Talk about a lousy birthday present, New York announced they were releasing this right-hander on his 27th birthday. He had been competing in Spring Training for the fifth starter’s spot in Manager Joe Girardi’s 2010 rotation but was beaten out by Phil Hughes. If the Yankees kept him on the roster and put him in the bullpen, they would have had to pay his full $2.7 million salary so they released him instead. Gaudin landed a job on the A’s staff a few days later but when Oakland released him in May of last year, he again joined the Yankee bullpen. He impressed me during his 11 appearances in pinstripes in 2009 but he did little for New York, in 2010. He pitched for the Washington Nationals in 2011 but has thus far not been signed by any team to pitch in 2012.
Lidle’s Yankee career began with promise, quickly grew muddled in controversy and ended in shocking tragedy. He came to New York in the Bobby Abreu trade from Philly during the 2006 season. He won his first Yankee start against Toronto and then beat Boston for his second win and I remember at that point liking what I was seeing from this right-hander. He ended up going 4-3 in his nine Yankee starts that year but then got shelled by Detroit in the ALDS-clinching Game 4 loss to Detroit. He was then quoted as saying the Tigers were more ready to play that postseason series than the Yankees, which did not sit well with Yankee fans or his Yankee teammates. It also brought back memories of the derogatory comments Lidle had made about his Philadelphia teammates after getting traded to New York and caused me to conclude that this guy maybe had a screw loose. But then he flew that plane into a New York City apartment building and suddenly those controversial comments meant nothing at all. Lidle was 34 years old when that crash took place and he left behind a wife and young son.
The “Straw Man” was an immensely talented power hitter who became a valuable contributor to the 1998 Yankee team, which I consider one of the greatest squads in Major League Baseball history. He also struggled throughout his career to control a well-documented substance abuse problem.
He was an important part of the 1996 Yankee World Championship team, hitting 11 home runs in 63 games and driving in 36 as a part-time DH and outfielder during the regular season. He then belted three home runs and averaged .417 against Baltimore in that year’s ALCS, perhaps Darryl’s finest moment in pinstripes. He made another solid contribution to New York’s great 1998 squad, playing in 101 games and hitting 24 home runs. But then Darryl’s demons and a bout with cancer ended his career.
Darryl will be most remembered as one of the all-time great Mets. He hit 252 home runs during his eight years at Shea and drove in 733. He was a classic slugger with a trademark swing who could have made the Hall of Fame but instead, ended up in jail when his playing days were over. I saw Darryl do a Center Stage show with Michael Kay a year ago and he sounds as if he has his life in order. I certainly hope so and I also wish him a happy 49th birthday.
When I think about Boone two things immediately come to mind. The first of course is the home half of the 11th inning of the seventh and final game of the 2003 ALCS, Red Sox versus Yankees in the Bronx. Score is tied, 5-5 with Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the mound as Aaron Boone steps into the batters’ box to lead off the inning for New York. His brother Brett is doing the game for Fox in the booth. I absolutely knew that Boone was going to hit a home run off of Wakefield and when he did, against the hated Red Sox and I got to see it on my television set, it just does not get any better than that for die hard Yankee fans like me.
The next thing that comes to mind when I think about Boone is the famous line from the movie, The Godfather II, ”This is the business we chose.” Boone’s whole life, his whole heritage had been baseball. His grandfather, father and brother were all Major Leaguers. He had just hit one of the most famous home runs in the history of the most famous sports franchise on earth. He was the starting third baseman for the AL Champion Yankees. He was at the peak of his playing career when he made the decision to play some pick-up basketball during the off-season and ripped apart his knee. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, the Yankee front office went out and got A-Rod and dropped Boone like a lead weight.
Talk about going from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat in record time, Boone’s odyssey was unbelievable. But the guy took it with grace and professionalism every step of the way. I will always be a fan of Aaron Boone. Always!