The hype surrounding Masahiro Tanaka’s migration from a pitching God in the Japan Pacific League to a first year Yankee phee-nom was as intense as any New York free agent signing since Reggie Jackson. Just 24 years-old, coming off a perfect 24-0 regular season in his native country, the Yankees made it clear they were not going to be outbid for the right-hander’s services and they made sure they weren’t.
They gave this kid $155 million and from April to July, his performance on the mound made it seem as if he was underpaid. In his first twenty starts, he never gave up more than three earned runs and his record on July 4th of the 2014 season was 12-3 with a 2.27 ERA.
That’s when the injury jinx permeating the Yankee roster since the 2012 postseason hit Tanaka. On July 9th he went on the disabled list with soreness in his right elbow. Doctors discovered a slight tearing in the ligament of that joint. I admit I was shocked when New York’s front office announced the decision not to surgically repair the tear and even more shocked when they told the media they intended to put Tanaka back in the rotation after resting him for six weeks. As Joe Girardi’s crippled team slowly dropped out of AL East title contention and eventually from a shot at a Wild Card spot, I was one of many who figured the plan for Tanaka would change and he would be shelved for the entire season. We were all wrong.
Per their original rehab blueprint, New York started their young ace in a September 21st contest versus Toronto and you could just about hear the collective sigh of relief emanating from Yankee universe, when Tanaka pitched six strong innings and got the win. If his season ended there and then, I’d be supremely confident going into 2015 spring training that this young man would be ready to again dominate opponents in his second big league season. But six days after his return against Toronto, he was given another start against Boston and he got absolutely shelled, giving up 7 runs and only getting five hitters out before Girardi mercifully removed him from the game. It was a disappointing end to a brilliant season that had begun with so much promise.
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|
When relief ace, Luis Arroyo hurt his arm during the 1962 season, the Yankee bullpen struggled to make up for the devastating loss. The front office decided to go into New York’s farm system to find a successor and his name was Hal Reniff. A pudgy right-hander nicknamed “Porky,” Reniff responded well to the challenge.
Reniff, who had been born in Ohio but grew up in California, had been a starter in the Yankee farm system and a good one at that. He had won 20-games for New York’s Class C team in Modesto, CA. But when he went to spring training with the parent club in 1961, then Manager Ralph Houk told him he wanted Reniff to become a reliever. At first, the pitcher resisted but when Houk made it clear the choice was the Yankee bullpen or back to the minors, he made the switch.
After getting sent back down to Richmond to work on the transition, he was recalled to the Bronx that June and put together a strong half-season for that ’61 Yankee team. He appeared in 25 games, won both his decisions, saved two and compiled a stingy 2.58 ERA. But he didn’t make that year’s Yankees’ World Series roster and then spent most of the following season in the military, while Arroyo’s arm was shutting down.
Returning to full-time action the following year, he won 4 and saved 18, establishing himself as Houk’s best reliever on that 1963 Yankee pennant-winning team. He then pitched brilliantly in the ’63 World Series with little fanfare as his three scoreless and hitless innings of relief were lost in the Dodgers four-straight-game destruction of the Yankees in that Fall Classic.
The following year, Reniff developed some arm problems and Yogi Berra began using Pete Mikkelsen as his closer. When Mikkelsen faltered, the Yankees brought in Pedro Ramos. Still, Hal pitched well when called upon. His seven-season pinstripe career ended in 1967 with 41 career saves and an 18-21 Yankee record, when he was sold to the cross-town Mets. When the Amazin’s released him, Reniff returned to the Yankee farm system, pitching for Syracuse for five more seasons until he hung up his glove for good.
In an interview for Maury Allen’s book Yankees, Where have You Gone, Reniff told the author his best friend on the Yankees was Roger Maris. Like Maris, Reniff was mostly quiet and reserved during his playing days. He liked to do his job and go home and he hated all the media attention the Yankees attracted wherever they went.
Reniff shares his July 2nd birthday with this former AL Rookie of the Year and MVP who is now referred to as “The Chemist.”
|NYY (7 yrs)||18||20||.474||3.26||247||0||132||0||0||41||428.1||341||173||155||13||219||293||1.307|
|NYM (1 yr)||3||3||.500||3.35||29||0||16||0||0||4||43.0||42||20||16||1||23||21||1.512|
The July 1st Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was no stranger to controversy. When Major League Baseball abolished the spit ball just before the 1919 season got under way, exemptions were granted that permitted eighteen pitchers to continue throwing the wet one until the end of their careers. Jack Quinn was one of those 18 pitchers and at the time he was granted the exemption, he was already 36 years old and had pitched four seasons of ball with the Highlanders, one with the Braves and two more in the upstart Federal League. When his Federal League franchise folded, Quinn played in the Pacific Coast League for three seasons until the PCL halted play during the 1918 season due to America’s participation in WWI. Quinn then signed a contract to pitch for the White Sox and finished that year by winning 5 of 6 decisions for Chicago.
But the Yankees pulled a fast one on Chicago by purchasing Quinn’s contract from his former PCL team. When American League President Ban Johnson (along with his National league counterpart) ruled that New York did indeed have the rights to Quinn, the White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey, went ballistic. He had quarreled with Johnson numerous times before but losing Quinn caused Comiskey to attack Johnson’s honor repeatedly and threaten him in very public ways. Johnson was so angry at the White Sox owner that when Comiskey asked the AL President to investigate his early suspicions that his Chicago players were throwing the 1919 World Series, Johnson not only ignored him, he blamed the assertions on Comiskey being a sore loser. Many baseball researchers feel the League’s failure to follow up on Comiskey’s concerns permitted the infamous Black Sox scandal to play out and almost ruin baseball. So Jack Quinn ended up playing a huge role in baseball’s decision to create a Commissioner’s office.
In 1919, the already 35-year-old Quinn began the second phase of his Yankee career, spending his next three big league seasons pitching for New York and compiling a 51-31 record. The Yankees then traded him to Boston, where he won 46 more games as a Red Sox during the next four seasons. By then, Quinn was 41 years-old and still throwing a spitball pitch that had been outlawed for almost everyone else eight years previously. The Red Sox figured Quinn’s best days were behind him and put him on waivers in 1925. Connie Mack needed pitching so the A’s picked up Quinn and he won 69 names for Philadelphia over the next half-dozen seasons. If you’re keeping track, that brings us up to 1930, at which point this ageless right-hander was now 46 years-old. Quinn kept going, pitching until he was fifty years-old and accumulating a lifetime record of 247-218 with 57 saves. He also holds the distinction of being the oldest player (45 yrs old) in American League history to hit a home run. (Julio Franco (46yrs-old) now holds the big league record) When Quinn retired in 1943, only Burleigh Grimes was left as one of the 18 pitchers still throwing a “legal” spitball thanks to that 1918 exemption.
|NYY (7 yrs)||81||65||.555||3.15||228||145||61||83||6||6||1270.0||1337||600||444||27||291||478||1.282|
|PHA (6 yrs)||69||47||.595||3.51||184||112||39||48||10||11||926.2||1051||442||361||33||184||232||1.333|
|BOS (4 yrs)||45||54||.455||3.65||145||100||30||53||7||14||832.2||946||421||338||28||190||226||1.364|
|BRO (2 yrs)||8||11||.421||3.03||81||1||60||0||0||23||151.2||167||64||51||2||48||53||1.418|
|BAL (2 yrs)||35||36||.493||2.98||90||73||16||48||4||2||616.1||624||266||204||12||128||282||1.220|
|BSN (1 yr)||4||3||.571||2.40||8||7||1||6||1||0||56.1||55||22||15||1||7||33||1.101|
|CIN (1 yr)||0||1||.000||4.02||14||0||9||0||0||1||15.2||20||9||7||0||5||3||1.596|
|CHW (1 yr)||5||1||.833||2.29||6||5||1||5||0||0||51.0||38||13||13||0||7||22||0.882|
After the 1994 postseason, the Yankees signed this four-time Gold Glove winner as a free agent to become their starting shortstop. He did not have a very good 1995 season, hitting just .245, although he did become the first Yankee to hit for the cycle since Bobby Murcer pulled it off in 1972. But the Yankees thought Fernandez would provide more offense and when he failed to do so, Bucky Showalter started giving Randy Velarde some starts at short. Then Fernandez got hurt late in the year and while he was on the DL, he watched a young prospect named Derek Jeter fill in at his position. New Yankee manager, Joe Torre decided Jeter would be his starting shortstop in 1996 but his plan was to make Fernandez his starting second baseman. That went up in smoke when Tony broke his elbow during spring training and missed the entire 1996 season. The Yankees let him go after his two-year contract expired and he signed with Cleveland. Fernandez played until 2001 and retired with a .288 lifetime batting average and 2,276 hits.
|TOR (12 yrs)||1450||5900||5335||704||1583||291||72||60||613||172||439||493||.297||.353||.412||.765|
|SDP (2 yrs)||300||1315||1180||165||323||59||9||8||75||43||111||136||.274||.337||.359||.697|
|NYM (1 yr)||48||204||173||20||39||5||2||1||14||6||25||19||.225||.323||.295||.618|
|CLE (1 yr)||120||442||409||55||117||21||1||11||44||6||22||47||.286||.323||.423||.746|
|CIN (1 yr)||104||422||366||50||102||18||6||8||50||12||44||40||.279||.361||.426||.787|
|NYY (1 yr)||108||438||384||57||94||20||2||5||45||6||42||40||.245||.322||.346||.668|
|MIL (1 yr)||28||72||64||6||18||0||0||1||3||1||7||9||.281||.352||.328||.680|
Back in the first part of the twentieth century, managerial changes were pretty much a rarity when it came to Big Apple baseball teams. The Giants had the legendary John McGraw as their skipper for thirty years. For the Yankees, it was Miller Huggins from 1918 until 1929 and it took the death of “Hug” for the Yankees to make a change. In Brooklyn, it was “Uncle Robbie.” Before he got the field skipper’s job with Brooklyn, however, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had been a very good catcher with the old Baltimore Orioles teams of the 1890’s, when that franchise was part of the original National League. He was sold to the Cardinals in 1900. Just a year later, the new American League was formed and Baltimore was granted a franchise. Robinson’s old Oriole teammate, John McGraw was named manager and he convinced Wilbert to return to Baltimore and play for the new team. The catcher did so but when McGraw was later suspended by AL President Ban Johnson, he left the league and took a job as the manager of the New York Giants. Robinson then became the Orioles’ player Manager in 1902. The Orioles finished 24-57 that season prompting Wilbert to accept McGraw’s invitation to become the Giant pitching coach, a job he held for over a decade. That same season, the Orioles AL franchise was relocated to New York and became the Highlanders.
In 1914, Brooklyn hired Robinson to replace Bill Dahlen as Dodger skipper. He stayed in that job for eighteen seasons and helped bring respectability to a franchise that had pretty much become a laughing stock for its ineptness. Under Robinson, Brooklyn won the NL pennant in both 1916 and 1920 and he compiled a 1,375 – 1,341 career record. He shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee reliever who also played in pinstripes.
Robinson’s Yankee(Orioles) seasonal and MLB career playing stats:
|BLN (10 yrs)||780||3073||2838||361||836||129||27||10||456||81||187||195||.295||.341||.370||.711|
|PHA (5 yrs)||372||1527||1453||180||330||50||13||7||155||88||66||75||.227||.265||.294||.558|
|BLA (2 yrs)||159||606||574||70||170||28||10||1||83||20||22||33||.296||.327||.385||.712|
|STL (1 yr)||60||224||210||26||52||5||1||0||28||7||11||20||.248||.291||.281||.572|
Robinson’s Yankee(Orioles) seasonal and MLB career managing record:
It was June of 1966 and the New York Yankees were dissolving faster than a wet Alka Seltzer. Two season’s earlier, the team had fallen three runs short of winning a World Series, but here they were, just twenty month’s later, floundering in seventh place in the AL standings. Everybody knew they needed major help immediately and that included their competition. It was fun for the other AL teams to watch the once mighty Yankees get their comeuppance. Even if their own ball clubs were in need of players, no other AL franchise was willing to help much with New York’s retooling effort via a trade except of course the good old Kansas City A’s. But unlike in years past when the A’s would serve up outstanding talent like Roger Maris, Clete Boyer and Hector Lopez to their Big Apple brethren, Kansas City’s front office had been taken over by the eccentric and extremely stingy Charley Finley in the early sixties. Well aware that the Yankees had exploited the A’s in previous player transactions, Finley refused to even deal with New York for years and when he finally did, the trades were no longer one-sided affairs.
So when a deal between the Yankees and A’s was made in June of 1966, instead of being announced with a bold back page headline in the New York City tabloids, it received a paragraph at the end of that day’s Yankee game recap. “The Yankees traded their former starting pitcher Bill Stafford, outfielder Roger Repoz and reliever Gil Blanco to Kansas City today in exchange for A’s catcher Bill Bryan and starting pitcher Fred Talbot.”
As things turned out, it was one of those trades that had little impact on either team. Talbot was immediately inserted into the Yankees’ starting rotation. He would go 7-7 for the Yankees during the balance of the 1966 season and then 6-8 the following year. But his ERA was north of four both those seasons and in 1968 he was demoted to the Yankee bullpen. He did worse as a reliever, finishing the year at 1-9. The Yankees traded him to the Pilots in 1969, getting Jack Aker in return, who turned out to be a great closer for New York during the next three seasons. Talbot, on the other hand did little for the Pilots except become fodder for Jim Bouton’s best-selling “Ball Four” chronology of the Pilot’s 1969 season. He then found himself back pitching with the A’s in 1970 and ’71, his final two big league seasons. He finished his 8-year career with a 38-56 record. Update: Talbot passed away on January 11, 2013, at the age of 71.
|NYY (4 yrs)||14||24||.368||3.99||89||52||14||6||0||0||374.1||357||193||166||43||147||183||1.346|
|OAK (4 yrs)||15||19||.441||4.40||63||46||10||2||1||1||286.1||277||148||140||34||122||163||1.393|
|CHW (2 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.68||18||12||0||3||2||0||78.1||85||32||32||7||24||36||1.391|
|SEP (1 yr)||5||8||.385||4.16||25||16||2||1||1||0||114.2||125||58||53||12||41||67||1.448|