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|