December 2012

December 29 – Happy Birthday Richie Sexson

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.

Sexson shares his December 29th birthday with this other former Yankee first baseman, this former Yankee pitcher, and this long-ago Yankee outfielder.

December 28 – Happy Birthday Bill Hall

hallFor 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.

December 27 – Happy Birthday David Aardsma

aardsma

When Joe Girardi made a pitching change in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Yankees trailing by five runs in a September 27th game against Tampa in 2012, there was only one thing especially noteworthy about the move. It marked the first time in two years and eight days that David Aardsma made an appearance in a big league ball game. The six foot three inch, right-handed native of Denver had been one of the American League’s most effective closers, saving 69 games for the Mariners during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, when he injured both his left hip and his right shoulder, requiring surgery on both joints.

The Yankees signed him during the 2012 preseason knowing he might never pitch an inning for them. New York GM, Brian Cashman called the signing and “R&D move,” At the time, Mariano Rivera was hinting around that 2012 might be his final season and the Yanks were looking at Aardsma as a possible set-up guy for the 2013 season, taking over either David Robertson’s or Raffie Soriano’s slot, depending upon which of the two succeeded the great Rivera as the new Yankee closer. Cashman gave Aardsma a $500,000 one year deal with incentives and an option for a second season.

In a twist of fate, it is Soriano who won’t be pitching in New York in 2013, after he exercised an option in his contract and became a free agent after a superb 2012 season as Yankee closer. Rivera than announced he will be returning in 2013 and the Yanks have exercised their option on Aardsma and are bringing him back as well. In about five or six months we will know if Cashman’s R&D investment returns any big league dividends. Aardsma’s situation brings back memories of Jon Lieber. The Yankees signed the former Cub and 20-game winner in 2003 knowing he would miss that entire year recovering from arm surgery. Lieber than won 14 games as a starter for New York in 2004. Will Aardsma be another Lieber? Yankee fans certainly hope so.

Aardsma shares his December 27th birthday with this former Yankee postseason hero and this great Yankee switch-hitter.