If you weren’t a Braves’ fan back in the early-to-mid 1990’s, you are probably quick to give much of Atlanta’s phenomenal success during that era to the stellar starting pitching trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. If you were instead a devoted tomahawking follower of the team back then, you know how huge a role today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant played in the success of that franchise.
Only one word is needed to describe Mark Wohlers’ performance during Atlanta’s championship season of 1995, “invincible.” After spending his first four big league seasons evolving into one of the best late-inning relievers in baseball, the Braves made the decision to turn this native of Holyoke, Massachusetts with his 100 mile per hour fastball and a nasty split finger, into their closer. All he did was go 7-3 with 25 saves in the regular season and put together five more saves during the Braves victorious 1995 postseason run to the title.
He then saved 39 more games during the 1996 regular season and five more in that year’s NLDS and NLCS. As he and his teammates prepared to defend their world championship against the Yankees, I remember thinking it was going to be very difficult for my favorite team to emerge victorious against Atlanta, largely because Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz were so good at giving the Brave’s bullpen the lead and Wohlers’ was the best in the business at keeping it. Then Mr. Wohlers met Mr. Leyritz. The encounter took place in the eighth inning of Game 4, with the Braves leading 6-3. At the time, Atlanta had a two-games to one edge over New York and if they had been able to hold that Game 4 lead, I have no doubt they would have repeated as champions.
Instead, Leyritz hit his famous game-tying homer and it proved to be a turning point in three significant ways. The Yankees not only won that Series, they have gone on to appear in six more since ’96 and win four more of them. The Braves on the other hand have not made it back to the Series since and worst of all, Wohlers was really never again the same dominating pitcher he had been right up until the moment Leyritz drove that ball over the the left field wall of Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium.
The big right-hander was able to save 33 games for the Braves in 1997 but he suddenly had trouble throwing that blazing fastball over the plate. Since he couldn’t get ahead with his heater anymore, opposing hitters were able to simply lay off Wohlers’ split-finger. As his walks climbed so did his ERA. He lost the closer spot the following season and began throwing so much in an effort to figure out what was wrong, he blew out his elbow, requiring surgery. By 1999 he was pitching for Cincinnati.
In July of 2001, the Reds traded him to the Yankees for some pitcher who never made it to the big leagues. Wohlers was excited about coming to New York and told the Yankee press he had fully recovered from his surgery and was ready to get hitters out again. Joe Torre pitched him 31 times during the second half of that ’01 season and though his arm held up OK, he was still struggling with his control. The Yanks let him sign a 2-year deal with the Indians after the season ended.
|ATL (9 yrs)||31||22||.585||3.73||388||0||233||0||0||112||386.1||331||178||160||20||204||437||1.385|
|CIN (2 yrs)||4||3||.571||4.20||50||0||18||0||0||0||60.0||55||34||28||8||24||41||1.317|
|CLE (1 yr)||3||4||.429||4.79||64||0||28||0||0||7||71.1||71||41||38||6||26||46||1.360|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||4.54||31||0||14||0||0||0||35.2||33||20||18||3||18||33||1.430|
If it wasn’t for a horrible September, this big right-hander from Dallas would have been my choice for the Yankees’ 2013 Rookie of the Year. In his pinstriped debut against Oakland on May 5, 2013, he relieved Andy Pettitte in the sixth inning and retired all six A’s he faced. He remained in a groove, not surrendering a run in his first seven appearances and by the end of July, his ERA was still a splendid 2.06.
He quickly became one of Joe Girardi’s favorite go-to guys in the middle innings and when both Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan proved ineffective, it was Claiborne and Shawn Kelley who picked up the Yankee bullpen time and again until September reared its ugly head. That’s when this former Tulane Green Waver was hammered in three straight appearances against the Red Sox, giving up a total of eight runs in the one and two-thirds innings he pitched against Boston. That sent his ERA over four and put a damper on what had been a splendid first year.
Claiborne remains prominent in Girardi’s bullpen plans for the 2014 season, especially with both Logan and Chamberlain gone and David Robertson assuming the closer role left vacant by Mariano Rivera’s retirement.
Remember Colter Bean? I do, all six feet, six inches and 250 or so pounds of him. He was a right-handed pitcher from Alabama who went un-drafted after completing his collegiate career in 2000 and was then signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent that same year.
During the next five seasons, he developed into one of the potential “Mariano Rivera successors” in the Yankee farm system. The problem with that of course was that Rivera was like the Energizer Bunny, he just kept going and going and going and didn’t require any successoring.
So Bean kept pitching well out of the pen for Yankee farm teams, putting together a 38-20 record with 16 saves, while getting three brief trials with the parent club. Unfortunately for Bean, he didn’t impress anyone in any of them and ended up getting released by New York in 2007, when he was already 30-years-old.
The Braves signed him and a year later, so did the Rays, but he would never again pitch in a big league game. Too bad, because I thought Colter Bean had one of the coolest names in Yankee franchise history. Its a name you can’t forget. I never have.
|162 Game Avg.||0||11||.000||9.00||68||0||23||0||0||0||79||91||79||79||0||102||57||2.429|
I’m the first to admit that I don’t remember today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant playing for the New York Yankees. This native of Ft. Lauderdale, FL pitched in pinstripes during the 1984 season for manager Yogi Berra after he was acquired in a trade with the California Angels the previous December. He was a tall right-hander who didn’t make New York’s Opening Day roster that year but was instead called up a month later, when starter John Montefusco went on the DL.
Berra used Brown a lot, getting him into 13 games in just over a month and the then-24-year-old pitcher was up to the task. He gave up just 5 runs in 16 2/3 innings of work for an impressive ERA of 2.70. But whenYankee starter, Shane Rawley was ready to return from the DL at the beginning of June, it was Brown who was reassigned to Columbus to make room for him on the 25-man roster.
New York released him in October of 1985 and he signed with the Expos. Montreal gave him two more shots at the big leagues in both 1986 and ’87 but he could not take advantage of either opportunity.
I chose to include Curt Brown in the Pinstipe Birthday Blog because of his common last name. I thought it might be interesting to find out the most popular last name on the Yankees’s all-time roster and figured Brown would be one of them. I was right. There have been seven players with the last name of Brown to play for the franchise. In addition to Curt, they include two Bobby’s, one nicknamed Boardwalk, Hal, Jumbo and Kevin. The most popular last name in Yankee history is Johnson. There are 17 “Johnson’s” on the Yankees’ all-time roster. “Rodriguez” and “Williams” are the second most popular Yankee player surnames with 8 each. There have also been 7 Yankees with the last name of Robinson, 7 more named Jones and another 7 named Smith.
Brown shares his January 15th birthday with the only big league player to be born on the Island of Samoa and this former Yankee catcher.
|MON (2 yrs)||0||2||.000||4.74||11||0||3||0||0||0||19.0||25||13||10||2||6||10||1.632|
|CAL (1 yr)||1||1||.500||7.31||10||0||7||0||0||0||16.0||25||13||13||1||4||7||1.813|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||.500||2.70||13||0||7||0||0||0||16.2||18||5||5||1||4||10||1.320|
A native of Los Mochis, Mexico, right-hander Luis Ayala made quite a splash as a big league rookie in 2003. He appeared in 65 games that year out of manager Frank Robinson’s Montreal Expo bullpen and posted a 2.92 ERA, while winning ten of thirteen decisions and getting five saves. He proved he was no fluke in his sophomore season, appearing in 81 games and posting a 2.69 ERA. He was well on his way to becoming one of MLB’s best middle relievers when he blew out his elbow pitching for Mexico in the 2006 World Baseball Championship.
He underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire ’06 season. He did OK during his first season back from the injury but it went downhill fast from there. During the next two seasons he pitched for four different clubs and his ERA skyrocketed to almost six runs for every nine innings he pitched.
Things looked bleak for Alaya after the Marlins released him in ’09 and he spent the entire 2010 season back in the minors. The following February, the Yankees signed him to a minor league contract. Though New York’s bullpen appeared to be loaded with middle and late inning relievers, Ayala pitched well enough in spring training to make the team’s Opening Day roster. He then got hit hard in his first Yankee appearance and after two decent outings, landed on the DL with a strained muscle in his back.
After a short rehab tour at Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Ayala returned to New York’s bullpen and for the rest of the year, he was one of Joe Girardi’s best and most trusted middle relievers, coming up especially big when injuries shelved both Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano. He ended the regular season with 52 appearances and an excellent ERA of 2.09.
His ERA would have been even lower, but in his last regular season appearance, Tampa got three earned runs off of him. He then didn’t look sharp in either of his two appearances against the Tigers in that year’s ALDS. It could very well have been those last three consecutive sub par outings that caused the Yankee front office to let Ayala sign with the Orioles instead of bringing him back for another season in the Bronx. I remember being surprised they let him go. He put together a good season for the O’s in 2012 and then did the same for Atlanta in 2013, after Baltimore traded him to the Braves early in the season.
|WSN (5 yrs)||27||32||.458||3.33||320||0||93||0||0||9||332.1||338||137||123||32||76||213||1.246|
|BAL (2 yrs)||6||5||.545||2.81||68||0||15||0||0||1||77.0||85||29||24||8||14||53||1.286|
|MIN (1 yr)||1||2||.333||4.18||28||0||11||0||0||0||32.1||38||18||15||4||8||21||1.423|
|NYM (1 yr)||1||2||.333||5.50||19||0||13||0||0||9||18.0||23||12||11||3||2||14||1.389|
|ATL (1 yr)||1||1||.500||2.90||37||0||7||0||0||0||31.0||34||10||10||1||13||20||1.516|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||2||.500||2.09||52||0||20||0||0||0||56.0||51||17||13||5||20||39||1.268|
|FLA (1 yr)||0||3||.000||11.74||10||0||2||0||0||0||7.2||12||10||10||1||6||7||2.348|
The Yankee pitching staff faced a lot of questions as the 1994 regular season was about to open. The most pressing one was who would manager Buck Showalter use as his closer. They had lost Steve Farr to free agency during the offseason and had Jeff Reardon, Steve Howe, Bob Wickman and a sore shouldered Xavier Hernandez all in camp fighting for the coveted role. When none of the four stood out, Showalter told the press he’d use all of them, sort of a closer by committee. That didn’t leave much room out in the bullpen.
The Yankees had signed right-hander Don Pall as a free agent after the ’93 season. The Chicago native had spent his first six big league seasons pitching decently out of the bullpen for his hometown White Sox. The Sox had traded him to the Phillies the previous September and now the Yanks were hoping the 32-year-old veteran could give them some dependable middle inning relief. He sort of did that just fine.
Showalter called on him 26 times during the first half of the ’94 season and he posted a respectable 3.60 ERA in the 35 innings he pitched. He was looking forward to helping the Yankees reach the postseason for the first time in 12 years, when Showalter called him into his office and told him he was being released. Pall was completely shocked by the move and told the New York press so. Showalter explained it by saying he was committed to giving his young starter, Sterling Hitchcock the rest of the year to prove he belonged in the starting rotation and he needed Pall’s roster spot for that purpose. The Yankee skipper admitted it was a tough decision.
Pall, who was nicknamed “the Pope,” ended up signing on with the Cubs before the season was halted by the Players’ strike. He then spent the next two years in the minors before reemerging with the Florida Marlins in 1996.
The only other Yankee born on this date was this former Yankee third baseman.
|CHW (6 yrs)||21||19||.525||3.45||255||0||72||0||0||10||394.1||392||169||151||38||109||209||1.270|
|FLA (3 yrs)||1||2||.333||5.30||37||0||13||0||0||0||54.1||61||35||32||9||17||35||1.436|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||0||4.50||2||0||0||0||0||0||4.0||8||2||2||1||1||2||2.250|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||2||.333||3.60||26||0||7||0||0||0||35.0||43||18||14||3||9||21||1.486|
|PHI (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||2.55||8||0||2||0||0||0||17.2||15||7||5||1||3||11||1.019|
While the Yankees had a marvelous season in 2009, winning their 27th World Championship, it was a lost year for Dustin Moseley. The right-handed pitcher from Texarkana, Texas strained his right forearm at the beginning of that year and just as he recovered from that injury he found out he needed surgery on his hip, which ended his season. His contract with the Angels was up that same season, so you know he had to be thrilled when the Yankees offered him a contract that winter.
Moseley had his agent include a clause that made him a free agent again if he wasn’t on New York’s 25-man roster by July 1. Getting him there by that date proved to be an easy decision because the defending champions’ bullpen was a complete mess that season. Both Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson were pitching poorly, Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin were worse and Alfredo Aceves was on the DL.
So when Moseley made his pinstriped debut as a reliever against Toronto on July 3rd of that season and held the Jays hitless in his two-inning stint, Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman, his Yankee teammates and plenty of Yankee fans were all simultaneously hoping it was a sign of good things to come. It actually wasn’t. After three more relief stints his ERA was over four. By then however, the Yankee starting pitching situation had fallen upon rough times and Girardi actually inserted Moseley into the rotation.
The 29-year-old stepped up, winning four of his first six decisions as a starter. Even though he lost his last two starts that year, his strong two inning relief stint in Game 1 of the 2010 ALCS against Texas earned him the win and probably was the reason the Yanks tried to re-sign him again following that postseason.Moseley instead decided to take his game to San Diego’s more pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
He pitched well for the Padres in 2011.posting a 3.30 ERA, but poor run support saddled him with a 3-10 record. He also injured his non-throwing shoulder and when he failed to get off to a good start the following year, he was put on waivers.He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since.
|LAA (4 yrs)||8||7||.533||5.41||64||23||15||0||0||0||168.0||209||102||101||19||52||98||1.554|
|SDP (2 yrs)||3||10||.231||3.53||21||21||0||0||0||0||125.0||122||64||49||11||38||68||1.280|
|NYY (1 yr)||4||4||.500||4.96||16||9||2||0||0||0||65.1||66||36||36||13||27||33||1.423|