I was busy last evening and missed most of the Yankee game so when I sat down to write this blog at around 10:00 pm the first thing I did was check for the score of the game on ESPN NY. That’s when I learned about Mariano Rivera twisting his knee while shagging outfield flies in batting practice. After I cursed like a sailor, kicked the dog and screamed at my wife (I’m kidding, I don’t own a dog) I started thinking about just how durable Rivera has been during the seventeen seasons the Yankees have trusted no one else with ninth inning leads.
I’ll never forget thinking the Yankee front office was crazy for letting John Wetteland walk away as a free agent after he had saved 43 games during the 1996 regular season and all four of the Yankees’ victories in that year’s World Series. But it turned out he was just the first of many. What do Bob Wickman, David Weathers, Mark Wohlers, Tom Gordon, Octavio Dotel, Kerry Ward, Armando Benitez, and Rafael Soriano all have in common? Not only did they pitch in the same Yankee bullpen as the great Sandman, each of them has had 30-save seasons in the big leagues either before or after they became Mo’s teammate. Mo has been so good for so long that no other 30-save big league closer has ever had even the slightest chance of taking away his job. And that includes today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
Like Mariano, Joe Borowski also began his big league career in 1995. The Orioles brought him up in July and he appeared in six games as a reliever that season. He spent the next year with the Braves but did not make their postseason roster so he missed the opportunity to compete against Mo and the Yankees in the ’96 Series. The following September Atlanta waived him and the Yankees picked him up. In 1998, he spent most of the season in Columbus but was called up to the Bronx in August. With the exception of one pounding he took against Texas, this right-handed native of Bayonne, NJ pitched real well, surrendering just a single run in his seven other appearances for New York. The Yankees let him go in September of 1999 and he didn’t get back to the big leagues until late in the 2001 season as a member of the Cubs. In 2002, he finally got a chance to pitch regularly at the big league level, when he appeared in 73 games for Chicago, won four of eight decisions, had an ERA of 2.73 and garnered his first two big league saves. That effort gave Cub Manager Dusty Baker the confidence he needed to give Borowski a shot at closing in 2003 and big Joe did not disappoint. He saved 33 games that year, lowered his ERA to 2.63 and was a big reason why the Cubbies made it to the postseason.
Chicago rewarded him with a two-year, four million dollar contract that off season and Borowski went out and tore his rotator cuff. The next year he broke his hand. He did not fully recover from those injuries until 2006 and by then he was pitching for the Marlins and getting paid the league minimum. But after he saved 33 games for Florida, the Indians signed him as a free agent with a two-year deal worth eight million dollars. Borowski helped Cleveland win the AL Central Division in 2007 by leading the League with 45 saves. The odd thing about his performance that season was that he was able to save so many games despite compiling an ERA north of five. When the 2008 season opened, Borowski got off to a horrible start, forcing Cleveland to first take his closer job away and then in July of that year, giving him his outright release. By then Borowski was 37 years old. He shares his May 4th birthday with this former Yankee infielder.
|CHC (5 yrs)||8||11||.421||3.73||175||1||106||0||0||44||198.0||182||87||82||24||67||192||1.258|
|ATL (2 yrs)||4||6||.400||4.32||42||0||16||0||0||0||50.0||60||26||24||6||29||21||1.780|
|CLE (2 yrs)||5||8||.385||5.57||87||0||72||0||0||51||82.1||101||53||51||13||25||67||1.530|
|NYY (2 yrs)||1||1||.500||6.94||9||0||7||0||0||0||11.2||13||9||9||0||8||9||1.800|
|TBD (1 yr)||1||5||.167||3.82||32||0||4||0||0||0||35.1||26||15||15||3||11||16||1.047|
|FLA (1 yr)||3||3||.500||3.75||72||0||60||0||0||36||69.2||63||31||29||7||33||64||1.378|
|BAL (1 yr)||0||0||1.23||6||0||3||0||0||0||7.1||5||1||1||0||4||3||1.227|
Yankee fans will never forget the hype that surrounded the $12.8 million signing of this huge and mysterious right-hander from Hyogo, Japan. When he won his first major league start impressively, many of us were convinced he was the chosen one. When I saw him for the first time, I remember being surprised by the size of his head and I also remember thinking that if Babe Ruth came back to life as a Japanese male, he’d look like Irabu.
In any event, Hideki did not fulfill the huge expectations of Yankee fans or the Yankee brass. After three OK seasons in the Bronx, which included Steinbrenner’s infamous “fat toad” insult incident, the Yankees sent Irabu to Montreal for Ted Lilly.
If right now someone told Yankee fans that Phil Hughes would finish the current season with a 13-9 record, most of us, including Joe Girardi and the Yankee front office would be extremely pleased. That was Irabu’s record in 1998, his first full season with the team. I know I would also be thrilled if Andy Pettitte rejoins the Yankees this month and ends up going 11-7 during the rest of the 2012 season. That was Irabu’s record during his second and final full year as a Yankee starter.
On July 28, 2011, Hideki Irabu was found dead in his Los Angeles home. He was 42 years-old. Initial reports indicated LA police were treating it as a suicide. Irabu’s wife had recently separated from him and taken the couple’s two young children with her. Former Met Manager, Bobby Valentine, who managed Irabu for one season in Japan, indicated that Irabu liked to drink beer and was at times “his own worst enemy.” The Japanese culture has traditionally treated suicide as an honorable way to die. As a Japanese friend of Irabu told reporters covering his death, “He decided to go to heaven.” I hope he got there. Rest in peace Hideki.
Irabu shares his May 5th birthday with this one time roommate of the M&M Boys.
|NYY (3 yrs)||29||20||.592||4.80||74||64||2||4||2||0||395.2||397||224||211||68||142||1||315||1.362|
|MON (2 yrs)||2||7||.222||6.69||14||14||0||0||0||0||71.1||99||54||53||12||17||0||60||1.626|
|TEX (1 yr)||3||8||.273||5.74||38||2||26||0||0||16||47.0||51||30||30||11||16||2||30||1.426|
Miguel Cairo played some very good baseball for the New York Yankees during his 257 game-career in Pinstripes. The Yankees put the guy in some incredibly difficult circumstances but he was unflappable. I believe it was during the 2004 regular season, Cairo’s finest as a Yankee, that he made a play that truly impressed me. He had been playing second base all game long when late in the game he was moved to shortstop. I don’t remember why Joe Torre made the switch but I think it was because Jeter got hit on the hand by a pitch and couldn’t take the field. In any event, the first guy up after Cairo makes the move hits a shot toward short and Cairo made this absolutely awesome play on the ball.
This Venezuelan was one of the most valuable members of that 2004 Yankee squad. He anchored second base but could play and did play every other infield position, plus he hit over .290. He did everything the team asked him to do, he did it well and he often had to do it in the sort of clutch situations that teams in a division race encounter frequently.
So happy birthday Miguel. Every successful team has at least one player who does all the little things well and in 2004, you were that player for the Yankees. If only you could have pitched that 12th inning against Boston in game 4 of that season’s AL Championship series.
Miguel shares his May 4th birthday with this one-time AL Saves leader.
|STL (4 yrs)||255||605||545||82||138||31||6||8||67||7||31||73||.253||.301||.376||.677|
|TBD (3 yrs)||389||1483||1355||159||373||59||12||9||116||69||77||124||.275||.319||.356||.675|
|CIN (3 yrs)||263||658||595||72||151||27||4||13||74||11||39||86||.254||.309||.378||.687|
|NYY (3 yrs)||257||773||689||88||185||36||8||6||82||32||39||99||.269||.319||.370||.689|
|CHC (2 yrs)||82||179||152||27||42||4||1||2||10||2||18||24||.276||.355||.355||.710|
|NYM (1 yr)||100||367||327||31||82||18||0||2||19||13||19||31||.251||.296||.324||.620|
|PHI (1 yr)||27||47||45||6||12||2||1||1||2||0||0||4||.267||.283||.422||.705|
|SEA (1 yr)||108||250||221||34||55||14||2||0||23||5||18||32||.249||.316||.330||.646|
|TOR (1 yr)||9||30||27||5||6||2||0||0||1||0||2||9||.222||.300||.296||.596|