Losing Mariano River may turn out to be the defining moment of the Yankee season.
In 1992, the New York Yankees finished with a 76-86 record, 20 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays and tied for fourth place in the AL East. It was Buck Showalter’s first year at the helm
That year, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the 11th year in a row. Since 1992, they’ve missed the playoffs just twice.
That was 20 years ago. That was then and this is now, But a quarter of the way through the 2012 season, we may be looking at the worst Yankee team since 1992.
Here’s 10 reasons why:
1. No Mo — For 15 years, the Yankees have had the biggest security blanket in the history of baseball. Then Mariano Rivera injured his knee shagging fly balls in Kansas City. No more. No Mo.
2. RISP means RIP — Yankees routinely get into scoring position, then die at second and/or third base. Worst in the majors this month in hitting with runners in scoring position.
3. Warning track power — They’re not playing A-Rod $30 million a year to be a singles hitter. The ball doesn’t explode off his bat they way it did a few years ago. The days of 35 homers, 120 RBIs are history.
4. CC and pray — Reloaded in the off-season, the Yankee rotation was supposed to be a plus. But outside of CC Sabathia there are a lot of inconsistencies, older arms and question marks.
5. HR or bust — Only once all year have the Yankees won a game in which they didn’t hit a home run. Only twice this year have they won a game in which they scored less than five runs. Which leads to….
6. Slow stripes — Without Brett Gardner, the Yankees are plodding along, showing their age. It’s pretty much station to station. There’s very little little ball in the Bronx.
7. Tex mess — Mark Teixeira is a wreck. He’s battling a bronchial illness, his average has gone down each year he’s been a Yankee, and he absolutely refuses to hit against a shift.
8. Home groan pitching — Been an issue for many years. Hughes, Nova, Joba, the Killer Bs…and they let the best one, Ian Kennedy, get away. The Yankees haven’t developed a Cy Young winner since Ron Guidry in 1978.
9. Joe must go — In the Steinbrenner-Martin salad days, George would have already fired and re-hired Billy. If the Yankees don’t make the playoffs with the highest payroll in baseball, Girardi will be on the hot seat in New York.
10. Injuries — Not an excuse, but the Yankees have been hit hard by injuries. Mariano, David Robertson, Michael Pinieda, Gardner, Joba, that’s a fifth of the roster right there.
Wherever he is, George Steinbrenner is mighty pissed off.
Citizens of the Yankee universe were desperately seeking some sort of George Patton-like missive from The Boss following the Bombers timid showing against the Tigers in the ALDS. You know, the front office memo that apologizes to the fans, rips the team and vows to fight to the death for a World Championship next year. We’re Yankees, we’re battered and we’re beaten, but we bleed pinstripe blue. Something like that.
There really are no excuses for the Yankees loss to the Detroit. George would agree, and he’d know where to point the finger.
It’s as easy as 1-2-3….or in this instance 4-5-6. The heart of New York’s lineup, 4-5-6 hitters Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, played like kitty cats against the Tigers and cost the Yanks the series. The numbers don’t lie:
- A-Rod — 2-for-18 against Detroit .180 batting average in his last 14 playoff games.
- Tex — 3-for-18 against Detroit, .170 post-season BA since joining Yankees in 2009.
- Swisher — 4-for-19 against Detroit, .160 post-season BA since joining Yankees in 2009.
Wait, It Gets Worse
In the Yankees last two post-season series, losses to the Tigers and to the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS, A-Rod is 6-for-39, Teixeira 3-for-32 and Swisher 6-for-41. That’s 15-for-112, a combined .134 batting average.
Rodriguez has six years and $143M left on his contract. An albatross, he’ll be 42 when that contract runs out, and his body is already breaking down. Old-Roid played in just 99 games this season.
Take away 2009, and A-Rod has been a post-season bust. He’s struck out to end each of the Yankees last two playoff series.
Teixeira has five years and $112.5M left his contract, and is signed through 2016, when he will be 36. And Swisher, who turns 31 next month, will be back next year if the Yankees exercise their $10.25M option.
That’s a lot of time and money invested in three middle-of-the-order guys who can’t hit in the clutch.
Red Sox Favorites
After failing to sign free agent pitcher Cliff Lee, the Yankees entered the 2011 season in a strange position — underdogs. The Red Sox were the consensus pick to win the AL East.
However Boston fell apart during in an epic September swoon, and the Yankees won the division.
That’s great, but Yankee teams are judged on one criteria — championships won.
As The Boss knows, anything less is a disappointment. A very big disappointment.
Here’s my ballot for the 2011 All-Star Game. Vote for your favorites at mlb.com.
1B – Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
2B – Robinson Cano, New York
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland
3B – Alex Rodriguez, New York
C – Alex Avila, Detroit
DH – David Ortiz, Boston
OF – Jose Bautista, Toronto
OF – Curtis Granderson, New York
OF – Josh Hamilton, Texas
1B – Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
2B – Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati
SS – Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado
3B – Chipper Jones, Atlanta
C – Brian McCann, Atlanta
OF – Carlos Beltran, New York
OF – Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
OF – Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
Atlanta’s Tony Cloninger is the only pitcher in baseball history to hit two grand slams in the same game.
The First Time
1. Roger Connor of the Troy Trojans is the first major league player to hit a grand slam, keying an 8-7 win over the Worcester Ruby Legs on September 10, 1881.
23 for Gehrig
2. Lou Gehrig hit 23 career grand slams, the most in major league history. Alex Rodriguez hit his 22nd career slam April 23, 2011.
3. Don Mattingly set a single season record with six grand slams in 1987 — the only slams of his 14-year career. Travis Haffner tied Mattingly’s record in 2006.
Can’t Get Any Better Than This
4. Four players have hit grand slams in their first MLB at bat — Bill Duggleby (1898), Jeremy Hermida (2005), Kevin Kouzmanoff (2006), and Daniel Nava (2010). Kouzmanoff and Nava hit their grand slams off the first pitch.
Twice in One Inning
5. The Cardinals Fernando Tatis is the only player to hit two grand slams in one inning — both off Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park — on April 23, 1999.
A Series Slam
6. Cleveland’s Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam in World Series history, Game Five against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1920. Smith’s slam was overshadowed later in the game by Indians second baseman, who turned the only unassisted triple play ever in the Series.
The Ultimate Walk-Off Slam
7. Roberto Clemente is the only player in MLB history of hit a walk-off, inside-the-park ultimate grand slam, in 1956 for the Pirates. An ultimate grand slam is a walk-off slam for a one-run victory.
Some Pitchers Can Hit
8. Tony Cloninger of the Braves is the only pitcher to hit two grand slams in a game, in 1966 against San Francisco. Yankee hurler Mel Stottlemyre is the last pitcher to hit an inside-the-park grand slam, in 1965 against the Red Sox.
An All-Star Rarity
9. Fred Lynn is the only player ever to hit a grand slam in the All-Star game. The Angels outfielder performed the feat in the 50th anniversary game in 1983.
Three in A Game
10. Only twice have three grand slams been hit in a single game — Baltimore (2) vs. Texas (1) in 1986 and Cubs (2) vs. Houston (1) the following year.
Three is a magic number in baseball. Three strikes and you’re out. Three outs in an inning. Babe Ruth wore #3.
When Alex Rodriguez, above, hit three home runs iagainst Kansas City on August 14, it marked the 30th time a Yankee player hit three homers in a single game.
Lou Gehrig achieved the feat four times, and hit four in one game, the only Yankee to perform that feat. Joe DiMaggio did it three times.
So did the Babe, although only one of his three occurred during the regular season. Ruth hit the final three home runs of his storied career in 1935 for the Boston Braves in a game at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, and retired soon afterwards.
A-Rod joins Tony Lazzeri, and Bobby Murcer as the only other Yankees to hit three in a game two times. Rodriguez had three HRs and 10 RBIs against Bartolo Colon and the Angels in 2005.
In all 20 Yankees have accomplished the feat, including eight Hall of Famers — Ruth, Lazzeri, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Johnny Mize, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson.
Ruth’s World Series Heroics
Ruth was the first Yankee to hit three in a game, against the Cardinals at old Sportsman Park in St. Louis in 1926 in the World Series, right. The Babe must have loved St. Louis, repeating the feat in 1928 to power the Yankees to a four-game sweep.
Ruth had his only regular season “hat trick” with the Yankees on May 22, 1930, in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park in the first game of a doubleheader which the Yankees lost, 15-7. Gehrig repeated the feat the following day in the first game of a another doubleheader in Philadelphia, a 20-13 victory over the A’s. Oh yes, Ruth and Lazerri also homered in that game.
Reggie Jackson is the only other major leaguer ever to hit three home runs in a World Series game. In just three swings in Game Six of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers, Jax lifted the Yanks to to their first championship. in 15 years.
Gehrig is the only Yankee to hit four home runs in a single game, on June 4, 1932, against the Athletics in Philadelphia. He was the first player in the modern era to hit four in a single game. He belted the circuit clouts in his first four at bats in a 20-13 win against the A’s. Gehrig missed a fifth home runs by inches, when his drive was caught in the furthest reaches of deep centerfield.
In that same game, Lazzeri became the only player in major league baseball to finish a natural cycle with a grand slam.
Other Interesting Yankee Trey Factoids
On May 21 and 22, 1930, Ruth and Gehrig hit three home runs in successive games.
Mantle, Tommy Tresh and Tony Clark hit homers from both sides of the plate in their 3 HR games
Bobby Murcer hit four consecutive home runs — three in the second game — in a 1970 doubleheader against the Indians at Yankee Stadium.
Reggie Jackson, left, hit a home run in his final at bat in Game Five and three in a row during Game Six of the 1977 World Series. (My friend Matty was at the game at Yankee Stadium, and missed all three Reggie homers. But that’s a story for another blog.)
Johnny Blanchard in 1961 and Mickey Mantle in 1962 are the only other Yankees to hit four home runs in a row.
Lazzeri hit two grand slams and a third home run and drove in an American League record 11 runs in 1936 in a 25-2 rout of the Athletics at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Poosh em up Tony was also the first Yankee to hit three home runs in a single game in the regular season, in 1927.
On three separate occasions, the Yankees have lost a game in which a player hit three home runs — Ruth in 1930, Mize in 1950 and Mike Stanley in 1995.
DiMaggio’s first three home run game in 1937 resulted in an 11-inning, 8-8 tie with the St. Louis Browns in Sportsman’s Park.
Mize holds the MLB record for most times hitting three home runs in a game — six. Five came with the Cardinals and Giants in the National League. He was the first player to hit three home runs in a game twice in one season in 1938 and did it again in 1940.
Mize had his final three home run game with the Yankees in 1950, just five days after DiMaggio performed the feat for the third time.
The Yankees as a team have hit three home runs in a game twice in different seven seasons — 1927, 1930, 1932, 1950, 1977, 1995, and this year.
Earlier this year, Mark Teixeira became the first Yankee to hit three home runs in a game at Fenway Park since Gehrig in 1927.
Yankees Who Have Hit Three Home Runs in One Game
1926 — Babe Ruth (World Series)
1927 — Tony Lazzeri
1927 — Lou Gehrig
1928 — Babe Ruth (World Series)
1929 — Lou Gehrig
1030 — Babe Ruth
1930 — Lou Gehrig
1932 — Lou Gehrig (4 HRs)
1932 — Ben Chapman
1936 — Tony Lazzeri
1937 — Joe DiMaggio
1939 — Bill Dickey
1940 — Charlie Keller
1948 — Joe DiMaggio
1950 — Joe DiMaggio
1950 — Johnny Mize
1955 — Mickey Mantle
1965 — Tom Tresh
1970 — Bobby Murcer
1973 — Bobby Murcer
1977 — Cliff Johnson
1977 — Reggie Jackson (World Series)
1995 — Mike Stanley
1996 — Darryl Strawberry
1995 — Paul O’Neill
1997 — Tino Martinez
2004 — Tony Clark
2005 — Alex Rodriguez
2010 — Mark Teixeira
2010 — Alex Rodriguez
Everyone loves a parade, especially Alex Rodriguez, who came back from the depths to help lead the Yankees to a World Series win over the Phillies in 2009.
Alex Rodriguez hit rock bottom in the spring of 2009. Outed on steroid use, facing career-threatening hip surgery and considered A-Fraud by many fans, especially Yankee fans, Rodriguez had a permanent seat in the dead-end cafe.
To add insult to injury, Selena Roberts book “A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez” was just hitting the newsstands. Throughout the 246 pages of this tell-all, there are continued references to drug use by Rodriguez that may have begun as early as high school. A-Rod is called everything from insecure to narcissistic to a phony. His failures, particularly in the post-season, are documented. His family, his divorce, his exploits — it’s was all out there for the world to see
“Alex’s peccadilloes were his own business, until he started flaunting them,” Roberts wrote in A-Rod. ” He was indiscrete about his many visits to Vegas. bragging to teammates and friends about his wild nights with strippers. But he could afford such indiscretions. ‘You can make a lot of mistakes with $30 million a year,’ Jose Canseco says.”
Six months later, Alex Rodriguez was riding shotgun down Broadway in the Yankees victory parade. Criticized for choking in the clutch, he was arguably the Yankees MVP throughout their playoff run, with dramatic late-inning home runs against both the Twins and Angels and the biggest hit of the World Series, a two-out double in the ninth inning of Game Four that gave the Yankees the win and an insurmountable 3-1 lead against the Phillies.
Coming off a year in which he wound up with 30 homers and 100 RBIs despite missing 38 games, A-Rod was warming up for the post-season, where he hit..365 with six homers and 18 RBIs, just one off the major league record.
It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out what happened to A-Rod. He had bottomed out. He had nowhere to go but up. Suddenly he was playing with house money. He rolled the dice.
His press conference in Tampa to confess to his steroid abuse was awkward at best, but A-Roid got the confession of his chest.. And he handled it a lot better than most. (See Clemens, McGwire, Bonds, Palmiero etc.)
A Second Chance
Then, once Rodriguez had the hip surgery and began his rehabilitation, he realized he was going to get a second chance on the ballfield.
A-Rod this year was a changed man. A different man than the one Selena Roberts described. in her book.
“Alex needed to be needed,” is how Roberts described Rodriguez in A-Rod. “He liked to be at the heart of the public’s fascination. He urged paparazzi moments — sunbathing in Central Park, wiping his mouth with a $100 bill at an outdoor cafe….slowing down his car to let the entertainment press catch him — because he enjoyed the pop-culture fishbowl.”
Sure, Alex Rodriguez still needs to be needed. That won’t change. But in 2009, Change-Rod learned to dodge out of the spotlight. He wasn’t the only Yankee superstar. He let his exploits speak for themselves.
He became more of a Yankee teammate, a brother in arms. You could tell by his facial expressions, his body language, that he was finally able to fully enjoy the successes of his teammates as well as his own. All the way to a World Championship.
Yep, it paid off for Pay-Rod in the end.
Ken Griffey, Jr. slides home with the winning run as the Seattle Mariners beat the New York Yankees in the deciding Game Five of the 1995 ALDS.
The other night the MLB Network ran a replay of the fifth and deciding game of that fantastic 1995 American League divisional series between the Yankees and the Mariners. You remember, the one where the series was decided by Ken Griffey, Jr’s mad dash home on Edgar Martinez two-run double in the bottom of the 11th inning. Where the two teams combined for a record 22 home runs, 11 by each club.
Amazing how many players from that game have played a part in the destinies of the two teams in the 14 years since the Mariners won that 6-5 thriller. Consider this:
Randy Johnson, the big left-hander, won two games in the series, including the clinching Game 5 in relief. Later Johnson won three games against the Yankees for the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series, ending New York’s three-time championship run. And finally the Big Unit pitched two years for the Yankees in 2005 and 2006, winning 17 games each season but failing miserably in the playoffs both years. Yankee fans would later joked that Johnson killed the when he faced them, and he killed them again when he pitched in pinstripes.
Ken Griffey, Jr.: Had a terrific series with five homers and a .391 average, and of course he scored the series-clinching run. Griffey later went on to play for the Cincinnati Reds, but never experienced the glory of those halcyon days in Seattle. He came back to the Mariners in 2009 to wind down his career. Despite more than 630 career home runs, Griffey has never been to a World Series.
Tino Martinez: Hit .409 against the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS, then was traded to New York in the off-season along with Jeff Nelson and Jim Mecir for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock. Tino was the first baseman on four Yankee championship teams.
Jay Buhner: Traded to the Yankees for Ken Phelps and incidentals in the middle of the 1988 season, Buhner went on to a stellar career in Seattle, He hit .458 in the 1995 ALDS.
Alex Rodriguez: As a pinch-runner in Game 5, A-Rod scored the tying run. After signing as a free agent with Texas, Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees before the 2004 season. Although he has yet to play in a World Series, Rodriguez has won three American League MVP awards, including 2005 and 2007 with the Yanks.
Lou Piniella: Manager of the Mariners in 1995, Piniella was an outfielder with the champion 1977 and 1978 Yankee teams. He later managed the Yankees, won a World Series with the Reds, and managed the M’s, Devil Rays and now the Cubs.
New York Yankees
The Core Four
Four Yankees involved in the 1995 ALDS are still with the Yankees, 14 years and four World Champions later. Andy Pettitte started and took a no-decision in the Yankees 15-inning win in Game Two, and was in the bullpen warming up in Game 5 as Jack McDowell surrendered a one-run lead in the 11th inning. Jorge Posada was a backup catcher, but did score a run against the M’s. Mariano Rivera started his spectacular run of post-season success with 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and eight strikeouts, including a pivotal stint in the eighth and ninth innings of Game 5. And although a youthful 21-year-old shortstop named Derek Jeter, right, did not see any action against the Mariners, the familiar No. 2 was roaming the bench urging his teammates on, a captain in waiting.
Don Mattingly: Speaking of captains, Don Mattingly, in his only playoff appearance and his final season, batted .417 with a home run and six RBIs, including a go-ahead, two-run double in Game 5. In what turned out to be his final at bat, Mattingly took a called third strike against Randy Johnson in the 10th inning.
Bernie Williams: Another member of those four Yankee champions. hit two home runs and batted .429 in the series against the Mariners. It was Bernie, playing left field, who fielded Edgar Martinez’ hit in the left-field corner in Game Five but threw home too late to nab Griffey.
The catcher when Griffey slid across the plate and electrified the city of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest was star-crossed Jim Leyritz, who Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS for the Yankees with a dramatic 15th-inning home run in the rain at Yankee Stadium. Leyritz, no stranger to post-season heroics, later helped the Yankees to championships in 1996 and 1999. His dramatic three-run homer that tied the score in the eighth inning is considered the turning point in the Yankees win over the Atlanta Braves in 1996. He was later involved in a drunk driving accident in South Florida in which a woman was killed.
Randy Velarde, utility infielder who hit the go-ahead hit single in the top of the 11th inning in Game 5, signed on as a free agent with the California Angels after the 1995 season. He eventually returned to the Yankees, and helped lead them to a five-game win against Seattle in the 2001 ALCS. Ironically, Velarde recorded one of just 15 unassisted triple plays in major league history, playing second base for the Oakland A;s against the Yankees in 2000.
Empty seats are a strange yet familiar sight in the new Yankee Stadium.
First, the good news. They still have 26 World Championships and 39 American League pennants in the bank.
Now, the bad news. The wheels are coming off the Yankees World Series express.
Where to begin. Start with the bullpen
No Relief…When .Mariano Rivera starts to struggle, the Yankees are in big trouble. The best relief pitcher in baseball history has lost some velocity on his cutter, courtesy of a tired shoulder. You have to wonder if, at 39, this is the beginning of the end for the great Rivera. The other night against Tampa Bay he gave up back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career in an 8-6 loss. He’s already given up as many home runs (4) as he did all of last season…and more than he’s given up in eight other seasons. And he’s sporting a very un-Rivera like 3.97 ERA, the highest of his career.
The rest of the Yankee bullpen is, in a word, pathetic. Every game is a crap shoot with this group. They can’t get the ball over the plate, and when they do, it gets hit someplace hard. At some point this year the Yankees will need to move Joba Chamberlain back to the bullpen to ensure at least a semblance of consistency.
Choking in The Clutch….One thing you can count on — Yankee hitters do not deliver in the clutch. This was a problem last year, but this year it has grown to epidemic proportions.
During their five-game losing streak, the Yankees did not hold a lead in any game and were 6-for-43 with runners in scoring position. We’ve seen this act before. And it’s been a problem up and down the entire lineup, with virtually every hitter sharing the blame.
Free Agent Struggles….During the off-season, the Yankees spent more than $423 million dollars — that’s right, nearly half a billion in the middle of an economic turndown — to sign pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeria (pictured right in happier times) to long-term contracts. Like virtually all high-profile free agent signees with the Yankees, the early returns have not been good.
Neither Sabathia (two wins, 3.94 ERA) and Burnett (two wins, 5.26 ERA) have been the stoppers the Yankees expected. And Teixeira has been awful, so bad he was booed repeatedly by the home fans in an 0-for-5 effort the other night. That is what happens to a .192 hitter making $22.5 million a year.
Old And Injured…The Yankees are an older team, one of the oldest teams in baseball. Old teams run the risk of injuries, and that’s what’s happening in New York. Alex Rodriguez and Chien Ming Wong have hip problems, Hideki Matsui’s knees ache, and Johnny Damon has a bum shoulder,
Now the Yanks are decimated at catcher, with both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina on the disabled list and no young catching prospects in sight. Injuries are part of the game, and older teams are more injury-prone. That’s a fact. The Yankees knew that coming in and chose to roll the dice with older players.
The New House….What’s with all those empty seats? The Yankees have a beautiful new ballpark, but they can’t fill it. They miscalculated their fan base, seriously over-priced the seats behind home plate, and as a result have lost some of the home-field advantage they enjoyed for so many years right across the street. This is a problem, and it’s not going away…but some fans are.
The Front Office….If you were given a bigger budget than your competition, and your business failed year after year, would you keep your job? So how does general manager Brian Cashman keep his?
Cashman has put together a team that can’t pitch, can’t hit with runners on base, is old, and is lacking in speed and defensive abilities. He has to absorb some of the blame.
And Joe Girardi needs to be held accountable too, although to be fair, it’s tough to be successful when your players don’t execute. Still Girardi’s propensity to over-manage can be disturbing.
The Lightning Rod…..The Yankees are getting Alex Rodriguez back. Is that good news or bad news? We all know how A-Rod , left, has reacted to pressure over the years. Not very well.
His failures in key situations, especially in the post-season, have been well chronicled. But he certainly came though in fine style in his first at bat with a three-run homer.
Strange as it may sound, the Yankee turmoil may be the perfect foil for A-Rod. It sets him up to be a hero. If A-Rod can come back and generate some offense, carry the team and produce some victories, the New York fans will love him. So like Bonds in San Francisco, he may be a jerk but he’s our jerk.
Fans and the media alike have been piling on A-Rod ever since it came to light that he was using steroid. His eputation has taken a serious beating.. Rodriguez seemingly has nowhere to go but up. The fact that Manny Ramirez is stealing the headlines with his steroid use and 50-game suspension, may actually take some of the onus off A-Rod.
Of course, it’s up to Rodriguez and the rest of his Yankee teammates to produce if they want to get back in the race.
After winning four World Series in five years between 1996 to 2000, the Yankees and their fans expect to win the Series every year.
After reading “The Yankee Years” by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, it’s a wonder they even made the playoffs with some of the flawed teams they’ve fielded since 2002..
Joe Torre’s reign in the Bronx is easily pared into two distinct eras — the first six years, where the Yankees won four World Series and lost the seventh game of another, and the second six years, where in spite of making the playoffs every year, the team won a single American League pennant and no championships.
In those first six years, Torre went from being “Clueless Joe” to one of the most popular managers in New York history. Until he came to the Yankees, Torre had never been to a World Series as a player or a manager. His first Yankee team won the World Series in 1996, breaking an 18-year drought for the Bombers. He then won three World Series in a row from 1998 through 2000, before losing a heartbreaker to Arizona in 2001.
Those Yankee teams had talent for sure, but they weren’t overloaded with superstars. Like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, David Cone and others, Paul O’Neill epitomized the grit and will to win of those championship squads.
‘Passion for Success’
“He wanted to get his hits, but his hits were important to him because of the success of the team.” is how Torre described O’Neill in “The Yankee Years. ” There are a lot of guys who want a hit every at-bat, but this guy, it was more about not letting the other 24 guys down. If he didn’t do enough to help the team win the game, he felt like he let everyone down. And I think people fed off that, that his passion for success and how that translated to the team’s success was what was important to him.”
As the Yankees entered the second six years, the back nine of the Torre era, things suddenly changed. The Yankees stopped winning the big games. They dropped a World Series to an overmatched Florida team in 2003, then blew a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS. In Torre’s last three years, the Yanks had to battle to make the playoffs — and each year lost in the first round.
In 2004, the Yankees signed Alex Rodriguez to the biggest contract in baseball history. The attitude of the team changed beyond the band-of-brothers mentality of the championship clubs. Roles were reversed. The Yankees under Torre would never be the same.
“When Alex came over it became strained in the clubhouse,” said Torre in “The Yankee Years.” “I can’t tell your for sure who you can put a finger on there, or if it was just one of those things that was pretty much unavoidable with the strong personalities.”
Failing in the Clutch
Most alarming of all was A-Rod’s lack of production in the clutch, and in the post-season in particular.
“When it comes to a key situation,” said Torre, “he can’t get himself to concern himself with getting the job done, instead of how it looks…..There’s a sort of trust, a trust and commitment thing that has to allow yourself to fail. Allow yourself to be embarrassed. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. And sometimes players aren’t willing to do that. They have a reputation to uphold. They have to have answer for it. It’s an ego thing.”
Even though he’s the lightning rod, it’s unfair to pin all the blame on Rodriguez. There’s also the issue of front office judgement, of over-paying for pitchers who didn’t get the job done in pinstripes.
Beginning in 2003, the Yankees brought in 12 pitchers from outside the organization….none of who pitched three straight years with the Yankees. The dirty dozen — Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Jeff Weaver, Steve Karsay, Esteban Loaiza, Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez, Kei Igawa, Carl Pavano, Roger Clemens (the older version) — combined for a 125-105 record, 3-7 in the post-season. The cost per win was $2.04 million if you do the math. That pretty much sums it up.
Whether you love the Yankees or hate ‘em, “The Yankee Years” is a must read for all baseball fans
This is Babe Ruth, Sultan of Swat, not Clint Barmes, shown fielding below.
Who is Clint Barmes?
I was wondering that myself when he wound up on my fantasy baseball team, the Sultans of Swat.
My partner in crime, the good doctor Larry G, and I picked Barmes in our Nightcap League fantasy baseball draft.
In the fourth round.
Among the scores of recognizable names picked after Barmes were Cole Hamels, Mariano Rivera, Vlad Guerrero, Russell Martin, BJ Upton and Josh Beckett…just to name a few.
This may have been the only fantasy draft in the country where Barmes went in the fourth round, 38th overall.
So who is this guy Barmes? He’s a 30-year-old utility infielder who’s played six seasons for the Colorado Rockies. He didn’t even start on Opening Day; Ian Stewart got the nod at second base.
Only twice has Barmes played more than 100 games in a season. He’s never hit more than 11 home runs or had more than 56 RBIs in a single season.
Barmes has a career batting average of ..263, with 30 homers and 159 RBIs, lifetime numbers that Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez could compile in a single season.
He was rated 23rd of 30 major league second baseman by CBS SportsLine and 25th by ESPN, which rated him 298. The Sporting News had him 34th among shortstops. Neither Sports Illustrated nor CBS had Barmes in its top 300 overall.
That’s the bad news. Now here’s the good news.
The Sultans nabbed Pujols, the best player in baseball, with the third overall pick in the draft. Their next two picks were Matt Holliday and Roy Halladay. They got depth throughout the middle rounds, and some real sleepers in the later rounds, including Giants phenom Pablo Sandoval (21st), Heath Bell (23rd) and Yunei Escobar (25th).
And best of all, the Sultans of Swat are in first place two days into the season.