December 2010

December 30 – The Top Five Yankees During the Past Five Years

December 30th is one of the few days of the year on which no Yankee,
past or present was born. So last year on this date, I presented this
“Top Ten Yankees of the Decade” post. This year, I thought I’d condense
that a bit and discuss who the five players are who’ve contributed the
most to Yankee baseball over the past five years.

1. Derek Jeter - this list has to start with “The Captain.” Despite
his first-ever mediocre year in 2010 and the needless and very
derogatory comments made about him by the Yankee front office during
his just-completed contract negotiation, Jeter remains the classiest
act in all of baseball and is still the straw that stirs this Yankee
team. I’m predicting he will be back better than ever in 2011.

2. Robinson Cano – His awesome 2010 regular season performance and
the fact that he finally put together some offense in a postseason has
convinced me that this guy has the entire package necessary to be
baseball’s best second baseman for at least the next five years.

3. Mariano Rivera – The only reason he is not number two on my list
is the inability of the rest of New York’s pitching staff to get him
any save situations in this year’s ALCS against Texas. The best closer
ever.

4. Alex Rodriguez – Has become the all-time greatest third baseman
in Yankee franchise history but his recent injuries and longer term
power outages may be evidence of the magic of performance enhancing
pharmaceuticals unhappening right before our eyes.

5. You decide who belongs in this slot and let the rest of our
readers know by posting your answer in the “comments” section below.
Candidates include Pettitte, SabathiaMatsuiTeixeira, Damon, Posada,
etc.

December 29 – Happy Birthday Frank Delahanty

200px-Frank_DelahantyOver the years, there have been several Yankee players who had brothers who were also big leaguers. The great Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio had siblings Dom and Vince. Matty and Felipe Alou were Yankee teammates for a while when their younger brother Jesus was also playing in the Majors. Clete Boyer’s older brothers Ken and Cloyd preceded the good-fielding Yankee third baseman to the big leagues. But no player on the franchise’s all-time roster could top long-ago Yankee outfielder Frank Delahanty when it came to baseball-playing brothers.

James and Bridget Delahanty immigrated to America from Ireland in 1865, the same year the US Civil War ended. The couple settled in Cleveland and while James took on a variety of jobs, his wife turned their home into a boarding house. They lost their first child in infancy, but the second, a boy named Edward James would grow up to become one of baseball’s first great sluggers and a Hall of Famer. Their next three boys, Tom, Joe and Jim would also become big leaguers as would their youngest, Frank, who would be nicknamed Pudgie.

The youngest Delahanty made his Yankee (actually Highlander) debut in 1905, when he was just 22-years-old. The following season, he became New York’s fourth outfielder, starting 92 games and setting a career high with 41 RBIs. That ’06 Highlander team won 90 games and finished second in the American League. Manager Clark Griffith thought his team could win the Pennant the following year if he could improve his starting rotation. In an effort to do so, Frank Delahanty was traded to Cleveland for former twenty-game-winner Earl Moore.

Both Delahanty and Moore were complete flops with their new teams in 1907 and by July of 1908, Delahanty found himself back with the Highlanders. He became one of the team’s better hitters during the second half of that season but instead of re-signing with New York, he jumped to the Buffalo Buffeds in the upstart Federal League. What are Buffeds?

Delahanty shares his December 29th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher, this former Yankee first baseman and this other former Yankee first baseman.

December 27 – Happy Birthday Roy White

“Rippin Roy” was one of the few bright lights in the dreadful Yankee lineups of the late sixties. In eighteen years with New York, this speedy, switch-hitting outfielder appeared in almost 1,900 Yankee games, smacking over 1,800 career hits. I will never forget White’s performance during the 1970 season. The previous year, the Yankees had finished next-to-last in their division during the inaugural season of Major League Baseball’s switch to divisional play. With Roy leading the way with 180 hits, 109 runs scored, and 94 runs batted in, the 1970 club won 93 games, finishing second to a very strong Oriole team.  That was the same year Thurman Munson earned the AL Rookie of the Year award. When Bobby Murcer broke out as an offensive force the following season, my beloved Yankees became fun-to-watch again, ending the nightmare performances of the late sixties.

It was a special treat for Yankee fans to see Roy play well enough long enough to take part in the Pennant and World Series winning Yankee teams of the late seventies. Roy was born in Los Angeles and turns 68-years-old today.

Until Bernie Williams came along, White was the second most productive switch hitter in Yankee franchise history. Let’s take a look at my All-Time Yankee lineup of switch hitters:

1B Mark Teixeira
2B Horace Clarke
SS Tom Tresh
3B Gene Michael
OF Mickey Mantle
OF Bernie Williams
OF Roy White
C Jorge Posada
DH Melky Cabrera & Chili Davis
P Herb Pennock
RP Bob Kuzava

Note: Gene Michael played just a few games at third for New York during his Yankee career but deserved this spot because the only switch-hitting starting third baseman in pinstripe history was an old Highlander named Pepper Austin who hit even worse than “Stick.”

This former Yankee catcher and DH and this current Yankee reliever were also born on December 27th.

December 21 – Happy Birthday Elliott Maddox

The 1974 season turned out to be a pleasant surprise for Yankee fans. George Steinbrenner had replaced Ralph Houk as Yankee manager with Bill Virdon after the 1973 season and the former Pirate outfielder was determined to make the Bombers his team. He boldly moved fan favorite Bobby Murcer from center to right field, inserted Lou Piniella in left in place of Roy White and named Elliott Maddox as his everyday center fielder. Neither Murcer or White were happy with the moves but they did not complain publicly and the new outfield began producing and preventing runs almost immediately. Maddox had been purchased by Gabe Paul from the Rangers during that preseason. He was an outstanding defensive center fielder and he had a great year offensively as well, averaging .303 with a .393 on base percentage. Murcer turned out to be an excellent right fielder, Piniella hit .305 and White got into 135 games as a DH and fourth outfielder. The Yankees surprised all of baseball by finishing second in the AL East with an 89-73 record, just two games behind a very good Baltimore team. So when the Yankees traded Murcer for Bobby Bonds and signed Catfish Hunter during the winter of 1974, most Yankee fans including myself thought 1975 would be the year the Yankees returned to the postseason.

That did not happen and perhaps a key reason why was that Maddox slipped on a wet Shea Stadium outfield in a June game against the White Sox and suffered an injury to his knee that not only ended his 1975 season but also took away some of his speed. In a famous court case, Maddox later sued both the Yankees and the Mets for forcing him to play on a field they knew was in an unsafe condition. Elliott lost the case in the New York State Court of Appeals. After appearing in just 18 games during New York’s 1976 Pennant-winning season, the Yankees traded their damaged outfielder to Baltimore for Paul Blair the following January. The following year he signed a free agent deal with the Mets. He spent his last three big league seasons back in the Shea Stadium outfield. He was released by the Mets after the 1980 season and never appeared in another big league game. Maddox was born in East Orange, NJ, in 1947.

Like Maddox, this slugger also played for both Big Apple baseball teams and currently ranks fifth on the Mets’ all-time career home run list.  He along with this one-time Yankee infield prospect and this former Yankee reliever were also born on December 21st.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1974 NYY 137 550 466 75 141 26 2 3 45 6 69 48 .303 .395 .386 .781
1975 NYY 55 251 218 36 67 10 3 1 23 9 21 24 .307 .382 .394 .776
1976 NYY 18 51 46 4 10 2 0 0 3 0 4 3 .217 .275 .261 .535
11 Yrs 1029 3340 2843 360 742 121 16 18 234 60 409 358 .261 .358 .334 .692
NYM (3 yrs) 335 1196 1024 99 261 47 3 7 85 6 143 109 .255 .349 .327 .676
TEX (3 yrs) 326 871 724 102 171 16 4 2 45 35 129 123 .236 .354 .278 .631
NYY (3 yrs) 210 852 730 115 218 38 5 4 71 15 94 75 .299 .384 .381 .764
BAL (1 yr) 49 128 107 14 28 7 0 2 9 2 13 9 .262 .357 .383 .740
DET (1 yr) 109 293 258 30 64 13 4 3 24 2 30 42 .248 .332 .364 .697
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/22/2013.

December 19 – Happy Birthday Walt “No Neck” Williams

Walt Williams got his nickname from Paul Richards, the one-time GM of the old Houston Colt 45s. Richards and Houston coach, Eddie Robinson were meeting with all of Houston’s prospects during spring training and when Willams walked into his appointment, Richards supposedly said, “Look Eddie, this guy’s got no neck.” Despite the lack of an important anatomical appendage, Williams did OK on a baseball field. Born in Brownwood, TX, in 1943, he was a steady big league performer for ten seasons. A .270 lifetime hitter, Walt ended his career as a Yankee reserve outfielder during the 1974 and ’75 seasons. His Yankee teammates enjoyed the affable, always optimistic Williams. When no other big league team wanted him, Walt went on to play in both Mexico and Japan.

“No Neck” shares his December 19th birthday with this former Yankee super scout, this recent Yankee closer and this former Yankee starting pitcher hopeful.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1974 NYY 43 56 53 5 6 0 0 0 3 1 1 10 .113 .127 .113 .240
1975 NYY 82 200 185 27 52 5 1 5 16 0 8 23 .281 .320 .400 .720
10 Yrs 842 2555 2373 284 640 106 11 33 173 34 126 211 .270 .310 .365 .675
CHW (6 yrs) 603 1918 1776 208 481 86 9 20 116 23 103 147 .271 .314 .363 .678
NYY (2 yrs) 125 256 238 32 58 5 1 5 19 1 9 33 .244 .278 .336 .614
CLE (1 yr) 104 371 350 43 101 15 1 8 38 9 14 29 .289 .316 .406 .722
HOU (1 yr) 10 10 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/23/2013.