Lords of the Ringless: Yankee Edition

Yankees without rings. Doesn’t sound right; there’s no ring to it. Yes, it’s a short list. But there are some very good ballplayers who wore the pinstripes and yet missed out on the World Series victories. The list includes a Hall of Fame pitcher, an AL MVP and batting champ, a Rookie of the Year, 20-game winners and 40-home run hittes.

Here are the best Yankees never to win a championship:

1. Don Mattingly — Spent his entire 14-year career with the Yankees, but made his only playoff appearance in the 1995 wild card round  (when he hit .417). A .307 lifetime hitter with 222 home runs, Donnie Baseball, right. was a batting champ in 1984, AL MVP in 1985, and a nine-time Gold Glove winner at first base. The captain just missed out on the 1996 championship, the Yanks first in 18 years.

2. Bobby Murcer — Joined the club as a 19-year -old rookie in 1965, the year the Yankee dynasty collapsed. He was traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds in 1975, but returned four years later after a stint with the Cubs. Some 175 of Murcer’s 252 career home runs came as a Yankee, and he was a .277 lifetime hitter. Murcer made his only World Series appearance in a 1981 loss to the Dodgers.

3. Mel Stottlemyre — Came up as a rookie in August  of 1964 and fueled the Yanks run to the World Series, where he started three games against the Cardinals. That was the high point for The Needle, who stands seventh all-time in Yankee wins with 164, included three 20-win seasons. Stott had 40 career shutouts and hit an inside-the-park grand slam against Boston in 1965.

4. Dave Righetti — Pitched for the Yankees for 11 years before signing with the Giants as a free agent. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 1981 and threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox on the Fourth of July in 1983 before being moved to the bullpen. Rags racked up 224 of his 252 career saves as a Yankee, including a then MLB record 46 saves in 1986.

5. Mike Mussina — Signed away from Baltimore as a free agent, Mussina spent eight years in the Bronx and won 123 games (270 total). Moose came within one strike of pitching a perfect game against the Red Sox in 2001, and won 20 games for the first time in 2008, his final season, just missing out on the Yankees 27th championship. He did pitch in the World Series as 2001 and 2003.

6. Hal Chase — One of the Highlanders, Prince Hal, a great fielding first baseman with a corrupt side, recorded a .291 lifetime batting average and 363 stolen bases. He just missed out on a World Series after 1918, when the Reds traded him to the Giants. Chase came up to the majors in 1905, and played his first nine years in New York before being traded to the White Sox in 1913.

7. Tommy John — Pitched and lost to the Yankees in the 1977 and 1978 World Series before taking the if you can’t beat em join em approach and signing as a free agent. In two tours of duty with the Yankees TJ was 91-60, with 21 wins in 1979 and 22 in 1980. Overall John was 288-231 over a 26-year major league career that ended with the Yankees in 1979.

8. Jason Giambi — Signed as a free agent a year after winning the AL MVP with Oakland, he joined the Yankees in 2002 and played for seven years, missing out on the 2009 title run. He hit 41 home runs in each of his first two years in pinstripes, and wound up belting 209 of his 429 career home runs as a Yankee. The Giambino finished his career in Colorado

9. Lindy McDaniel — Joined the Yankees in 1968 and pitched for six years before being traded to the Royals in a move that brought Lou Piniella to the Bronx. McDaniel had 141 wins and 172 saves in a 21-year career. He led the Yanks with 29 saves in 1970, and overall was 38-29 with 58 saves for the Bombers. .

10. Phil Niekro — After spending his first 20 years throwing knuckleballs for the Braves, Knucksie signed with the Yankees in 1984, and recorded back to back 16-win seasons. On the final day of the 1985 season, Niekro, right, shut out the Blue Jays for his 300th win. He then left for the Indians, before winding up back in Atlanta in 1987. Niekro was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.

More Lords of the Ringless

Baseball Edition

Quarterback Edition

Running Back Edition

Hoops Edition

Wide Receiver Edition


Retirement Calls The Moose

What do Henry Schmidt, Sandy Koufax and Mike Mussina have in common?

This unlikely triumvirate comprises the only three pitchers in baseball history to retire following 20-win seasons. Discount  Black Sox Lefty Williams and Eddie Cicotte, who were kicked out of baseball in 1920 following 20 wins.

Schmidt pitched for the Brooklyn Superbas (later the Dodgers), and was 22-13 in 1903, his only season in the major leagues. Brooklyn wanted him back for 1904, but Schmidt declined, sending back his unsigned contract with a note that said, “I do not like living in the East and will not report.”

Schmidt pitched for several years in the Pacific Coast League, then returned to his native Texas to make a living selling fabrics and picking up the nickname “Flannel.”

Every baseball fans knows the Koufax story, a bonus baby who came up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955, and three Cy Young Awards and an MVP later retired with an arthritic left elbow following a 27-9 season in 1966. Koufax’s last pitch came at age 30 in the 1966 World Series, as Los Angeles was swept by the Baltimore Orioles.

At Koufax’s retirement press conference, a reporter simply asked, “Why, Sandy?” He answered:

“I don’t know if cortisone is good for you or not,” said Koufax, shown right.  “But to take a shot every other ballgame is more than I wanted to do and to walk around with a constant upset stomach because of the pills and to be high half the time during a ballgame because you’re taking painkillers, I don’t want to have to do that.”

Moose Makes His Mark

And then there’s Mussina. Just two losing seasons in 18 years, a 270-153 lifetime record, a .638 winning percentage, more than 100 wins with both the Yankees and Orioles. And finally a 20-game winner for the first time in 2008 on the last day of his career.

“I think it’d be pretty cool [to retire after 20 wins],” Mussina said back in September. “I don’t know what everyone else thinks, but I think it’d be pretty cool.”

So the Moose rides off into the sunset, a borderline Hall of Famer. Mussina never won a World Series, never won a Cy Young Award, never pitched a no-hitter (although he came within one strike of a perfect game against the Red Sox in 2001.) Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

Moose finished more than 100 games over .500 in his career, and every pitcher who has ever done that is in the Hall of Fame.

And he went out on a high note, unlike so many others who were forced into retirement. Ironically, that may help his Hall of Fame quest in the long run. Only time will tell.

See The Moose, The Hall And The 100 Plus Club

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” — William Shakespeare

Was planning to drive up to Albany real early this morning to see the New York Giants in training camp. All packed, camera in the car, ready to go. But I overslept.

I was dreaming that the Giants beat the undefeated Patriots on a miracle play in the Super Bowl. Then I woke up and realized it was true.

So I started thinking about the strange occurrences we’ve seen in sports in the past year. One year ago, you would have been dreaming if you said:

  • The Giants would be defending World Champions.
  • That Manny Ramirez would be wearing Dodger blue.
  • And Joe Torre would be his manager.
  • That the Boston Celtics would win the NBA title.
  • That the Tampa Bay Rays would be in first place.
  • That Greg Norman, 53 years young, would be leading the British Open with nine holes to play.
  • And that he would be cheered on by his new bride, Chris Evert.
  • That Brett Favre would retire. Or unretire. Or retire….wait a minute, Brett, wake up and make up your mind.
  • That Roger Clemens would make a fool of himself in front of the entire nation.
  • While his former teammate, Mike Mussina, would be pitching like Cy Young.
  • That Appalachian State would beat Michigan. In the Big House. Yeah right.
  • That Marion Jones, the queen of the 2000 Olympics, would be in jail.

Did I just dream all that? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

The Moose, The Hall And The 100 Plus Club

FACT: No major league pitcher at least 100 games over .500 in his career has ever failed to make the Hall of Fame.

All 18 eligible starters who fit this profile are in — including six who pitched the majority of their careers in the 19th Century. There are a dozen 300-game winners on the list.

The 100 Plus Club list is dotted with the usual suspects — Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Pete Alexander, Warren Spahn, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer and Bob Feller, just to name a few. Young is the only pitcher close to 200 plus in the won-loss category: he finished his career with a record 511 wins and 316 losses.

Whitey Ford has the best overall winning percentage amongst members of the elite club — 236-106 for .690. Lefty Grove is right behind at .680 (300-141), followed by 19th Century hurler John Clarkson at .649 (327-177).

No Koufax, Ryan, Gibson

Then there are those who didn’t make it, immortals like Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, Dizzy Dean, Carl Hubbell and Rube Waddell.

The 100 Plus Club is due to get some company soon. Recently retired enigma Roger Clemens has a 354-184 record, a .658 winning percentage. He also has a steroid-tarnished resume which may or may not hinder his Hall of Fame chances. Then again, his seven Cy Youngs can only help his cause.

There are five active pitchers with 100 plus stat lines. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux are 300-game winners, and Randy Johnson is just 11 wins away, at 289. Pedro Martinez is 212-95, a point ahead of Ford’s .690 all-time winning percentage.

All four are pretty much considered to be Hall of Fame locks, with 14 Cy Young awards amongst them (Johnson 5, Maddux 4, Martinez 3 and Glavine 2).

And then there’s Mike Mussina, shown above, a man whose career has been full of almosts and near-misses. Mussina has never won a Cy Young award. He has never won 20 games in a single season, never won an ERA or strikeout title, never won a World Series.

Close Calls

Mussina came to the Yankees the year after they won four World Series in five years. He came within one strike of pitching a perfect game against the Red Sox in Fenway Park in 2001. He’s always left at the altar.

The Moose has won 19 games twice and 18 twice. He’s had 17 straight years of 10 or more wins, an American League record. He’s had only two losing seasons in 18 years.

Overall Mussina is 261-150, a .639 winning percentage. But is that good enough?

Hall of Fame candidates are typically voted in for reaching certain milestones, like 300 wins, 3,000 hits, or 500 home runs. Perhaps consistency should count for something as well.

Only time will tell.