It’s no secret the Yankees need to rebuild. But let’s not complicate matters.
Hey, this isn’t rocket science. It’s baseball. And more than anything, the Yankees need to get pitching and to get younger, faster and more athletic.
For years now, the Yankees have tried to get away with make-shift pitching staffs and band-aid remedies.
Old broken down aces like Randy Johnson, Rocket Redux (Roger Clemens II), and Kevin Brown. Over-rated youngsters like Javier Vazquez, Jeff Weaver and the double zero twins, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. And never has-beens Darrell Rasner, Jaret Wright and Kei Igawa. Need we mention Karl Pavano.
And they’ve been bogged down by DH-type slowpokes, guys like Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui and Wilson Betemit of recent vintage.
Maybe the Bombers need a history lesson.
Yankees On the Move
In 1975, New York’s American League entry missed the playoffs for the 11th straight season. They were a decent team, hung in the pennant race until the dog days, wound up third behind the Red Sox and Orioles.
They Yankees were about to move out of Shea Stadium, their home away from home for two years, into a refurbished Yankee Stadium.
They were desperate for a jump-start, hungry to get back to the playoffs. Enter general manager Gabe Paul, pictured above.
With two brilliant trades, Paul built the foundation for a team that would win an American League pennant in 1976 and the World Series the following two years. Those two deals brought the Yankees starting pitching and youth and speed, and helped fill holes in center field and second base.
In one deal, the Yankees traded a hobbled Bobby Bonds to California for pitcher Ed Figueroa and center-fielder Mickey Rivers, right. The other trade brought Willie Randolph, Dock Ellis and Ken Brett to the Bronx in exchange for Doc Medich, who was shipped to Pittsburgh.
Bobby Bonds, Barry’s father, would play for six more years with six teams and never make the playoffs again. He did manage 32 home runs and 30 stolen bases in his one year in pinstripes after being acquired in exchange for Bobby Murcer. Bonds had his fourth and final 30-30 year in 1977 with the Angels, but was clearly on the downhill side of his career when the Yanks sent him out West..
Rivers turned out to be the catalyst, the center fielder and lead-off hitter on those championship Yankee teams of the late ’70s before being traded to Texas for, among others, Oscar Gamble. Mick the Quick hit .312 with 43 stolen bases and finished third in the AL MVP race, and followed that up with a .326 season in 1977.
55 Wins in Three Years for Figgy
Figueroa was 19-10, 16-11 and 20-9 in his first three seasons in New York, a mainstay with 55 wins on a staff that won three straight pennants, before an arm injury stalled his career in 1979.
Medich, whose best year with the Yanks was 19-15 in 1974, never approached those standards with the Pirates and later Texas. He finished with a 124-105 lifetime record and eventually left baseball to become a medical doctor.
Another doc, Dock Ellis, never did go the med school, but he did win 17 games for the Yankees in 1976 while losing only eight. He was traded to the A’s early in the following season for Mike Torrez, who won two games for the Yankees in the 1977 World Series. Torrez signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in 1978, and is perhaps best known as the pitcher who gave up a three-run homer to Bucky Dent in a 1978 play-in loss to the Yankees.
Ken Brett, George’s brother, was quickly traded to the White Sox one month into the season, along with Rich Coggins, for Carlos May, who helped the Yankees win the AL pennant in 1976.
And Willie Randolph, a Brooklyn native, became a fixture at second base for the Yankees for 13 seasons and one of the most popular Yankees of recent vintage. With the exception of Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri, Randolph, right, arguably the best second baseman in Yankee history.
Those weren’t the only big deals for Paul, who also traded for Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow, Lou Piniella and Bucky Dent, all who contributed mightily to the Yankees last 70s run.
Gabe Paul was gone following the 1977 season, unable to deal with the daily turmoil of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin, but the creativity he exhibited in 1976 with these two trades helped turn a proud franchise around.
Brian Cashman needs to show some of that same kind of guts and guile if the Yankees are to return to the playoffs next year.
It will take more than signing overpriced superstars to huge free-agent contracts to bring these Yankees back. It will take innovation and ingenuity and grit, traits the Yankees have been lacking lately.
Learn from the Gospel of (Gabe) Paul, aka The Trader.
Willie Randolph got the shaft. Plain and simple. You don’t keep an employee hanging for weeks, then fire him.
If Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya and the rest of the Mets brass really wanted to fire Randolph, they should have let him go following last September’s colossal collapse when they below the division to the Phillies.
The Mets decided to bring Willie back for another season. That’s fine. But once they continued the death spiral this year and speculation about Randolph’s firing intensified, Minaya should have pulled the trigger.
Instead they dragged things out, fueled even more fan and media speculation, then fired him in the middle of the night under cover of darkness in Southern California, 3,000 miles from home.
“And in the history of New York baseball, there has not been a more cowardly, indecent, undignified or ill-conceived firing of a manager,” said Bill Madden, baseball scribe for the New York Daily News.
That’s saying something when you consider some of the other memorable New York managerial firings. Does George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin ring a bell?
Good luck with these Mutts, Jerry Manuel. The Mets once again proved they’re second-class citizens in New York.