I was one of those Yankee fans who was vociferously against the 2013 preseason deal that made Vernon Wells a Yankee. I understand how and why it happened. When both Granderson and Texeira went down with injuries this spring and it became apparent that Jeter was not ready to play, New York’s front office went into sort of a cheapskate panic mode. They needed to do something fast but they wanted it to also be easy and not too expensive. That explains the Vernon Wells deal in a nutshell. All one had to do to understand this was listen to the incessant bragging the team’s publicity department did about how the Angels had agreed to pick up most of the outfielder’s salary for the next two years.
Still, as a loyal, long-time Yankee fan, once the deal went down, I became a Vernon Wells fan and rooted for him like crazy. My sincere hope was that I would be proven completely wrong about his inability to help this Yankee team make the playoffs. And for about six weeks at the beginning of the season, it looked as if I might have been. Wells got out of the gate quickly and helped the Yankees do the same. By the end of April, he was hitting .300 and was on a pace to hit 30 home runs and drive in 90. Then two weeks later, Wells pretty much stopped hitting. He hit his 10th home run of the season on May 15. He then went three months before he hit another. By the end of June, his batting average had fallen to .223 and it was apparent to me that the move to obtain Wells would definitely not go down in franchise history as one of Brian Cashman’s better ones.
Now that the Yankees have signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, one has to wonder if Wells will even be on the Yankee roster when Opening Day 2014 rolls around. He can still play good outfield defense but with Gardner, Soriano and Suzuki all still in Pinstripes, the Yankees have a glut of extra outfielders.
Wells was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on December 8, 1978. As anyone who has ever been his teammate will tell you, this guy is a class act in the clubhouse and during his prime, was one of the top outfielders in the American League. Even though he did not perform well during the 2013 season, he hustled every second he was on the field and handled the critical New York media like the consummate professional he is. That’s why I for one will continue to root for Vernon Wells.
|TOR (12 yrs)||1393||5963||5470||789||1529||339||30||223||813||90||406||762||.280||.329||.475||.804|
|LAA (2 yrs)||208||791||748||96||166||24||4||36||95||12||36||121||.222||.258||.409||.667|
|NYY (1 yr)||130||458||424||45||99||16||0||11||50||7||30||73||.233||.282||.349||.631|
Young Yankee fans have been spoiled by Derek Jeter. When I was a kid, having a shortstop who could rap 200 hits a year or average .300 just didn’t happen. In fact, good-hitting shortstops were so rare that when Minnesota’s Zoilio Versailles hit 19 home runs and drove in 77 in 1965, he was awarded the freaking AL MVP award.
The prototypical shortstop of the 1960’s was a great fielder who was paid to prevent runs with his glove and not worry about producing any with his bat. Eddie Brinkman fit that prototype perfectly. A native of Cincinnati who was a pitcher on the same high school team as Pete Rose, the guy I called “Steady Eddie” made his big league debut with the Senators in 1961, when he was just 19-years-old. By 1963, he was starting for Washington and developing a reputation as one of the league’s smoothest fielding shortstops. He failed to hit above .228 during his first eight years as a Senator, than suddenly got his average up to .266 in 1969 and .262 in ’70. In October of 1970, Brinkman was included in a blockbuster trade that brought two-time Cy Young award winner Denny McLain to Washington along with future Yankee Elliott Maddox, third baseman Don Wert, and reliever Norm McRae. The great fielding third baseman, Aurelio Rodriguez and pitchers Joe Coleman and Jim Hannan accompanied Brinkman to MoTown.
Brinkman’s sleek fielding continued with his new team but unfortunately, his batting average reverted back toward just north of the Mendoza line. He remained in Detroit for five seasons before getting traded to San Diego in November of 1974. Perhaps sensing the Tigers were about to get rid of him, Brinkman had left Detroit with a bang by smashing a career high 14 home runs during the ’74 season. San Diego owned his contract for jus a few minutes because they immediately shipped him to St Louis to complete a trade they had made with the Cardinals earlier in that year. St. Louis traded him to Texas on June 4, 1975 and nine days later, the Rangers sold the then 33-year-old Brinkman to the Yankees.
Yankee GM Gabe Paul had been trying to acquire Brinkman since the beginning of that ’75 season. He told a New York Times reporter he had called St. Louis GM Bing Devine at least a hundred times about acquiring the shortstop but couldn’t make a deal. The Yankee starting shortstop during that 1975 season was Jim Mason, who averaged just .152 that year and though strong defensively, was not as good a fielder as Brinkman. Paul was hoping those 14 home runs Brinkman had hit the previous season for Detroit were not an aberration, but that’s exactly what that one-year power display turned out to be. Brinkman hit just .175 in his 44 games in pinstripes that season. New York invited him back to their 1976 spring training camp but he was released a week before the team headed north.
He retired with a lifetime average of .224 and 60 home runs during his fifteen years in the big leagues. He won a Gold Glove with Detroit in 1972. After hanging up his glove, he began a long career as a White Sox scout and coach. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 66. His younger brother Chuck was a big league catcher with the White Sox. Brinkman shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee reliever.
|TEX (11 yrs)||1143||4217||3847||350||868||125||27||31||273||27||289||574||.226||.282||.296||.579|
|DET (4 yrs)||630||2272||2060||192||458||68||10||28||180||3||145||255||.222||.276||.306||.582|
|STL (1 yr)||28||85||75||6||18||4||0||1||6||0||7||10||.240||.306||.333||.639|
|NYY (1 yr)||44||68||63||2||11||4||1||0||2||0||3||6||.175||.224||.270||.494|
You’d probably have to go back to Nelson Rockefeller to find someone who had a more self-satisfying final performance than the one Mike Mussina enjoyed during the 2008 season. “Moose” had been one of the most effective starting pitchers in the Majors during the previous seventeen years of his career but had never been able to win twenty games in a single season. Plus, after a mediocre performance in 2007, the pundits were saying Mussina was past his prime and the Yanks would be better off giving the ball to younger studs like Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain instead of the aging 38-year-old right-hander.
We Yankee fans all saw what happened to our young studs during that ill-fated season and I can’t imagine how much worse Joe Girardi’s first year as Manager would have been if Mike Mussina had decided to call it quits instead of pitching one more year.
He went 20-9 with an ERA of just 3.37 and pitched over 200 valuable innings for a Yankee staff that was decimated by injuries and ineffectiveness. The 20 victories gave Mussina 270 for his career and made his case for getting to Cooperstown a heck of a lot stronger.
Most other veteran hurlers who had the type of season and career numbers Mussina had as a 39-year-old would be anxious to cash in on one more multi-million dollar contract and continue their pursuit of 300-wins. Not Moose. He has always been a quiet guy who cherished family more than fame and retirement was an easy choice for him to make. Mike was born in Williamsport, PA, in 1968. He shares his December 8th birthday with this outfielder the Yankees acquired during the 2013 preseason, this former Yankee reliever and this one-time Yankee shortstop.
|BAL (10 yrs)||147||81||.645||3.53||288||288||0||45||15||0||2009.2||1895||836||789||210||467||1535||1.175|
|NYY (8 yrs)||123||72||.631||3.88||249||248||0||12||8||0||1553.0||1565||723||669||166||318||1278||1.212|