May 21 – Happy Birthday Chris Widger
I can remember thinking the 2002 New York Yankees were going to roll to the team’s fifth World Series championship in seven seasons. They finished 103-58 during the regular season and had Mussina, Clemens, Pettitte and Wells in their rotation. They were loaded offensively as well, with Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano and Bernie Williams all driving in 100 runs that year and every member of the starting lineup hitting double figures in home runs.
Yankee catcher, Jorge Posada also had a strong regular season, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 99 while catching 131 games. During those rare games when Posada wasn’t behind the plate for New York, the honor went to today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant.
The Yankees signed Chris Widger to a free agent contract in February of 2002. The Wilmington, Delaware native had broken into the big leagues in 1995 with Seattle and had been the Expos’s starting catcher from 1997 until he was traded back to the Mariners in August of 2000. Widger then hurt his shoulder and was forced to sit out the entire 2001 season.
Back then, Posada was hypersensitive about playing time. He had broken in with New York behind Joe Girardi and hated sitting the bench when Torre gave Girardi his share of time behind the plate. After letting Girardi sign with the Cubs after the 1999 season, the Yankee front-office decided to quell Posada’s anxiety by using only journeymen for his back-ups. That’s why they had signed both Widger and former Met reserve catcher Albert Castillo before the ’02 season.
It was Castillo who started the year behind Posada that April, but when he hit just .135 during the first half of the season, the Yankees decided to give Widger a shot. When he started his Yankee career with a six-game hitting streak that July, one had to wonder if Posada started getting edgy. Widger followed that up with a five game streak in August and finished the reason hitting .297. The Yankees kept him on the postseason roster but he saw no action in the team’s bitterly disappointing loss to the Angels in the first round of the playoffs.
He went to spring training in Tampa the following February and in an ungraceful move, the Yankees waited until the first week of April to release him. He did get to play that season with the Cardinals and remained in the big leagues until 2006. Widger shares his birthday with a former Yankee third baseman who was voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2014. This long-ago Yankee pitcher was also born on May 21.
|MON (4 yrs)||426||1484||1359||139||330||79||7||48||180||10||108||291||.243||.302||.417||.719|
|SEA (3 yrs)||41||73||67||4||12||0||0||2||3||0||4||18||.179||.233||.269||.502|
|CHW (2 yrs)||72||241||217||24||48||11||0||5||18||0||19||42||.221||.285||.341||.626|
|STL (1 yr)||44||112||102||9||24||9||0||0||14||0||6||20||.235||.279||.324||.603|
|NYY (1 yr)||21||68||64||4||19||5||0||0||5||0||2||9||.297||.338||.375||.713|
|BAL (1 yr)||9||20||17||0||2||0||0||0||2||0||2||4||.118||.211||.118||.328|