November 6 – Happy Birthday Bubba Trammell
When the Yankees tried to make up for the retirement of Paul O’Neill by adding Rondell White to their outfield in 2002, I was one of many Yankee fans who sort of swallowed the hype that White would be gangbusters in pinstripes. He wasn’t. A disappointed Yankee front office then traded him to the Padres for Bubba Trammell. Right up until that trade was made I had been under the mistaken impression that Bubba was the son of the very talented former Tiger shortstop, Alan Trammell. That’s probably because Bubba had originally been drafted by the Tigers and made his big league debut in Motown, in 1997. He then spent two and a half seasons with Tampa Bay, before getting traded to the Mets at the 2000 All Star break. He hit just .232 for the Amazin’s but he made the postseason roster when that 2000 Met team qualified as the NL Wild Card. In that year’s World Series against the Yankees, Trammell got just five at bats but made the most out of them with his two hits and three RBIs. I still remember his clutch and painful two-run pinch hit single off of Andy Pettitte in Game 1 of that Fall Classic.
That December, the Mets traded Trammell to the Padres for reliever Donne Wall and Bubba put together his best big league season in 2001 for San Diego. He set career highs with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs and that effort got him a three-year, eight million dollar contract extension from the Padres. But when he slumped the following year, San Diego went shopping and approached the Yankees about White. The Yankees told the Padres they’d make the deal only if San Diego would also include their organization’s top pitching prospect at the time, a guy named Mark Phillips. They agreed and Trammell became a Yankee.
I thought he had an outside shot to join Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams as a starter in the 2003 Yankee outfield but he never really did. He was a right-handed hitter, which was a negative in Yankee Stadium and the Yankees had a plethora of outfielders on their roster that year. So many in fact that even though he went 4-4 during one of his first appearances in pinstripes, he didn’t get his next at bat until eight days later. It was clear that Bubba was not high up on Yankee manager Joe Torre’s outfielder depth chart. By late June he had started in just 16 of the team’s first 80 games, he was averaging an even .200 and had yet to hit his first Yankee home run. He never would.
Trammell was certainly unhappy with his Yankee situation, but he was also going through a very difficult breakup of his marriage. He simply stopped coming to games. That’s right. It happened on June 29, 2003. Torre had ironically penciled the Knoxville, TN native in to start that evening’s game only to learn that Trammell was not in the clubhouse. His agent contacted Yankee GM Brian Cashman and told him that Trammell was leaving town and requesting a trade. The Yankees countered by asking the commissioner’s office to void Trammell’s contract. Bubba’s agent would later claim he was suffering from clinical depression. I’m still not exactly sure how the contractual issues between the player and team were settled, but Trammell never again played in a big league game.
Author’sNote: Bubba Trammell was kind enough to comment on this post in an effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Yankees. You can read his comments below.