September 29 – Happy Birthday Jake Westbrook
Once again, researching for this blog has taught me something I did not know (or had at least forgotten) about my favorite baseball team. Every Yankee fan over the age of 20 remembers Hideki Irabu. He was the Japanese pitcher the Yankees signed with great fanfare back in 1997, who went a disappointing 29-20 during his two-plus seasons in Pinstripes and who was infamously labeled a “fat toad” by impatient Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner. “The Boss” ordered Irabu traded after the 1999 season and Brian Cashman obliged by sending him to the Montreal Expos that December for three young pitching prospects. All three of those prospects were assigned to Yankee minor league teams in 2000 and two of them, a right-hander and a southpaw are still pitching in the big leagues today and have compiled over 220 career victories thus far between themselves. Only ten of those victories, however, belong to the Yankees.
The southpaw New York got in that Irabu deal was Ted Lilly and the right-hander is today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Originally assigned to the Yank’s triple A team, then located in Columbus, Westbrook was called up to the parent club in June of 2000 and lost his only two career starts in pinstripes. Later that same month, the Yankees sent Westbrook, outfielder Ricky Ledee and a pitching prospect named Zach Day to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for slugger, David Justice. Westbrook spent most of the next decade starting for the Indians and then signed a free agent contract with the St Louis Cardinals in November of 2010. In 2011, his 12-9 regular season record helped St. Louis make the postseason and he ended up getting and his first World Series victory (against Texas in Game 6) and his first championship ring that year. He’s currently 13-11 for this year’s Cardinals who are in the thick of the 2012 NL Wild Card chase.
As of today, Westbrook’s 35th birthday, he has 98 victories. Lilly, currently a Dodger and on the DL, has won 130 big league games. Both are doing much much better than poor Irabu, who hung himself in Los Angeles in July of 2011.