November 8 – Happy Birthday Henry Rodriguez
The Yankee front office was a busy place after New York won the 2000 World Series. For the most part, the team wasn’t looking to add new players as much as they were focusing on keeping the ones they already had, which was not a surprising priority for a franchise that had just won its fourth Fall Classic in the last five years. Mariano Rivera’s agent was pushing hard for a three year deal for “the Sandman” and Derek Jeter wanted the Yankees to commit to him as their starting shortstop for the next decade. The Yankees were also looking to avoid arbitration with catcher Jorge Posada. So amongst all these negotiations with their existing players, reporters covering the team were a bit surprised to learn the Yankees were also trying to sign outfielder Henry Rodriguez.
The 33-year-old Rodriguez had by then put together a rather impressive big league resume. He had come up with the Dodgers in 1992, but didn’t become an everyday player until he was traded to the Expos during the 1995 season. In his first full year north of the border, the Dominican native belted 36 home runs, drove in 103 and made his only All Star team. Expo broadcaster Rodger Broulette began shouting “Oh Henry” whenever Rodriguez homered and Montreal fans took to tossing Oh Henry candy bars on the field whenever Rodriguez went into one of his frequent home run trots. After his power numbers dropped off in 1996, he was traded to the Cubs and became Chicago’s cleanup hitter, batting behind the prodigious chemically and cork enhanced home run factory named Sammy Sosa. The power duo’s combined 91 home runs propelled the Cubbies into the 1998 postseason. Once again however, Rodriguez’s power numbers would shrink during his second year with a new team and once again, he would be traded before he could complete a third season. This time, the destination was Florida, where he played out the final year of his contract in 2000, becoming a free agent.
What made the Yankees interest in Rodriguez surprising was the fact that they already had a bunch of outfielders under contract. They included Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Shane Spencer, David Justice and Glenallen Hill. All these guys had comparable power to Rodriguez and all but Hill were better than he was defensively. Since Rodriguez hit from the left side, the Yankee front office was thinking he’d be a better fourth outfielder option than the righty-swinging Hill. Whatever the rationale, the Yankees gave him a guaranteed two year deal worth $1.5 million. He then failed to make the Yankee roster in spring training and began the ’01 season in Columbus. He was called up in May and saw action in five games, going hitless in eight plate appearances. That June, the Yankees released Rodriguez explaining at the time that they needed to replace him with an outfielder who could play center. That turned out to be Darren Bragg. “Oh Henry ” took his 1.5 million Yankee dollars and ended up back in Montreal, where he appeared in the last 20 games of his big league career in 2002.
The only other former Yankee born on this date is this Hall of Famer who managed the Yankees to a World Championship.