November 3 – Happy Birthday Paul Quantrill
When the Yankees signed free agent Paul Quantrill to a two-year, six-million dollar deal on December 17, 2003, it looked like the perfect Christmas present for Joe Torre. The Yankee skipper had developed a reputation for overusing his bullpen but in Quantrill, he appeared to have baseball’s version of Iron Arm. During the previous three seasons, the skinny right-hander had led the AL with 80, 86 and 89 appearances respectively. Torre made sure the poor guy would lead the league for a fourth straight time by calling on him to pitch 86 times in 2004. Quantrill was superb early in the season, but by August, after getting warmed up more times than Betty Crocker’s oven, he started to break down. On July 31st his ERA was 3.26. It was 3.83 one month later and by the end of the regular season it had ballooned to 4.72. I can clearly remember sitting in front of my TV watching Yankee games during the latter part of that 2004 season and actually switching channels or turning the darn set off when Quantrill came into a game. Quantrill wasn’t the only Yankee with a tired arm that season. New York’s eighth inning setup specialist, Flash Gordon had pitched in 80 games himself.
Quantrill had enough left to pitch well in two appearances against the Twins in that year’s ALDS, even getting the win in the extra inning Game 2 of that series. Then disaster struck the Yankees and their worn out reliever in that year’s ALCS. New York blew a 3-0 series lead to the hated Red Sox and Quantrill pitched poorly in three of the four Yankee losses. His lowest moment took place after Mo Rivera had come within one out of a series sweep and allowed Boston to score the tying run in the ninth inning of Game 4. I remember Torre inserting Quantrill to pitch the bottom half of the twelfth like it was yesterday. I absolutely knew the Red Sox would score the winning run against him. Sure enough, he immediately gave up a single to Manny Ramirez and then that back-breaking, game-winning home run by David Ortiz.