December 13 – Happy Birthday Jeff Robinson
The starting rotation for the 1990 New York Yankees pitched so poorly that I clearly remember thinking the team’s manager, Stump Merrill should seriously have considered letting his bullpen start games. The combined record of starters Tim Leary, Andy Hawkins, Dave LaPoint, Chuck Cary and Mike Witt was a woeful 32-59 that season. The team’s top five relievers on the other hand had a combined record of 26-20 plus 36 saves by closer Dave Righetti. In fact, one of those relievers, right-hander Lee Guetterman actually led the entire staff in wins that year with 11.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was a member of that 1990 Yankee bullpen. Jeff Robinson had made his big league debut as a starter with the San Francisco Giants in 1984, putting together a 7-15 record in 33 starts during his rookie season. He then spent most of the next season back in the Pacific Coast League and when he reemerged in San Francisco in 1986 he had been converted into a reliever. During the next five seasons he evolved into one of the NL’s better bullpen pitchers. His best year happened in 1988. By then, this native of Santa Ana, CA had been traded to Pittsburgh. He went 11-5 that season with 9 saves and an ERA of 3.03. In 1989, the Pirates converted Robinson back into a starter during the second half of that year and the results were pretty ugly. After winning his first three starts, the big right-hander lost 7 of his final 9 decisions and was traded to the Yankees that December, as part of the trade that sent catcher Don Slaught to Pittsburgh.
Robinson appeared in 54 games for New York in 1990. He pitched pretty well, going 3-6 with a 3.45 ERA and 57 strikeouts in the 57 innings he pitched that season. Merrill inserted him in the rotation in mid July and he won two of his first three starts impressively. In his fourth start he gave up 4 runs to Detroit in 5 and 1/3 innings and then was sent back to the bullpen, where he remained for the rest of the season.
That 1990 season was the final year of Robinson’s contract and he became a free agent. The Yankees showed little interest in retaining his services so he signed with the Angels and got his first and only million dollar payday. He had a bad 1993 season for California and then bounced back with the Cubs, going 4-3 in 1992 with a 3.00 ERA. Chicago cut him on the final day of the 1993 spring training season and Robinson’s nine-year big league career was over.
There was actually another Jeff Robinson who was a big league pitcher during the same time today’s Birthday Celebrant pitched in the big leagues. In fact, the other Robinson was pitching for the Orioles in 1990 when this Robinson was pitching in New York. The two never faced each other in a big league game. Just to confuse you a bit more, this other Jeff Robinson celebrates his birthday tomorrow, on December 14th. Meanwhile, the ex-Yankee Jeff Robinson shares his December 13th birthday with this former Yankee closer and this son of a former Yankee manager.