December 31 – Happy Birthday Esteban Loaiza
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.