 games and posted a career-low ERA of 2.64. He then had a horrible year in 1986, going 0-4 with an ERA that exploded to over five runs for every nine innings he pitched. So Shirley was already on pretty thin ice when according to published reports in June of 1987, he and Donnie Baseball engaged in a playful wrestling match in the visitors’ locker room of Milwaukee’s County Stadium, where the Yankees were playing a series against the Brewers. Mattingly ended up on the DL with two ruptured discs in his back. Though both players and their teammates denied the wrestling had taken place, George Steinbrenner was reportedly livid and ordered that Shirley be released the next day. Mattingly continued to insist that his former teammate was not the cause of his injury, explaining to reporters that Shirley was now looking for a job and he did not want other teams to think that the pitcher was some kind of locker room trouble maker.
Mattingly’s chronic back trouble would of course end up stunting the glorious start he had put together as a Yankee. Shirley would sign on with the Royals one week after being let go but pitched horribly during his only three appearances with Kansas City and was quickly released. He never again pitched in a big league game. He finished his 165-game Yankee career with a 14-20 record, 5 saves and a 4.05 ERA. Lifetime, he was 67-94 during his 11 big league seasons with 18 saves and a 3.82 ERA. Shirley shares his June 25th birthday with this former Yankee catcher. Besides George “Babe” Ruth and Shirley, can you think of any other Yankees who have a girl’s first name as their surname?
|NYY (5 yrs)||14||20||.412||4.05||165||39||38||4||1||5||470.2||488||232||212||40||156||232||1.368|
|SDP (4 yrs)||39||57||.406||3.58||197||92||55||10||1||12||722.0||718||329||287||59||274||432||1.374|
|KCR (1 yr)||0||0||14.73||3||0||1||0||0||0||7.1||10||12||12||5||6||1||2.182|
|STL (1 yr)||6||4||.600||4.08||28||11||5||1||0||1||79.1||78||42||36||6||34||36||1.412|
|CIN (1 yr)||8||13||.381||3.60||41||20||6||1||0||0||152.2||138||74||61||17||73||89||1.382|