From 1983 until 1987, Jesse Orosco was one of the best relievers in all of baseball. He joined the Mets in 1979 as the player to be named later in the deal that sent the veteran Jerry Koosman to Minnesota. In the next few seasons, the southpaw would perfect a deadly slider and a backdoor curve that could at times make him unhittable, especially against left-handed batters. He went 13-7 with 17 saves and a 1.47 ERA in 1983 and followed that up with a 10-6, 31-save effort a year later. In the Mets magical 1986 season, Jesse and his right-handed closing counterpart, Roger McDowell practically guaranteed the Mets would win any game in which they led after seven innings. It was Orosco who nailed down the final outs in both the 1986 NLCS and World Series.
In 1987, Orosco had his first bad season as a Met and since 1988 would be the final year of his contract, New York decided to trade him before his free agency commenced. Thus began a fifteen year, nine team odyssey for Jesse, during which he was transitioned into one of the Game’s most effective situational left handed relief specialists. That was the role the Yankees needed filled when the Yankees acquired Orosco from the Padres at the midway point of the 2003 season. By then, he was 46 years-old, was pitching in his fourth decade, and had surpassed Dennis Eckersley as the Major League’s all-time leader in games pitched. Unfortunately, he had also lost the ability to get left-handers out.
Orosco appeared in 15 games as a Yankee, pitching a total of just 4.1 innings. He walked six batters, gave up 4 hits and compiled a horrible ERA of 10.48. On the last day of August during the 2003 season, the Yankees sent him to the Twins where he won the last of his 87 big league victories. He retired at the end of that season, his 24th in the big leagues, with 144 lifetime saves.
Orosco shares his August 21st birthday with this Hall of Fame Yankee Manager.
|NYM (8 yrs)||47||47||.500||2.73||372||4||246||0||0||107||595.2||480||207||181||40||240||506||1.209|
|BAL (5 yrs)||15||11||.577||3.35||336||0||83||0||0||11||244.1||173||95||91||26||133||241||1.252|
|LAD (3 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.00||146||0||36||0||0||10||96.0||82||35||32||11||49||86||1.365|
|CLE (3 yrs)||10||8||.556||3.11||171||0||77||0||0||5||188.1||164||75||65||20||79||170||1.290|
|MIL (3 yrs)||9||7||.563||3.74||156||0||46||0||0||9||134.2||112||66||56||11||56||143||1.248|
|MIN (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.79||8||0||3||0||0||0||4.2||4||3||3||0||5||3||1.929|
|STL (1 yr)||0||0||3.86||6||0||0||0||0||0||2.1||3||3||1||1||3||4||2.571|
|SDP (1 yr)||1||1||.500||7.56||42||0||10||0||0||2||25.0||33||22||21||4||10||22||1.720|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||0||10.38||15||0||0||0||0||0||4.1||4||6||5||0||6||4||2.308|
If they played under today’s big league structure with three different divisions and two wild card teams. The 1985 Yankees would have definitely made the postseason and quite possibly won a World Series. That team finished with 97 wins. In Yankee franchise history, only the 1954 Bronx Bomber team won more regular season games (104) and failed to reach postseason play. That ’85 team had a potent offense, which included Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Ricky Henderson plus perennial all-star, Don Mattingly, who was at the peak of his career. They finished two games behind the Blue Jays that year and if you had to lay the blame anything, it would have to be the thinness of the club’s pitching staff. Ron Guidry won 22 games that year and 46-year-old Joe Niekro somehow managed to flutter his knuckleball enough times to win 16 more. They also had closer Dave Righetti doing his thing in the bullpen. After those three however, you really did need a score card to figure out who was on the mound at any given time for New York. That is unless it was Rich Bordi doing the pitching. That’s because the mustachio’d San Francisco-born right hander was 6’7″ tall, making him an easy read for Yankee fans back then.
Pitching for that particular Yankee team, however was anything but easy as Bordi soon found out. He had originally been drafted and signed by the A’s in 1980. In fact he was the last guy ever signed by Oakland’s eccentric owner, Charley Finley, which explains why he was also rushed into his big league debut that same year. By 1984, he had landed in Chicago with the Cubs, where he put together his best season with a 5-2 record as a starter and some-time reliever. That December, the Yanks sent Ray Fontenot and Brian Dayett to the Cubs for Bordi, Henry Cotto, Ron Hassey and somebody named Porfi Altamirano.
Bordi joined a Yankee team that was supposed to have been managed the entire season by Yogi Berra. George Steinbrenner had made that promise to his skipper before the season started. After a 6-10 start, “the Boss” broke that promise by firing Yogi and replacing him with Billy Martin.
Suddenly, poor Bordi, a modestly skilled big league pitcher found himself working for two men who had become famous for making the lives of modestly skilled big league pitchers miserable. The big Californian didn’t do that badly. He became a mainstay of Martin’s bullpen, appearing in a total of 51 games that year which included three starts. He finished the season with a 6-8 record, 2 saves and a decent 3.21 ERA.
I thought we’d see him in a Yankee uniform the following year but I was wrong. He and prospect Rex Hudler were traded to the Orioles for outfielder Gary Roenicke. Then I thought I would never again see him in a Yankee uniform. I was wrong again. The Yankees brought him back to New York as a free agent in 1987. That year, Lou Piniella had taken over as Yankee skipper and Bordi finished the season with a 3-1 record but a sky high ERA and New York released him. He was out of the big leagues by the following year. He returned to California and I believe he is now a scout for the Cincinnati Reds. I bet you he’s glad he doesn’t work for Billy Martin or George Steinbrenner any more.
He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this long-ago Yankee outfielder and also this now demolished shrine of Major League Baseball.
|OAK (3 yrs)||0||1||.000||3.86||5||2||2||0||0||0||11.2||11||7||5||0||6||6||1.457|
|CHC (2 yrs)||5||4||.556||3.81||42||8||11||0||0||5||108.2||112||52||46||13||32||61||1.325|
|NYY (2 yrs)||9||9||.500||4.33||67||4||22||0||0||2||131.0||137||69||63||12||41||87||1.359|
|SEA (1 yr)||0||2||.000||8.31||7||2||2||0||0||0||13.0||18||12||12||4||1||10||1.462|
|BAL (1 yr)||6||4||.600||4.46||52||1||22||0||0||3||107.0||105||56||53||13||41||83||1.364|
The Yankees claimed former Seattle Mariner pitcher, Aaron Laffey off waivers in August of 2011 to get a second left-hander in their bullpen. Laffey had spent his first four big league seasons with Cleveland, where he was considered a very decent pitching prospect. He caused quite a stir in 2008 when he started the season by winning his first four decisions but he just couldn’t get over the hump. By 2010, the Tribe had relegated him to the bullpen where he has spent the balance of his career.
The Cumberland, MD native made his pinstripe debut on August 20th of that 2011 season against the Twins but hardly anybody noticed. That’s because it was in the same game that television cameras caught an angry AJ Burnett screaming something in Joe Gerardi’s direction after the Yankee manager lifted his erratic starter in the third inning with the bases full of Twins. Laffey was probably happy to not get any post game attention since he gave up five hits, two walks and two runs in his initial three-inning stint.
He got his first Yankee win in his next appearance against the Orioles, thanks to Jesus Montero’s first two big league home runs. Laffey continued to pitch well in most of his appearances for New York, winning two of three decisions and finishing the season with a 3.38 ERA. That was not good enough to make the team’s postseason roster or keep him from being released by New York. He started the 2013 season as a member of the New York Mets’ bullpen.
Laffey is just the second member of the all-time Yankee roster to celebrate his birthday on April 15th. This merry old right-handed pitcher would have turned 124 years-old today.
|CLE (4 yrs)||18||21||.462||4.41||79||49||4||0||0||1||320.1||359||177||157||22||128||155||1.520|
|NYM (1 yr)||0||0||5.06||2||1||1||0||0||0||5.1||10||3||3||0||1||6||2.063|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||1||.667||3.38||11||0||0||0||0||0||10.2||13||4||4||0||5||6||1.688|
|SEA (1 yr)||1||1||.500||4.01||36||0||7||0||0||0||42.2||54||20||19||7||16||24||1.641|
|TOR (1 yr)||4||6||.400||4.56||22||16||1||0||0||0||100.2||100||56||51||17||37||48||1.361|
When Mariano Rivera tore his ACL shagging fly balls during a Yankee batting practice in Kauffman Stadium’s outfield in May of 2012, I thought David Robertson’s moment with destiny had arrived. I was sure it would be D-Rob and not the much higher-salaried Rafael Soriano who would be given the opportunity to replace the greatest closer ever to play the game and I was right. The next day it was Robertson who Joe Giardi summoned to pitch the ninth inning of a CC Sabathia 6-2 victory over Kansas City. Back at Yankee Stadium against the Rays a few days later, it was again D-Rob who got the call in the ninth inning, this time in a save situation. I can distinctly remember wondering how Soriano felt that night watching Robertson walk to the mound in a save situation against the team Raffie had left to take millions of Yankee dollars.
Robertson got the save that evening but it wasn’t pretty. He walked two batters and gave up a hit. Yankee fans had gotten use to seeing Robertson put men on base and then wiggle his way out of it. But that was when he was Rivera’s set-up man. Now, as closer, that wiggle room seemed a lot less spacious to Yankee fans and maybe Robertson noticed the difference too. The next night he got shelled for four runs against the same Tampa team, blowing the save and losing the game. The following night, Girardi turned to Soriano to close out the final game of the series and you could feel the torch being passed. A couple nights later, Robertson finished a game in Seattle (a non-save-situation) and the a few days later he was placed on the DL with a strained muscle in his rib cage, which could have been the result of a young pitcher trying too hard in his effort to replace a legend.
When Soriano opted out of his Yankee contract after the 2012 season, Robertson was again the favorite to replace Mariano, who announced in spring training that the 2013 season would be his last one. I believed D-Rob would benefit from his first attempt at closer and be much better prepared mentally to take over the role the next time he was given the opportunity. He then put together another very strong year as Mo’s eighth-inning set-up guy in 2013, and sealed the deal that he would succeed the greatest closer of all time.
Robertson got his first two saves of the 2014 season without much of a problem but he also suffered a groin injury in the process of earning that second one, which put him back on the DL. I became officially concerned about this guy’s physical frailty. Did he have the strength and stamina to withstand the rigors of being a big league closer? He most certainly did.
D-Rob came back from that injury and pitched close to Mo-like relief for the Yankees the rest of the way, ending the 2014 season with 39 saves and great strikeout to walks and innings pitched ratios. The question then became would the Yankees offer their now-free agent closer the huge contract he was looking for? They did not and Robertson signed with a team that did, the Chicago White Sox.
Robertson was born in Birmingham, AL, on April 9, 1985. He was a 17th round pick for New York in the 2006 draft.
Ten years before Robertson joined the Yankee bullpen, this lefty reliever, also born on April 9th, was a key member of New York’s relief corps. This long-ago starting pitcher also shares D-Rob’s birthday.
The only former Yankee celebrating a birthday today is a big right hander named Dick Woodson, who appeared in just eight games for New York during the 1974 season and then left the big leagues. Woodson did all of his other pitching for the Twins. I can actually remember when he broke into their rotation. Back then, Minnesota had a young Bert Blyleven, veteran Jim Perry and one of my all-time favorite Yankee announcers, Jim “Kitty” Kaat, as starters. Those three guys had a total of 785 regular season victories between them. Woodson won 14 games as a Twin starter in 1972 and 10 more the following season. Then in May of 1974, Minnesota swapped Woodson for a lefthanded pitching prospect named Mike Pazik, who had been the Yankees first round pick in the 1971 draft. Neither pitcher performed well for their new teams. Woodson had actually torn his rotator cuff before the trade and back in those days, that injury ended a pitcher’s career.
Woodson did, however, play a significant role in baseball history when, in 1974 he was handpicked by the legendary Marvin Miller to become the first Major League Player to go through the newly established arbitration process. Miller had studied every eligible player’s contract and discovered Woodson was the most underpaid player in baseball. At the time, the Twins stingy owner, Calvin Griffith was paying the pitcher $15,000 and had offered him a $2,000 raise after a 14-victory season. Miller’s minions had discovered that pitchers with similar stats were making two and even three times more than Woodson was being offered. Woodson’s arbitration starting point was $30,000 and he won his case easily.
|MIN (5 yrs)||33||30||.524||3.35||129||73||16||15||5||2||561.0||488||244||209||49||241||303||1.299|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||2||.333||5.79||8||3||2||0||0||0||28.0||34||19||18||6||12||12||1.643|
Cy Young was born on today’s date, way back in 1867. The legendary right-hander won 511 games during his 22-season career, more than any other man in baseball history. Young ended up in Cooperstown. He set such a standard for pitching excellence that the award given annually to the best pitcher in each league is named after him. One of the pitchers to win that award was also born on this date, 77 years after Young. His name was Denny McLain and he actually won the AL Cy Young Award two times in a row. McLain was baseball’s last thirty-game winner and he’s also quite a character who battled both drinking and gambling addictions and ended up in jail.
A Yankee pitcher also born on this date never came close to winning thirty games in a season or a Cy Young Award. His name is Bill Castro. He was a very good relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers for much of the 1970’s, winning 25 games and saving 44 more during his seven seasons with that team. The Yankees signed this right-handed native of the Dominican Republic as a free agent in February of 1981. Castro ended up pitching in just eleven games for New York during the strike-shortened season that followed, winning one and losing one decision. The Yankees then traded him to the Royals for third baseman Butch Hobson. When he stopped playing he got into coaching and worked for the Brewers organization until 2009. We know Castro won’t be following Cy Young to Cooperstown and let’s hope he never follows Denny McLain to jail, either.
|MIL (7 yrs)||25||23||.521||2.96||253||5||179||0||0||44||411.0||415||164||135||22||108||145||1.273|
|KCR (2 yrs)||5||2||.714||4.56||39||4||13||0||0||1||116.1||123||68||59||12||32||54||1.332|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||.500||3.79||11||0||6||0||0||0||19.0||26||13||8||2||5||4||1.632|
After the 1978 season, the New York front office decided the Yankee bullpen wasn’t big enough for both Goose Gossage and Sparky Lyle so they traded “The Count” to Texas in a nine player deal. The key acquisition for New York was supposed to be outfielder Juan Beniquez, but he lasted just one season in the Bronx. The real gem in that deal for the Yankees was a young pitcher named Dave Righetti. Paul Mirabella, today’s birthday celebrant quietly accompanied “Ragu” and Beniquez to New York as part of that transaction.
A word of advice to those of you who have children you hope one day will win baseball scholarships to college or get drafted by an MLB team. If they are right-handed groom them to be catchers and if they throw with their left-hands teach them how to pitch. Why? If you study the history of Major League Baseball you will find a large number of catchers in every era who were able to put together lengthy big league careers even though they can’t hit worth a lick. You’ll also discover that there’s always room on a big league roster for a pitcher who can throw from the left side.
Mirabella is a classic example. He had come up with Texas in 1978. After going 0-4 in pinstripes during the 1979 season, he was sent to Toronto with Chris Chambliss in the deal that brought Rick Cerone to New York. He remained in the big leagues for the next eleven seasons even though his ERA as a reliever was 4.45, his record was 19-29 and he saved an average of just one game per season during his 13 years in the Majors. How? Because at least once every season since Major League Baseball was introduced to our culture, the manager of every big league team that has ever played has told the owner or general manager of that team that he needs a left hander who can come into a game and get a left-handed hitter on the opposing team out. That’s why and how Mirabella’s career lasted for thirteen seasons on six different teams.
He was born in Belleville, NJ in 1954. In the above baseball card, Mirabella does bear a slight resemblance to comedy actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, no? He also shares his March 20th birthday with the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to win 20 games in a season and the first one to lose 20 games in a season.
|MIL (4 yrs)||8||5||.615||3.63||124||2||39||0||0||6||163.2||158||78||66||13||71||81||1.399|
|SEA (3 yrs)||2||5||.286||4.19||70||1||21||0||0||3||88.0||96||50||41||7||39||55||1.534|
|TEX (2 yrs)||4||3||.571||5.15||50||4||22||0||0||4||78.2||76||46||45||6||39||52||1.462|
|TOR (2 yrs)||5||12||.294||4.64||41||23||3||3||1||0||145.1||171||89||75||13||73||62||1.679|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||4||.000||8.79||10||1||0||0||0||0||14.1||16||15||14||3||10||4||1.814|
|BAL (1 yr)||0||0||5.59||3||2||1||0||0||0||9.2||9||6||6||1||7||4||1.655|