April 2011

April 18 – Happy Birthday Dennis Rasmussen

DennisRasmussen.jpgWhen long-time baseball fans think of the 1986 season, the New York team that made the biggest impression that year was the Mets. Thanks in no small part to Bill Buchner’s defensive deficiencies, that Davey Johnson led squad won the Amazin’s second-ever world championship. But the Buchner miscue would have never had the opportunity to happen if it were not for the performance of the Mets superb pitching staff during the 1986 regular season. With all five starters winning in double digits, a lefty and righty closer each saving over 20 games and a staff ERA of just 3.11, that year’s Met offense usually only needed to score just three runs to win most games. The result was an incredible 108-win season for the tenants of Shea Stadium.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, only one Big Apple baseball team had a richness of pitching that year. Over in the Bronx, the Yankees were battling the Red Sox for the AL East Pennant with a starting staff that included a quickly aging Ron Guidry, an ancient and disgruntled Joe Neikro and youngsters Doug Drabek and Bob Tewksbury. Not one of the four won more than nine games that year, so how on earth did that team amass 90 victories and at least give Boston a fight for the Pennant? The answer was the two DRs and l don’t mean doctors. Dave Righetti was the best closer in baseball that season, leading the AL with 46 saves while being asked to pitch more than an inning over thirty times. The other DR was Dennis Rasmussen. He went 18-6 as a starter, becoming the ace of a staff that was in desperate need of an ace to emerge.

The Yankees had acquired Rasmussen in the 1984 trade that sent All Star third baseman Graig Nettles to the Padres. Dennis was a huge left-hander, 6’7″ tall and 230 pounds. He went a combined 12-11 for New York during his first two seasons in pinstripes. In ’86 he started strong and stayed strong the entire season. He was 8-2 at the All Star break and then went 10-4 the second half. The Yankees would have been horrible that year without him. So what happened to Dennis? Remember, this was the mid eighties when the Yankee front office was making pitching decisions with a Ouija Board. They traded their big southpaw to the Reds in August of the following season, for starter Bill Gullickson. Rasmussen won four of his five decisions with Cincinnati and went 16-10 the following year. Gullickson went 4-2 for his new team but then migrated to Japan the following season. Rasmussen pitched in the big leagues until 1995, retiring with a 91-77 record. He was 39-24 as a Yankee. He was born on April 18, 1959 in LA.

Rasmussen shares his birthday with this former teammate from his Yankee daysthis long-ago Yankee outfielder. Today would have also been the 90th birthday of the original Yankee Stadium.

1984 NYY 9 6 .600 4.57 24 24 0 1 0 0 147.2 127 79 75 16 60 0 110 4 1.266
1985 NYY 3 5 .375 3.98 22 16 1 2 0 0 101.2 97 56 45 10 42 1 63 1 1.367
1986 NYY 18 6 .750 3.88 31 31 0 3 1 0 202.0 160 91 87 28 74 0 131 2 1.158
1987 NYY 9 7 .563 4.75 26 25 0 2 0 0 146.0 145 78 77 31 55 1 89 4 1.370
12 Yrs 91 77 .542 4.15 256 235 7 21 5 0 1460.2 1424 747 673 175 522 23 835 26 1.332
SDP (5 yrs) 41 42 .494 3.80 113 110 1 11 2 0 680.0 703 337 287 68 227 13 346 10 1.368
NYY (4 yrs) 39 24 .619 4.28 103 96 1 8 1 0 597.1 529 304 284 85 231 2 393 11 1.272
KCR (3 yrs) 5 4 .556 4.70 19 10 4 1 1 0 76.2 78 42 40 7 28 3 30 1 1.383
CIN (2 yrs) 6 7 .462 4.96 18 18 0 1 1 0 101.2 107 58 56 13 34 4 66 3 1.387
CHC (1 yr) 0 0 10.80 3 1 1 0 0 0 5.0 7 6 6 2 2 1 0 1 1.800
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2013.

April 17 – An Early Yankee Report Card for 2011

Hall of Famer, Cap Anson is the most famous baseball player to be born on April 17th. For all those professional wrestling fans out there, today is also the birthday of the legendary Rowdy Roddy Piper, but no current or former member of the New York Yankee family celebrates a birthday on this date. So instead, I’ll take this opportunity to share my opinions of the Yankees’ performance thus far this season.

After yesterday’s 5-2 win over a very good Rangers team, the Yankees’ record is 8-5 (compared to 10-3 at this same point last season) and they find themselves a game-and-a-half ahead of the Blue Jays in the AL East race. They’ve lost just one series thus far this season (to Boston), and as a team they are hitting .257, good for sixth place in the AL. Their pitchers have given up 4.54 runs per game, which lands them in tenth place in their league. Power and Mariano Rivera have been their strengths thus far and a failure of their leadoff hitters to get on base and Phil Hughes have hurt them the most.
Their best offensive player has been A-Rod followed closely by Cano. Russell Martin’s overall performance has been a huge boost for this team. Teixeira, Posada, Granderson, and Swisher are all swinging the bat well. The Captain is struggling but he is going to be OK. I don’t know if I can say the same thing about Brett Gardner, who has been awful. I like the bench this year. Both Jones and Chavez look like solid additions so far.
CC has pitched well but the pen has let him down. AJ is 3-0 but I still get nervous every time he takes the mound. Nova is not quite ready. I wish the team’s success was not so dependent on the aging arms of Garcia and Colon but at this point in the season, both have done well. If I were Cashman, I’d sell the farm for King Felix but I’m not Cashman. I do wish the Yankees would hire the Texas Ranger pitching scouts and development gurus. After watching both Joba and Phil Hughes for a few years now, it seems clear to me that New York could use lots of help finding and developing young arms.
As mentioned earlier, Rivera has been masterful. David Robertson has been real good too.
I don’t enjoy watching Soriano pitch because on the mound, he acts like he doesn’t enjoy pitching. Chamberlain has mostly pitched fine, but just as I do when AJ takes the mound, I get nervous when I see Joba enter a game.
You know Boston is going to get hot but I don’t see any other AL East team really challenging the Yankees, especially if they can make a deal for a top starter before or at the All Star break. If Rivera and A-Rod can stay healthy, this team should make the postseason. Winning there will require excellent starting pitching. If by that time the Yankees are still depending only on, Burnett, Garcia and Colon to provide it, I’ll be greatly surprised.

What was good about yesterday’s victory over the Rangers:
Freddy was ready! – Cano is playing really well right now – Teixeira is proving he can hit with power to the opposite field – Swisher had a great game – Joba did the job – Rivera is the best there ever will be! 

What was not so good:
The weather – Soriano did not pitch well – News that A-Rod had some lower back pain.

April 7 – Happy Birthday Oral Hildebrand

hildebrand.jpegThe 1939 season was an historic year for the New York Yankee franchise. It is probably best remembered as the season Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game playing streak and remarkable Yankee career both came to a tragic end. It was also the year that the team, under manager Joe McCarthy, captured a record fourth straight World Series crown. The 1939 Yankees were also the only team in franchise history to have seven pitchers achieve at least ten wins during the same regular season. Hall of Famer, Red Ruffing led the staff with 21 victories. Atley Donald was next with 13. Another Hall of Famer, Lefty Gomez won a dozen as did Bump Hadley and Monte Pearson. Reliever, Steve “Smokey” Sundra chipped in with 11. All six of these guys had also pitched for New York the year before. In ’39 they were joined by today’s Birthday Celebrant, Oral Hildebrand. The Yankees had picked the big right hander up in a trade with the St Louis Browns after winning the 1938 World Series.  At the time of the trade, Hildebrand was a 31-year-old eight-year veteran and one-time All Star, who had led the American League with six shutouts in 1933, while pitching for Cleveland. He became the sixth Yankee pitcher to achieve 15 starts during the 1939 season. He ended up winning 10 of his 14 decisions.

That Yankee staff was so deep with arms that Hildebrand was pulled in his only World Series start that year despite pitching four innings of shutout baseball against the Reds. Too much pitching was also part of the reason Oral’s Yankee career ended on a sour note. In 1940, the Yankees tried to assign him to their Kansas City farm team but he refused to report, claiming he had pitched well enough to earn a spot on the team’s big league roster. He ended up sitting out half the season rather than accept the demotion. The following year, the Yankees sold him to St. Paul in the American Association. He hung on for two more years in that league and then retired for good.

Like Hildebrand, this former Yankee pitcher was a well traveled veteran by the time he pitched in pinstripes and like old Oral, he joined a Yankee team that ended up winning the World Series. And like Hildebrand, he was born on April 7th as was this first manager in Yankee franchise history and this long-ago first baseman.

1939 NYY 10 4 .714 3.06 21 15 5 7 1 2 126.2 102 44 43 11 41 50 1.129
1940 NYY 1 1 .500 1.86 13 0 8 0 0 0 19.1 19 7 4 1 14 5 1.707
10 Yrs 83 78 .516 4.35 258 182 52 80 9 14 1430.2 1490 781 692 99 623 527 1.477
CLE (6 yrs) 56 46 .549 4.18 171 117 37 51 7 11 920.1 947 499 427 51 408 331 1.472
NYY (2 yrs) 11 5 .688 2.90 34 15 13 7 1 2 146.0 121 51 47 12 55 55 1.205
SLB (2 yrs) 16 27 .372 5.39 53 50 2 22 1 1 364.1 422 231 218 36 160 141 1.597
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.