Up until the 2009 World Series, one of my most frequent Yankee related “What if…” questions was “What if the Yankees never traded Alfonso Soriano for A-Rod.” Then A-Rod finally put together an outstanding postseason that year and led my favorite team to its 27th World Championship. At the same time, Soriano had just struggled through his third straight regular season as a Cub and had been horrible in the two postseasons he played in for Chicago. So I stopped playing the “What if…” game.
Since that 2009 World Series however, A-Rod has emphatically confirmed all of his maddening insecurities that negatively impact his play and make it so hard to root for him. Soriano, on the other hand, has taken advantage of an unexpected return trip to the Bronx to remind us all of just how amazing a ballplayer he can be when he goes on one of his patented “hot streaks.” So I again find myself asking the question, “what if that trade in February of 2004 had never been made?”
If the deal never went down, worst case scenario would be that the Yanks would have failed to win that 2009 title. Rodriguez also put some monster years together during his time in pinstripes especially in ’05 and ’07 so you have to wonder if without him, New York might have missed postseason play all-together in a couple of those seasons. But Soriano’s body of work during that same period of time was not too shabby either and don’t forget the Yanks would have probably used the many extra millions they paid A-Rod to sign at least one other impact free agent. The biggest benefit of getting rid of Soriano was that it opened up the opportunity for Robbie Cano to become New York’s starting second baseman. If you remember, when Soriano was traded to the Nationals from Texas, he fought Washington’s desire to move him from second base to the outfield. Knowing how the Yanks operate, the chances are pretty good they would have dealt a young Cano to another organization because they would have kept Soriano at second.
Oh well, we will never really know the true consequences but it’s fun to surmise. Meanwhile, Soriano turns 38-years-old today and is once again being counted on to help New York win a World Series. The Yankee brain-trust had to force GM Brian Cashman to make the deal with the Cubs that brought this native Dominican back to New York in late July of the 2013 season and thank God they did. At the time the Yankee offense was sinking like the Titanic in the AL East pennant race. Soriano desperately wanted to wear the pinstripes again and willingly waived the no-trade clause in his Cubs contract to make it happen. Then he went out and put the Yankee lineup on his back and just about single-handedly kept the team in contention for fall ball up until the final few weeks of the regular season.
With the free agent signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, Soriano’s role in the Yankees’ 2014 plans remains unclear. They have a glut of outfielders and DH’s on their current roster. But I’m hoping he gets a chance to start somewhere in the Yankee lineup because I don’t want to ask myself any more “What if the Yankees had kept Alfonso Soriano” questions.
|1998||Did not play in major leagues (Did Not Play)|
|CHC (7 yrs)||889||3696||3403||469||898||218||13||181||526||70||245||829||.264||.317||.495||.812|
|NYY (6 yrs)||559||2393||2229||363||627||132||10||115||320||129||112||497||.281||.323||.504||.827|
|TEX (2 yrs)||301||1340||1245||179||341||75||6||64||195||48||66||246||.274||.316||.498||.814|
|WSN (1 yr)||159||728||647||119||179||41||2||46||95||41||67||160||.277||.351||.560||.911|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the back up catcher on one of the greatest teams in MLB history, the 1927 Yankees. Johnny Grabowski had broke into the big leagues with the White Sox in 1924 and spent three seasons in the Windy City as a backup receiver to Hall of Fame catcher Ray Schalk. In January of 1927, Chicago traded him and a second baseman named Ray Morehart to the Yankees for second baseman, Aaron Ward. Ward had lost his starting position in New York to a rookie phee-nom named Tony Lazzeri in 1926, making him expendable. Grabowski was the key to the deal for New York. He had developed a reputation with the White Sox as a good defensive catcher and the Yankees wanted him to backup their regular receiver, Pat Collins.
Grabowski filled that spot admirably in 1927, getting 56 starts behind the plate that season and averaging a healthy .277. With Ruth and Gehrig providing the punch, that Yankee team set a record for wins in a 154 game season with 110 and then swept the Pirates in four games in the 1927 World Series. The juggernaut continued the following year as the Yankees won their second straight pennant and pulled off their second straight four-game World Series sweep, this time versus the Cardinals. Grabowski actually started more games behind the plate than any other New York catcher during the 1928 regular season, but his batting average plummeted to just .238 and that offensive ineptitude got him left off that year’s World Series roster. When Grabowski’s offensive troubles continued during the first half of the 1929 season, the Yankees released him.
Grabowski eventually returned to the minors and then got a second shot at the big leagues with Detroit in 1931. When he failed to stick there, he turned to umpiring. He was advancing up the ladder as a minor league man in blue when he was tragically killed attempting to fight a fire in his Guilderland, NY home, in May of 1946. Grabowski was only 46 years old at the time of his death. He shares his January 7th birthday with this former Yankee second baseman and this one-time MVP.
|NYY (3 yrs)||167||502||456||54||114||10||5||1||48||1||33||42||.250||.303||.300||.604|
|CHW (3 yrs)||89||243||224||21||60||8||2||1||24||0||8||23||.268||.293||.335||.628|
|DET (1 yr)||40||144||136||9||32||7||1||1||14||0||6||19||.235||.268||.324||.591|
Known as “the Big Cat,” Mize was an outstanding hitter and first baseman in the National League with the Giants and Cardinals for a decade, before joining the Yankees in 1949 and helping Casey Stengel win five straight World Championships. Mize had that rare ability to hit for power without striking out a lot. His career on base pecentage as a National Leaguer exceeded .400. He won a batting title with St. Louis in 1939 along with four NL home run titles and three NL RBI crowns. He was also a very good defensive first baseman and an outstanding base runner. The Yankees purchased Mize from the Giants during the 1949 season for $40,000. He became the team’s best pinch hitter. The highlight of his Yankee career was the 1952 Series against the Dodgers, when Johnny hit three home runs, batted .400 and was named MVP in New York’s seven-game victory. He retired after the 1953 season. His career Slugging Average of .592 places him 17th on the All-Time List. It took a while after he retired, but in 1981, the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee finally recognized just how good this guy’s numbers were and put him in Cooperstown.
This former Yankee, also born on January 7, is the only player in the franchise’s history to have more than 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, 40 stolen bases and bat .300 in the same season. This catcher on the great 1927 Yankee team was also born on January 7th.
|STL (6 yrs)||854||3581||3121||546||1048||218||66||158||653||14||424||279||.336||.419||.600||1.018|
|NYG (5 yrs)||655||2815||2452||473||733||110||16||157||505||13||340||163||.299||.389||.549||.938|
|NYY (5 yrs)||375||974||870||99||230||39||1||44||179||1||92||82||.264||.342||.463||.805|