Former Yankee catcher, Jose Molina was born on this day in 1975, in Bayamon Puerto Rico. He became Jorge Posada’s backup receiver on July 21, 2007 when the Yankees acquired him from the Angels for a Minor League pitcher named Jeff Kennard. In what I always thought had been a cool arrangement, up until that deal was made Jose had been sharing the Angels’ catching position with his younger brother Bengie. He also has another brother with the absolute best first name in baseball (Yadier; pronounced yah-dee-yay), who has been a very good starting catcher for the Cardinals since 2005. Together, the catching Molina brothers have collected five World Series rings during the past decade. Both Bengie and Yadier are better hitters than their older brother and have each won multiple Gold Gloves. Jose’s inability to hit right-handed pitching usually prevents him from taking over a team’s starting catcher role but his arm and his abilities behind the plate are every bit as good if not better than his younger brothers.
The Yankees had been using Will Nieves as Posada’s backup during the first half of that 2007 season, but he was only hitting .164. When Molina took over that role he became an instant hit with Yankee fans, impressing us with defensive skills that were superior to Posada’s and also hitting a surprisingly robust .318 during his first half-year playing in the Bronx. In fact, it wasn’t till Molina put on the pinstripes and I got to watch him semi-regularly that I really began noticing Posada’s weaknesses behind the plate. I will never forget the evening Molina left me stunned with my mouth open staring at my big screen after he threw a would-be base-stealer out at second from his knees.
His play impressed the Yankee brass too. New York signed him to a two-year-$4 million deal to play for them in 2008 and’ ’09. When Posada was injured in ’08, Molina got the opportunity to start. Unfortunately, by then he had stopped hitting and the Yankees eventually felt forced to go out and get Ivan Rodriguez in a failed effort to put some more offense into their lineup. The move didn’t help New York, as the team missed postseason play for the first time since 1993 but I-Rods inability to hit did help convince the Yankee front-office to keep Molina as Posada’s backup the following year. Jose did get the opportunity to engrave his name in Yankee lore that season. On September 21, 2008 in the bottom of the fourth inning in a game against Baltimore, Jose hit a 2-0 pitch off the then Orioles Chris Waters deep into the left field stands for a two run home run. That blast would turn out to be the very last home run ever hit in the original Yankee Stadium.
In 2009, A.J. Burnett became a Yankee and Molina pretty quickly became Burnett’s personal catcher. Jose helped guide the whacky right-hander to what would turn out to be his best season in pinstripes, helping New York capture their 27th World Championship. But Molina’s bat continued to fail him as he hit just .217 during the ’09 regular season. The Yankees chose not to re-sign him when his contract expired and rookie Francisco Cervelli took over the back-up catcher’s role in 2010.
Jose ended up playing two seasons as Toronto’s second catcher before signing a rather surprising two-year deal with Tampa Bay in November of 2011. Rays’ manager, Joe Madden used Molina as his team’s starting receiver the following season. The veteran catcher turns 39 years old today.
Molina shares his birthday with this Yankee DH.
|LAA (7 yrs)||363||1043||958||92||227||49||2||15||97||9||44||221||.237||.274||.339||.613|
|TBR (3 yrs)||240||695||633||54||136||23||0||10||51||5||48||150||.215||.273||.299||.571|
|NYY (3 yrs)||181||523||472||56||109||26||0||5||38||0||28||93||.231||.281||.318||.599|
|TOR (2 yrs)||112||374||338||32||89||16||1||9||27||3||24||80||.263||.323||.396||.720|
|CHC (1 yr)||10||21||19||3||5||1||0||0||1||0||2||4||.263||.333||.316||.649|
When Jake Ruppert and TL Huston purchased the Yankees in 1915, they agreed they were going to spend some of their personal fortunes to bring star players to New York. Wally Pipp and Home Run Baker were two of their more successful mutual investments and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was not.
Lee Magee had played his first big league game on July 4, 1911 with the St. Louis Cardinals at the age of 22. The native of Cincinnati put together three solid seasons with the Cardinals and then jumped to the Federal League in 1915 to accept an offer to become the player-manager of the Brooklyn Tip-Tops. He did better as the team’s starting second baseman than as manager, averaging a robust .323 and stealing 32 bases for a Brooklyn ball club that finished the season in seventh place with a 70-82 record. Since the Tip-Tops played their home games just a couple of bridges away from where the Yankees played their’s, Rupert and Huston were well aware of Magee’s good numbers with Brooklyn and decided to go after him hard. They offered the Brooklyn owner $20,000 and he countered with $25K. They compromised at $22,500 and Magee became a Yankee.
The New York skipper during the 1916 season was Wild Bill Donovan and he initially penciled in Magee to be his starting second baseman. But when Opening Day came around, the infielder found himself in the Yankee outfield, where he remained during his entire one-and-a-half year tenure with the team. He hit .257 that first year with the Yankees, which was 11 points higher than the American League’s cumulative batting average that season and he was the Opening Day center-fielder for Donovan in 1917. But after 51 games that year his average was just .220 and he was traded to the St. Louis Browns for another former Federal League outfielder named Armando Marsans.
It was after leaving the Yankees that Magee’s name began getting tossed around in gambling allegations. After spending the second half of the 1917 season with St. Louis, he had been traded to Cincinnati, where he became a teammate and close acquaintance of former Yankee Hal Chase. Chase had been accused of throwing games during his days with New York more than once and had been traded away because of those accusations. In January of 1920, Magee, who was by then playing for Brooklyn, confessed to the National League President that he and Chase had each bet $500 on a 1918 Reds-Braves game with a Boston gambler. The Reds ended up winning the game in extra innings despite two critical errors by Magee. It certainly wasn’t a guilty conscience or noble act of redemption that prompted Magee’s confession. Though he insisted he had bet on his own team to win the game, he had stopped payment on the $500 check he had given to the Boston gambler, who was now suing Magee for non-payment of a debt with Magee’s signed check as evidence. If he in fact had bet on his own team to win, why would he have cancelled a check which represented his wager on his team winning the game? It made no sense and that’s exactly what league officials decided when he was banned from the league.
|STL (4 yrs)||433||1796||1587||182||443||50||20||4||119||79||123||91||.279||.333||.343||.676|
|NYY (2 yrs)||182||781||683||74||169||22||5||3||53||32||63||49||.247||.313||.307||.620|
|BTT (1 yr)||121||494||452||87||146||19||10||4||49||34||22||19||.323||.356||.436||.792|
|BRO (1 yr)||45||200||181||16||43||7||2||0||7||5||5||8||.238||.262||.298||.560|
|CHC (1 yr)||79||299||267||36||78||12||4||1||17||14||18||16||.292||.339||.378||.717|
|CIN (1 yr)||119||514||459||61||133||22||13||0||28||19||28||19||.290||.331||.394||.725|
|SLB (1 yr)||36||127||112||11||19||1||0||0||4||3||6||6||.170||.212||.179||.390|
There was no doubt in my mind that the Yanks were going to re-sign Raul Ibanez to once again serve as their left-handed DH for the 2013 season. After all, the guy had just hit four of the most clutch home runs in franchise history last fall and even though he turned 40-years-old yesterday, he had proven he was in great physical condition by handling an almost full-time outfielder’s slot after Brett Gardner went down with an injury last spring. So I was certain GM Brian Cashman would sit down with Ibanez sometime over the winter and work out a new one year deal. I was dead wrong.
Evidently, Cashman did not think those four huge home runs warranted a $1.6 million dollar raise for Ibanez because that’s what he got when he signed with the Mariners in December. Five weeks later, the Yankees signed Travis Hafner to a one-year deal for $2 million, which was $750,000 less than the Mariners agreed to pay Ibanez.
I had always liked Hafner’s bat during the 11 seasons he played in Cleveland, but what I didn’t like about his signing was the fact that he was strictly a DH. Coming into the 2013 season, Hafner had played in a total of 1,043 big league games and served as the DH in all but just 71 of them. On top of that, even though all he did was swing a bat and run when he hit the ball, this native of Jamestown, North Dakota had become injury prone. He averaged just 86 games played per year during his last five seasons with the Indians.
If I’d finished this post about Hafner at the end of his first month as a Yankee, its tone would have most certainly been different. That’s because “Pronk” got off to a great start with New York and by the end of April he was hitting .319 with six home runs and 19 RBIs. With high-paid Yankee hitters like A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira and Granderson on the DL at the start of the season, Hafner’s hot bat was crucial to the team’s surprising early success. But by his third month in pinstripes, both Hafner and the Yankees cooled off considerably. He was striking out more and his power disappeared. He underwent an MRI that showed tendinitis was again flaring up in his shoulder, but because the Yankees were in the midst of an unbelievable epidemic of position player injuries, Girardi kept writing Hafner’s name in the lineup. By the end of the season, his average was down to .202 and his Yankee days were over.
Pronk turns 37-years-old today. He was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the later rounds of the 1996 draft. He had some huge years in the minors but the Rangers hardly seemed to notice because they didn’t bring him up for a look-see until 2002 and then that December, they traded him to Cleveland.
Hafner shares his birthday with this former Yankee catcher.
|CLE (10 yrs)||1078||4413||3734||582||1039||238||11||200||688||9||558||882||.278||.382||.509||.890|
|TEX (1 yr)||23||70||62||6||15||4||1||1||6||0||8||15||.242||.329||.387||.716|
|NYY (1 yr)||82||299||262||31||53||8||1||12||37||2||32||79||.202||.301||.378||.679|