Over the five decades I’ve been a Yankee fan, there have been a lot of back-up catchers come and go on the Yankee roster. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant held that position for New York back during the strike shortened season of 1981. But Barry Foote wasn’t always a back-up. In fact, when he came up to the big leagues in 1974, he was good enough to beat out future Hall-of-Famer, Gary Carter for Montreal’s starting catcher’s position. That season he hit 11 home runs, drove in 60, averaged .262 plus displayed a strong arm and great defensive ability behind home plate. He was named to the Topp’s All-Rookie team. The following year, however, Foote pretty much stopped hitting and his putrid .194 batting average in 1975, opened the door for Carter to begin his legendary career as one of the best backstops of his era.
Foote remained with Montreal as “The Kid’s” backup until 1977, when he was dealt to the Phillies. He got one more chance at a starting job in 1979, after Philadelphia traded him to the Cubs. He put together a strong debut season in Chicago, hitting a career high 16 home runs and averaging a respectable .256. Then in ’80, he lost his starting job to Tim Blackwell. The following April, the Yankees traded for Barry.
Rick Cerone had become New York’s starting catcher in 1980 and the veteran, Johnny Oates had been his backup that first year. The Yankees had signed Oates to another one-year contract just three weeks before they traded for Foote but it was Barry who became Cerone’s primary backup in that whacky strike-shortened 1981 split season. Foote hit just .208 his first year in pinstripes, appearing in 40 games and producing six home runs. He also got the opportunity to appear in his one and only World Series that fall against the Dodgers. He failed to get a hit in his only at-bat. He remained with the Yankees in 1982 and retired as a player after that season. The Yankees then hired Foote to manage in their Minor League system.
He shares his February 16th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.
Here’s a list of the New York’s starting catchers with their primary back-ups since I started following the Yankees in 1960
|MON (5 yrs)||369||1309||1212||105||283||54||9||27||126||4||73||164||.233||.277||.360||.637|
|CHC (3 yrs)||204||711||653||63||157||39||1||22||85||6||50||74||.240||.298||.404||.702|
|PHI (2 yrs)||57||93||89||7||16||1||0||2||7||0||4||17||.180||.215||.258||.473|
|NYY (2 yrs)||57||187||173||16||33||9||0||6||12||0||9||32||.191||.230||.347||.576|
Sergio Mitre was another Yankee relief pitcher who had the full faith and confidence of Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, even though I was never sure what he had done to earn it. I remember hearing the Yankee manager tell members of the Yankee press corps that this big right-hander threw lots of ground ball outs. After watching him pitch in pinstripes for almost three seasons, it seemed to me as if I saw more bombs hit off Mitre than groundballs. During his five seasons in the big leagues before coming to New York. Sergio had a combined won-loss record of 10-23, an ERA of 5.36 runs per game and about six walks for every nine innings he pitched. On top of that he was suspended a year for steroid use and then underwent Tommy John surgery.
In 2009, his ERA as a Yankee was 6.79. The only time Sergio truly impressed me that season was during a start against the White Sox in late August, when he threw six innings of one-hit shutout ball in a 10-0 Yankee triumph. He certainly pitched better for New York in 2010 but not nearly good enough to earn him a shot at starting in 2011. But that was exactly the scenario Girardi set up for him. He let this native of Tijuana, Mexico compete for the fourth and fifth spot in the team’s 2011 rotation on equal footing with Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Ivan Nova. I was not at all surprised when Mitre failed to win that competition. The Yankees then traded Mitre to the Brewers a week before Opening Day, for outfielder Chris Dickerson. Three months later, the Yankees purchased him back from Milwaukee and gave him one more chance to become a key member of their bullpen. He failed to do so and was not offered a contract for the 2012 season. His three year record as a Yankee was 3-6, with 1 save and a lofty ERA of 5.35.
Mitre turns 32 years old today and shares his February 16th birthday with this former Yankee backup catcher.
|CHC (3 yrs)||4||10||.286||6.12||36||18||10||1||1||0||120.2||148||83||82||18||47||4||77||1.616|
|NYY (3 yrs)||3||6||.333||5.35||43||12||19||0||0||1||111.0||123||77||66||17||33||0||63||1.405|
|FLA (2 yrs)||6||13||.316||4.88||42||34||3||0||0||0||190.0||224||116||103||16||61||6||111||1.500|
|MIL (1 yr)||0||1||.000||3.27||22||0||8||0||0||0||33.0||30||14||12||3||10||0||14||1.212|