When I first heard that the Yankees had acquired veteran Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks at the July 31st trading deadline of the 2014 season, I smiled. My aging in-laws in Florida have been huge Braves’ fans for years and the Venezuelan-born Prado had been one of their favorite players during his first seven big-league seasons, all spent with Atlanta. Since we watched plenty of Braves’ baseball whenever my wife’s parents were visiting, I could see why they liked the guy. His entire game was solid, not flashy but dependably solid.
That’s the reason why it was Prado the Diamondbacks accepted in a 2013 preseason trade that sent the multi-talented Justin Upton to Atlanta. After a year and a half with his new team, Arizona decided it did not want to pay his $11 million salary for the next two seasons so they sent Prado to the Bronx for minor league slugger, Pete O’Brien, a Yankee catching prospect who had already hit 33 home runs for two different New York farm teams during the 2014 minor league season.
The reason I liked Prado in a Yankee uniform was his versatility and style of play. He can play second, third or the outfield plus he’s a good fit offensively anywhere you need to put him in the lineup. His intangibles are solid as well. The guy hustles all the time and all indications are he’s a great teammate.
Sure enough, during the 37 games he wore the pinstripes last year, he played second, third and all three outfield positions and belted 7 home runs which is a pace that translates into a 30-homer full season. The only downside was the fact that he ended the year on the DL. I don’t expect this guy to be a 30-homer hitter for New York but we desperately need players who can stay healthy for full seasons.
With the December, 2014 signing of Chase Headley, the Yankees made it clear that they intended to make Prado their everyday second baseman in 2015. If he stays healthy, he won’t make Yankee fans forget Robbie Cano but he will win over New York fans big time..
Update: So as soon as I post a blog praising the Yankees for getting Prado Cashman trades him to the Marlins with David Phelps for the young unpredictable arm of Nathan Eovaldi and back-up first baseman Garrett Jones. I did not like the trade at all because I was ready to watch Prado have a great year for the Yankees. I do not think Eovaldi will even be an upgrade over Phelps in pinstripes. The only way this deal ever helps the Yankees is if Teixeira again falls apart physically and Jones steps up big-time or if Domingo German, the minor league pitching prospect New York also got in this transaction continues to pitch the way he’s been pitching in the lower rungs of minor league ball. So long Martin Prado. Yankee fans hardly got to know you.
|ATL (7 yrs)||683||2799||2546||355||752||168||16||52||286||30||197||308||.295||.345||.435||.780|
|ARI (2 yrs)||261||1100||1012||114||281||53||6||19||124||5||70||110||.278||.326||.398||.725|
|NYY (1 yr)||37||137||133||18||42||9||0||7||16||1||3||23||.316||.336||.541||.877|
I never was a big fan of Billy Martin. I was too young to remember his playing days with the Yankees in the fifties. When he started managing in the American League, first for the Twins in 1969 and then the Tigers in 1971, I remember trying to learn more about him. Everything I read seemed to indicate he had a great will to win, a strong knowledge of the game but an extremely bad temper. This helped explain why he was fired from his first three managerial positions even after he helped turn losing teams into winners.
When George Steinbrenner became managing partner of the Yankees the perfect storm necessary to bring these two unpredictable forces together in the Bronx had been formed. In the beginning, it worked marvelously. The Yankees got back to the World Series and fans filled the Stadium like never before. It didn’t last long, however. Martin’s dependence on alcohol worsened under the pressure of Steinbrenner’s meddling and the glare of the New York media. Once these fault lines became public during and after the 1977 season, Martin would never again be able to command the respect or support of his players necessary to lead them to championships.
As more and more Yankees and ex-Yankees began talking and writing about their experiences while playing for Martin, a clearer picture of his addiction to alcohol, his emotional insecurity, and his inhumane behavior emerged. What respect I had for his past achievements was quickly replaced by pity for what he had become.
Having written all this it is only fair to point out that there are many people who knew Martin personally and who played with him and for him on a baseball field who loved and deeply respected the guy. My opinions of him were formed from the far-away focus of a typical baseball fan.
He died on Christmas day in 1989 when his truck was driven into a ditch by a friend who was allegedly driving intoxicated at the time of the accident. It has also been reported that the driver and Martin had been drinking all day. May he now be resting in peace.
During his final season as Yankee skipper in 1989, Martin had this right-handed veteran starter who shares his May 16th birthday, on his pitching staff. Martin was not the Yankee manager when this other May 16th born right-hander pitched in pinstripes, during the 1981 season. This former Yankee reliever was also born on that day.
Martin’s record as a Yankee player:
|1954||Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)|
|NYY (7 yrs)||527||1887||1717||220||449||70||18||30||188||19||112||178||.262||.313||.376||.688|
|MIN (1 yr)||108||398||374||44||92||15||5||6||36||3||13||42||.246||.275||.361||.636|
|MLN (1 yr)||6||6||6||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|KCA (1 yr)||73||285||265||33||68||9||3||9||27||7||12||20||.257||.295||.415||.710|
|CIN (1 yr)||103||346||317||34||78||17||1||3||16||0||27||34||.246||.304||.334||.639|
|CLE (1 yr)||73||258||242||37||63||7||0||9||24||0||8||18||.260||.290||.401||.691|
|DET (1 yr)||131||536||498||56||127||19||1||7||42||5||16||62||.255||.279||.339||.619|
Martin’s record as a Yankee manager:
|8||1975||47||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||56||30||26||.536||3|
|9||1976||48||New York Yankees||AL||159||97||62||.610||1||AL Pennant|
|10||1977||49||New York Yankees||AL||162||100||62||.617||1||WS Champs|
|11||1978||50||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 3||94||52||42||.553||1|
|12||1979||51||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||95||55||40||.579||4|
|17||1983||55||New York Yankees||AL||162||91||71||.562||3|
|18||1985||57||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||145||91||54||.628||2|
|19||1988||60||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||68||40||28||.588||5|
|Minnesota Twins||1 year||162||97||65||.599||1.0|
|Detroit Tigers||3 years||452||248||204||.549||2.0|
|Texas Rangers||3 years||279||137||141||.493||3.7|
|Oakland Athletics||3 years||433||215||218||.497||2.5|
|New York Yankees||8 years||941||556||385||.591||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
|16 years||2267||1253||1013||.553||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
There have been 30 starting second basemen in Yankee franchise history. If he had played two or three more years in the Bronx instead of leaving for Seattle in 2014, Robinson Cano would have certainly been considered the greatest Yankee second sacker of all time. In my opinion, he now falls just short. That honor still belongs to the Hall of Famer, Tony Lazzeri, who started at second base for New York for twelve seasons. One of my favorites, Willie Randolph holds the record for most seasons starting at second base for the Yankees with thirteen. Cano started at second for New York for nine straight seasons, tying him with Bobby Richardson. The first second baseman in franchise history was a guy named Jimmy Williams, who held the job for seven straight seasons, until 1907. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Lute Boone was the starting second baseman for New York in 1914 and ’15. An excellent defensive infielder, he was a horrible big league hitter, averaging just .209 during his four seasons in the Big Apple. He had much better success hitting in the American Association. That’s where he ended up after his big league career ended for good in 1918. He kept playing in that league until he was 40 years old and then he became an owner and player manager of his own minor league team. Here’s a look at some key stats of my picks for the top five second basemen in Yankee franchise history:
Player Yrs Starting G H R HR RBI AVE Rings
Tony Lazzeri 12 1659 1784 952 169 1154 .293 5
Willie Randolph 13 1694 1731 1027 48 549 .275 2
Robinson Cano 9 1374 1649 799 204 822 .309 1
Joe Gordon 7 1000 1000 596 153 975 .271 4
Bobby Richardson 9 1412 1432 643 34 390 .266 1
Lute Boone shares his May 6th birthday with this former Yankee reliever.
|NYY (4 yrs)||288||1068||937||95||197||24||4||6||73||31||35||83||105||.210||.284||.264||.547|
|PIT (1 yr)||27||101||91||7||18||3||0||0||3||1||8||6||.198||.263||.231||.493|
By the time the Yankees signed Mariano Duncan as a free agent in December of 1995, the Dominican middle infielder was already a 32-year-old, 11-year veteran of the big leagues. The Yankees expected to play their rookie, Derek Jeter at short in 1996 and were going to move switch-hitting Tony Fernandez from short to second. They wanted Duncan to serve as a backup for both positions. That plan fell apart when Fernandez got hurt in spring training and was shelved for the year. Manager Joe Torre gave Yankee rookie Andy Fox every chance to win the second base job but the youngster could not get his average up to .200. Then Torre gave Duncan a try. He responded with the best season of his career.
Mariano hit .340 in 109 games that year. He became a leader in that Yankee clubhouse and his popular pre-game pronouncement, “We play today, we win today…dassit” became the slogan of that amazing club. When the Yankees won the 1996 Pennant and World Series, I was pretty certain Duncan would be back to start at second again in 1997. But George Steinbrenner did not feel the same way. He did not think Duncan was good enough defensively and when the Boss’s feeling became public, Mariano was angry and demanded to be traded. The Yankees tried to grant him that wish by reaching a deal with the Padres that would send Duncan and pitcher Kenny Rogers to San Diego in return for slugger Greg Vaughn. When Vaughn failed his physical and the deal was voided, Duncan became even more vocal about his dislike for Steinbrenner. Finally, after the All Star break, the Yankees traded Duncan to Toronto. He played his final 39 big league games as a Blue Jay and then tried Japanese baseball for a year before retiring for good.
Yankee fans will always remember Mariano’s great year in 1996 and he has a ring on his finger to prove it. This former Yankee slugger shares a March 13 birthday with Mariano as does this former outfielder who was the last Yankee to wear uniform number 7 before Mickey Mantle made it famous.
|PHI (4 yrs)||406||1698||1613||208||442||100||9||30||194||40||46||311||.274||.298||.403||.701|
|LAD (4 yrs)||376||1439||1314||161||307||44||8||20||95||100||85||268||.234||.284||.325||.609|
|CIN (4 yrs)||299||1089||1011||152||282||41||17||28||121||24||49||179||.279||.316||.436||.752|
|NYY (2 yrs)||159||596||572||78||178||42||3||9||69||6||15||116||.311||.327||.442||.769|
|TOR (1 yr)||39||176||167||20||38||6||0||0||12||4||6||39||.228||.267||.263||.531|
New York’s second round draft choice in 1990, Sir Robert Eenhoorn was the first Yankee to hail from the Netherlands and the first Yankee to be knighted. When he joined the Yankee organization, GM Gene Michael was hoping he’d one day become the parent club’s starting shortstop. A superb fielder, Eenhoorn’s hitting skills were good enough to keep him advancing up New York’s farm system ladder until he got to the Bronx. His biggest obstacle to prime time however, was another young Yankee shortstop prospect by the name of Derek Jeter.
Over a three year-period beginning in 1994, he got to wear pinstripes for a total of 20 games and 32 at bats before he was released and picked up by the Angels. By 1998 he had returned to his native country and played on the Netherlands National team eventually becoming its manager. In 2003, Eenhoorn’s young son was killed by a rare form of cancer. Former Mets’ manager, Davey Johnson took control of the Dutch National Team while Eenhoorn and his family recovered from the tragedy.
Over the next several years Eenhoorn dedicated his professional live to developing the game of baseball in Europe. He started a European baseball academy that was modeled after similar schools in the US. In 2011 he was knighted by the Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix after the National Team he assembled as General Manager, won the 2011 World Cup. His next goal is to have Major League regular season baseball games played in Europe. He also hope to get MLB teams to sponsor farm clubs in his native country.
|NYY (3 yrs)||20||38||32||4||5||2||0||0||4||0||3||6||.156||.216||.219||.435|
|ANA (2 yrs)||17||36||35||3||11||1||0||1||6||0||0||4||.314||.306||.429||.734|
Don “Jeep” Heffner was Tony Lazzeri’s primary back-up at second base during the final years of “Poosh Em Up’s” Hall of Fame career in New York. The only Major League player ever to be born in Rouzerville, PA, Heffner made a decent big league debut with the Yankees in 1934, appearing in 72 games and averaging .261 for a Joe McCarthy-led team that won 94 games that year but still finished second to Mickey Cochrane’s powerful Detroit Tiger ball club.
That turned out to be Heffner’s best offensive season in pinstripes but he stuck around in the Bronx long enough to win championship rings in both 1936 and ’37. When an aging Lazzeri was let go by New York after the ’37 season, Hefner’s weak bat removed him from consideration for the vacant starting job. Instead, he was traded to the Browns for a better hitting second baseman named Bill Knickerbocker.
Heffner spent the next four seasons starting at second for St. Louis while Knickerbocker lost the battle for the Yankees’ starting second base job to rookie Joe Gordon. Heffner continued playing in the big leagues until 1943 and then got into coaching and managing. In 1966, he skippered the Cincinnati Reds for 83 games, his only big league managerial position.
|SLB (6 yrs)||524||2039||1803||196||434||73||9||6||179||13||193||162||.241||.317||.301||.618|
|NYY (4 yrs)||161||586||526||62||135||19||10||0||60||2||54||43||.257||.326||.331||.657|
|PHA (1 yr)||52||198||178||17||37||6||0||0||8||3||18||12||.208||.284||.242||.526|
|DET (1 yr)||6||24||19||0||4||1||0||0||1||0||5||1||.211||.375||.263||.638|
Though they were also referred to as the Americans, their Highlanders’ nickname fit them well because they played their home games in a place called Hilltop Park, which was located on one of the highest points on Manhattan island. The team landed there in 1903 when Ban Johnson’s upstart American League relocated its Baltimore Oriole franchise to the Big Apple. It was a forced move that caused tons of bad blood and hostility. As a result, just about the entire Orioles roster either refused to make the move or were not offered the opportunity to do so. This forced the Highlanders to throw a team together in a helter skelter fashion, that included boozers, brawlers, gamblers and a few talented ball players thrown in for good measure. Co-owned by one of New York City’s biggest gambling barons and a retired corrupt cop, the club played as erratically as the hit-or-miss evolution of the team’s roster suggested it would. They finished 4th, 2nd, 6th, 2nd, 5th, last, 5th, 2nd, 6th and last during their first decade in their new home. They battled helplessly for the attention of city’s baseball fans and baseball press in those early years with John McGraw’s mighty Giants. Things really didn’t get better for the team and its fans until the franchise was purchased by a couple of very wealthy colonels named Rupert and Huston in 1915.
Earle Gardner joined the team in 1908. He was a five foot eleven inch, 160 pound second baseman from Sparta, IL, who during three previous seasons in the minors had developed a reputation with his fancy glove work. He was also a decent hitter, averaging right around .300 in three different classes of farm league ball. It took him two-and-a-half seasons to claim the starting second-baseman’s job and he was only able to hold onto it for just a year-and-a-half. He hit .263 in 1911, his only full season as a starter and then he gave way to Hack Simmons in 1912.
Just 28 years-old at the time he lost his starting position, Gardner returned to minor league ball and never again played in a big league game. He ended up with a .263 lifetime average during his five seasons in New York. He continued playing in the minors until 1918. He died in 1943 at the age of 59.