I don’t remember what my exact reaction was back in July of 2004, when I learned that the Yankees had traded Jose Contreras for this tall Mexican right hander, but I don’t think I was too disappointed. Loaiza was coming off a twenty-one win season with the White Sox in 2003 and was 9-5 thus far in 2004 when he became a Yankee. In addition to sending Contreras to the Windy City, New York also had to include lots of cash. Although Contreras had not been a total bust in New York, Steinbrenner had spent over $30 million to outbid the Red Sox for the Cuban defector and the Yankee front office predicted he was ready to win big at the big league level, right away. When that didn’t happen, disappointed Yankee fans started booing and Contreras’ $8.5 million annual salary became an even heavier albatross around New York’s neck. So the Yankees jumped at the chance to replace the Cuban with Loaiza who’s annual salary was $4 million at the time.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, they jumped a bit to soon and the White Sox ended up getting the best part of the deal by a country mile. Loaiza went just 1-2 in pinstripes the rest of that 2004 season and got absolutely hammered in most of his starts. New York released him that October. Contreras would go on to find his bearings at US Cellular Field. In 2005, Jose went 15-7 and then 3-1 in the postseason to help the White Sox capture their first World Series title in over 70 years. Loaiza actually rebounded to pitch well for the Nationals in 2005 and did OK with the A’s in 2006. He’s been out of the big leagues since 2008 and had a 126-114 lifetime record during his 14-season career with eight different big league clubs.
Another Yankee born on the last day of the year was this pitcher who lost the final game of the 1955 World series to Brooklyn.
|PIT (4 yrs)||27||28||.491||4.63||96||87||3||3||1||0||513.1||580||296||264||62||160||292||1.442|
|TEX (3 yrs)||17||17||.500||5.19||64||46||6||1||0||1||307.0||364||189||177||46||93||207||1.489|
|TOR (3 yrs)||25||28||.472||4.96||75||69||1||5||3||0||433.1||526||260||239||53||104||259||1.454|
|CHW (3 yrs)||30||14||.682||3.65||58||55||3||3||1||0||370.0||355||158||150||41||101||291||1.232|
|OAK (2 yrs)||12||9||.571||4.62||28||28||0||2||1||0||169.1||189||95||87||18||44||102||1.376|
|LAD (2 yrs)||2||6||.250||6.94||12||8||2||0||0||0||46.2||50||36||36||12||21||24||1.521|
|WSN (1 yr)||12||10||.545||3.77||34||34||0||0||0||0||217.0||227||93||91||18||55||173||1.300|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||2||.333||8.50||10||6||1||0||0||0||42.1||61||43||40||9||26||34||2.055|
Since no current or former Yankees are born on today’s date, I thought it would be an appropriate time to review the Pinstripe Birthday Blog’s five favorite moments of the Yankees’ 2012 season.
Number 1 – Rafael Soriano replacing Mariano Rivera as the Yankee Closer - In my humble opinion, Soriano deserves to be acknowledged as the Most Valuable Yankee of the 2012 season. Originally skipped over as Rivera’s replacement in favor of David Robertson, all this guy did was save 42 games in 46 chances from May 10th onward and shockingly make this impossible to believe statement true; “If Mariano Rivera was injured in May and couldn’t pitch another game this season, the Yankees would not miss him at all.”
Number 2 – Derek Jeter leads all of baseball in regular season hits with 216 - The Captain may not be immortal but a hits title and batting .316 as a 38-year-old cements his super hero status in my book. He has been a phenomenal Yankee and we are so lucky to have had this opportunity to watch him play the game at his level for so long.
Number 3 – Raul Ibanez ties Game 3 of the ALDS -He pinch hits for a struggling A-Rod in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS versus Baltimore and homers against the Major League saves leader Jim Johnson to tie the game.
Number 4 – Ibanez wins Game 3 of the ALDS – with a twelfth-inning walk-off home run off of Baltimore’s Brian Matusz.
Number 5 - Ibanez’s walk-off HR versus the Red Sox on October 2 – With the Yankees’ AL East lead over Baltimore down to just a half game, Raul Ibanez hit a walk-off home run against the Boston Red Sox reliever, Andrew Miller. The Yankees would win the next day and clinch the AL East division flag.
Honorable Mentions - Andy Pettitte’s return to the rotation; Curtis Granderson becoming the first Yankee outfielder since Babe Ruth to put together back-to-back 40-home run-100 RBI seasons; Robbie Cano going 24-43 (.558) during the last nine games of the 2012 regular season, driving in 15 runs and scoring 11 during that span to help New York hold-off the Orioles in the Division race.
Five members of the Yankee all-time roster passed away in 2012.
Bill “Moose” Skowron
Born: December 18, 1930
Died: April 27, 2012
Years with Yankees: 9 – 1954-1962
Born: June 16, 1923
Died: April 2, 2012
Years with Yankees: 1 – 1947
Born: May 17, 1952
Died: November 1, 2012
Years with Yankees: 2 – 1990-1991
It would have been nice to have had this big guy in pinstripes at the beginning of this past decade instead of toward the end of it. He hit 306 home runs during his dozen seasons in the big leagues. They included two 45-home run seasons with the Brewers and six years of driving in over 100 runs. But only one of those home runs and just six RBIs were produced after the Mariners released him in June of 2008 and the Yankees picked him up. I remember thinking it was a good acquisition at the time, hoping the then 33-year-older would be rejuvenated by the pinstripes and motivated to possibly play himself into contention to replace New York’s Jason Giambi, who’s contract was expiring that season. But Sexson, who was also in the final year of a $50 million deal he had signed with Seattle, never really got it going during his short stay in the Bronx, becoming just another move that didn’t work out during New York’s very disappointing 2008 season.
For the first four years of his big league career, Bill Hall was a utility infielder for the Milwaukee Brewers who, despite his propensity to swing at bad pitches showed decent offensive potential. The native of Tupelo, Mississippi got a break when JJ Hardy, Milwaukee’s starting shortstop was injured for much of the 2006 season. Manager Ned Yost gave the job to Hall and he responded with a 35 home run, 85 RBI, .899 OPS breakout year. That performance earned him a four year $24 million contract with the Brew Crew and since he signed it, Mr. Hall’s HR, RBI and OPS numbers have been on a steady downward trend.
By August of 2009, he was hitting just .201 for Milwaukee when he was traded to the Mariners for a minor league pitcher. The following January, Seattle sent him to Boston for first baseman Casey Kotchman. The Red Sox let him walk him after the 2010 season and the Astros took an expensive gamble by signing him to a $3 million one year deal. It proved to be a bad bet. By June of the 2011 season, Hall was hitting just .224 for Houston and was released. He finished that year with the Giants.
Then in February of 2012, Brian Cashman was on the hunt for a right-hand hitting DH and he gave Hall a minor league deal that included an invitation to make New York’s big league roster with a good spring training performance. Throughout the exhibition season, Hall insisted he was impressing the Yankee brass enough to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster but his .212 batting average and his 11 strikeouts in 33 at bats did not correspond well to that level of optimism. The Yanks released him at the end of the camp so he could try and catch on with another big league team and he did sign with Baltimore, three weeks later.
Hall’s name is being mentioned again this offseason as a possible Yankee spring-training invitee. He shares his birthday with a former Gold Glove third baseman, who unlike Hall, did see a bit of regular season action as a Yankee.