Nobody expected Nick Johnson to be a huge star in the big leagues but when he first came up with New York in August of 2001, the Yankee brass made it sound as if he had a good enough bat to force their poor-fielding first baseman, Jason Giambi to the full-time DH role. He turned out to be an OK fielder with a good batting eye but he definitely did not hit well enough during his first tour of duty in pinstripes to deserve the full-time first-baseman’s job. He was shipped to Montreal in 2004 in the deal that made Javier Vazquez a Yankee for the first time.
Since then the injury bug has hit Johnson hard. He was having his best big league season in Washington, in 2006, smacking 23 home runs and averaging a career high .290, when in a late season game he broke a leg when he collided with current Yankee teammate, Austin Kearns. That injury forced Nick to miss the entire 2007 season. Washington traded him to the Marlins during the 2009 season and then Brian Cashman played a hunch and signed Johnson to replace Hideki Matsui as Yankee DH in an effort to save salary. It turned out to be a bad decision for the Yankee GM. The Sacramento native was off to a horrible start last year before an injury placed him on the DL for the remainder of the 2010 season.
Johnson was born on September 19, 1978. He shares a birthday with former Yankee starting pitcher, Jim Abbott, former Yankee first baseman, Nick Etten, this WWII era left fielder and the 1958 Cy Young Award winner.
|WSN (5 yrs)||487||2041||1666||263||467||121||5||56||248||21||326||335||.280||.408||.460||.867|
|NYY (4 yrs)||272||1023||841||134||209||40||0||33||121||6||149||193||.249||.378||.414||.791|
|BAL (1 yr)||38||102||87||9||18||4||0||4||11||2||11||26||.207||.324||.391||.714|
|FLA (1 yr)||35||150||104||24||29||8||0||2||18||0||36||18||.279||.477||.413||.890|
Just three days ago, this blog celebrated the birthday of Bernie
Williams, the last great Yankee center fielder. Last year on this same date,
the PBB celebrated the birthday of Tim Raines, a Williams’ Yankee
teammate who was also one of the soft-spoken outfielder’s best friends
and biggest admirers. Today we recognize Hall, who was also a teammate
of Williams. But unlike “Rock” Raines, Mel Hall was not a friend or
booster of Bernie’s. Instead, he was one of the talented
switch-hitter’s biggest detractors and most unrelenting antagonists. In
past interviews, Williams credits the ongoing barrage of insults hurled
at him by Hall during Bernie’s 1992 rookie season with the Yankees, as
one of the driving forces behind his development of the mental toughness he now
credits for helping him achieve the success he did during his 16-season
pinstripe career. When that 1992 season ended, the Yankees dumped Hall,
traded their starting center-fielder, Roberto Kelly to the Reds for
Paul O’Neill, who then teamed with Williams to form the core of an
outfield that would lead New York to perpetual postseason appearances
and four World Series rings.
My earliest memories of Bernie were of those watching him play for the Albany-Colonie (NY) Yankees at the now-closed Heritage Park somewhere around 1990. Back then, Bernie was one of two prospects with the last name of Williams trying to make their way from New York’s double A minor league franchise to the Yankee Stadium outfield and I have to admit, I thought Gerald Williams would win the competition.
But Bernie was a grinder. The only superstar skill he had was using his great speed to get into position to catch just about any fly ball hit his way. In Yankee Stadium’s spacious center field, that was an important skill to have. He was also a switch-hitter. These were probably the two key reasons why Buck Showalter made Bernie his regular center fielder in 1993. From that point on, Bernie simply evolved himself into a great Yankee and became a key cog in the pinstripe teams that won four World Series during the glorious 1996-2000 run.
During his peak years, Bernie made five straight AL All Star teams and put together seven consecutive years of scoring at least 100 runs, of driving in at least 90, and eight consecutive years hitting above 300.
One of Bernie’s unheralded talents and also his most annoying was the way he would step out of the batter’s box at exactly the precise moment when the opposing pitcher was about to initiate his windup. Nobody did this more effectively than Bernie. Unfortunately, it was also the reason most Yankee games took four hours to complete when Bernie was on the team.
I do regret the fact that the Yankees did not permit Bernie to retire on his own terms. He was pretty much forced off the team when the Yankees decided to go younger in the outfield with Melky Cabrera in 2007. I will always feel that Bernie deserved a Yankee roster spot at the beginning of that season.
Jerry Mumphrey was a speedy, singles-hitting outfielder with the Cardinals during the first six years of his big league career. He got traded to San Diego in 1980 and had his best big league season for Manager Jerry Coleman’s Padres, hitting .298 and stealing 52 bases for a team that led the NL in thefts that season. George Steinbrenner had become convinced that his Yankee team needed to employ more of a small-ball strategy so his front office engineered a six-player swap that exchanged New York’s 1980 starting center-fielder, Ruppert Jones for Mumphrey. Mumphrey hit .307 for the Yankees in the strike shortened season of 1981 but played poorly in the postseason. In fact, his failure to hit got him benched for the fourth game of that year’s Fall Classic with the Yankees holding a two games to one lead over LA. With New York leading by three runs, Manager Bob Lemon had the opportunity to insert Jerry Mumphrey in center when Bobby Brown pinch ran for Oscar Gamble late in the game. Instead, Lemon put Brown out there and he misplayed a ball that led to three Dodger runs and an eventual Yankee defeat that changed the momentum of the Series to the Dodgers’ favor. Jerry had his best season in pinstripes in 1982, leading the team with a .300 batting average and driving in what was then his career high of 68 runs. But when he slumped at the plate during the first half of 1983, the Yankees sent him to Houston for the Astros’ center fielder, Omar Moreno. Mumphrey finished his fifteen year big league career with two good years in Houston and three more with the Cubs.
|STL (6 yrs)||522||1739||1571||222||434||60||22||8||134||66||42||144||205||.276||.336||.358||.694|
|CHC (3 yrs)||292||758||684||81||206||32||4||18||85||3||4||68||108||.301||.362||.439||.801|
|NYY (3 yrs)||286||1185||1063||161||311||46||19||22||136||27||15||102||126||.293||.351||.434||.785|
|HOU (3 yrs)||325||1241||1111||135||323||55||7||18||161||26||14||115||159||.291||.354||.401||.755|
|SDP (1 yr)||160||622||564||61||168||24||3||4||59||52||5||49||90||.298||.352||.372||.724|
Robbie Cano has been a remarkably durable player since taking over as the New York Yankees’ starting second baseman during the 2005 season. His one serious injury occurred in his sophomore season when he developed a tear in his hamstring in June of that season and was forced onto the DL. The Yankees had Miguel Cairo to replace Cano as starter and also called up today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant from their Columbus Clippers triple A team to back up Cano.
Green got his first start in pinstripes against the Mets in early July and after walking in his first official plate appearance as a Yankee to open the third inning of that contest, he came up again later in the same inning and hit a two run home run in his first official at bat for his new team. He would end up finishing the regular season with New York, hitting .240 in 46 games, which included 19 appearances at second base, 17 at third and ten more spelling Derek Jeter at shortstop. Joe Torre did not put him on the Yankees postseason roster and though he wanted to remain a Yankee, he would not accept a return assignment to Columbus and Yankee GM Brian Cashman let him walk. He resurfaced in Boston three seasons later, where he became the Red Sox’ staring shortstop that year. But he hit just .236 in that role and was again released. Green is still trying to get steady work in the big leagues. He now plays in the Marlins’ organization.
|TBD (2 yrs)||128||420||357||57||79||15||2||5||29||3||39||97||.221||.315||.317||.631|
|MIA (2 yrs)||25||89||78||5||17||5||0||1||7||0||3||20||.218||.276||.321||.596|
|LAD (1 yr)||5||9||8||0||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||2||.125||.222||.125||.347|
|SEA (1 yr)||6||7||7||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|NYY (1 yr)||46||82||75||8||18||5||0||2||4||1||5||29||.240||.296||.387||.683|
|ATL (1 yr)||95||290||264||40||72||15||3||3||26||1||12||63||.273||.312||.386||.698|
|TOR (1 yr)||9||14||13||2||2||0||0||0||1||0||1||3||.154||.214||.154||.368|
|BOS (1 yr)||104||309||276||35||65||18||0||6||35||1||20||69||.236||.303||.366||.669|