January 2013

January 31 – Happy Birthday Melky Mesa

mesaMy first thought when I saw Melky Mesa head back to third base after missing the bag when he attempted to score the winning run in his very first appearance as a Yankee was that he would never get a second appearance in pinstripes. Today’s birthday boy had been sent in to run for third baseman Eric Chavez, who had singled to lead off the bottom of the 14th inning in a huge game versus the A’s on September 22nd of the 2012 season. At the time, New York held a precarious on-game lead over the pesky Baltimore Orioles in the AL East Division race and every was critical. Fortunately for him and the Yankees, Mesa finally scored the winning run with two outs on an error by Oakland first baseman, Brandon Moss and the Yankees went on to win the AL East race too. Nine days later, Mesa got his first big league hit and first RBI in a pinch-hitting role against the Red Sox.

There’s an outside chance that Yankee fans will be seeing a lot more of Melky in 2013. New York needs to replace Andruw Jones as the team’s right-handed DH and Mesa will be given a shot to win that role in spring training. Since signing with the Yankees as an amateur free agent, this native Dominican has spent the past seven seasons in New York’s farm system. Although he’s averaged just .244 during that time he’s got decent power, great speed on the base paths and is a solid defensive outfielder. He hit 23 home runs playing for both Trenton and Scranton in 2012.

Mesa shares his January 31st birthday with this former Yankee reliever, this long-ago outfielder and this one-time Yankee shortstop.

2012 NYY 3 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
2013 NYY 5 14 13 2 5 2 0 0 1 0 1 2 .385 .429 .538 .967
2 Yrs 8 16 15 2 6 2 0 0 2 0 1 2 .400 .438 .533 .971
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/10/2014.

January 30 – Happy Birthday Joe Kerrigan

UnknownOne of the last things George Steinbrenner did as the active owner of the New York Yankees to upset me was harping and complaining about Mel Stottlemyre’s coaching style just enough to cause one of my all-time favorite Yankees to resign as the team’s pitching coach. I always thought Stottlemyre was one of the best pitching mentors in the game and his work with the Mets’ staffs of the mid eighties and the Yankee pitchers in the nineties produced outstanding results. Nevertheless, the Boss had a long history of blaming his team’s coaches for the players’ failures and Stottlemyre became part of that history after the 2005 season. The Yankees had hired today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant as a scout that same season.

Joe Kerrigan had an unspectacular three-plus season big-league career as a reliever during the late 1970s and than became the Expos bullpen coach in 1983. After four seasons in that position he became a pitching coach in the Expos farm system and after completing that three-year apprenticeship, he was promoted to the same position with the parent club. He did great work with that Montreal pitching staff for the next few seasons and is credited with helping a young Pedro Martinez become a premier pitcher.

In 1997, Kerrigan was hired as the Red Sox pitching coach and one year later, he was reunited with Martinez, when Boston traded Carl Pavano to the Expos for the ace right-hander. During the next three seasons the two helped Boston’s staff evolve into one of the best in the game and in August of 2001, Kerrigan was rewarded for his good work, when Red Sox GM Dan Duquette hired him as the team’s new Manager and gave him a multi-year contract. In a shocking development, Kerrigan lost the job after his team finished the 2001 season with a lackluster 17-26 record. Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner and John Henry had purchased the franchise during the offseason and wanted to move in a different direction, so they lowered the boom on the just-hired skipper and replaced him with Grady Little.

So when Brian Cashman found himself without a pitching coach after Stottlemyre quit in 2005, the Yankee GM immediately considered his new scout Kerrigan, as the leading candidate to replace him. Instead, the Yanks hired Ron Guidry to fill the slot but did make Kerrigan the  Yankee’s new bullpen coach. Gator was counting on Kerrigan to help him communicate with the ornery Yankee ace, Randy Johnson. Steinbrenner had blamed Stottlemyre for not being able to get Johnson pitching better during his first season in pinstripes and the departing coach agreed that he had a tough time communicating with the multiple Cy Young Award winner. Kerrigan had spent three seasons working with the Big Unit back in the late eighties when Johnson was an Expos’ minor league prospect and the two had a good relationship.

Instead of improving however, Johnson got worse in 2006 and his ERA ballooned to a career-worst 5.00. Both Guidry and Kerrigan were replaced after the 2007 season, as was Torre. Kerrigan became the Pirates’ pitching coach the following year. In February of 2009, Torre’s book, “The Yankee Years” was released. In it he cited the hiring of Kerrigan as one of the examples of Brian Cashman trying to undercut his authority as Yankee Manager. It seems Cashman really wanted Kerrigan and not Guidry to get that pitching coach job in 2006, while Torre insisted on Guidry. According to the former skipper, Cashman made it a point to criticize Guidry’s methods during his entire tenure in the job. Joe Kerrigan had landed himself right in the middle of the famous Bronx Zoo.

Kerrigan shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever.

January 29 – Happy Birthday Mike Aldrete

aldreteBob Watson was a very talented Yankee GM who hated working for George Steinbrenner. But before the Boss’s constant undercutting and criticism sent his blood pressure through the roof, forcing him to quit, the guy known as “Bull” made some outstanding moves for New York. Take the 1996 Yankee roster as an example. It was the beleaguered Yankee GM who engineered the trade that brought Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the Bronx from Seattle. It was Watson who got Joe Girardi in a deal with the Cubs. Watson’s the guy who signed Mariano Duncan as a free agent that year and it was Duncan who led New York in batting average during the 1996 regular season. Watson got Cecil Fielder from Detroit and he also picked up Charlie Hayes, David Weathers and the indomitable infielder, Luis Sojo. If you followed the Yankees during that 1996 season and you look at the names of the players mentioned above, you realize just how much Watson’s general managing contributed to that year’s World Chamionship. Oh, and I almost forgot, in June of 1996 Watson also acquired today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.

At the time, the Yankees were looking for another left-handed bat to add to their bench. Watson zeroed in on Mike Aldrete, a ten-year big-league veteran who was then playing for the Angels as a fourth outfielder and hitting just .150. But he was a career .260-ish hitter, who could play the corner outfield positions and first base. Aldrete had come up with the Giants in 1986. His best year offensively was his sophomore season, when he hit .325 and started in the Giants’ outfield. The Yankees would be his seventh and last big league team.

New York manager, Joe Torre used Aldrete efficiently, getting him into 32 games during the second half of the ’96 season during which he got 77 at bats. Though he hit just .250 in pinstripes, he created some timely offense for the Bronx Bombers. In late June he had a key hit and RBI to help beat the second place Orioles. On July 1st, his home run off Roger Clemens was the winning run against Boston and four days later he drove in four runs to lead the Yankees to a rout of the Brewers. Tendinitis in Aldrete’s wrist benched him for pretty much the complete month of August but he was reactivated in September and played well enough to make the Yankees postseason roster as a left-handed pinch-hitter. He went hitless in his two pinch-hitting appearances in the World Series against the Braves, but he did win his first and only ring.

The Yankees released him after the Series and his big league career was over. Watson lasted as Yankee GM until February of 1978, when he resigned and recommended his assistant GM, Brian Cashman, as his replacement. Before doing so, he advised Cashman not to take the job.

Aldrete shares his birthday with this former Yankee second baseman and and this former Yankee set-up man.

1996 NYY 32 77 68 11 17 5 0 3 12 0 9 15 .250 .338 .456 .794
10 Yrs 930 2498 2147 277 565 104 9 41 271 19 314 381 .263 .356 .377 .733
SFG (3 yrs) 349 1111 962 121 274 51 5 14 126 13 132 149 .285 .370 .392 .762
OAK (3 yrs) 231 640 558 81 145 26 1 18 72 3 73 103 .260 .344 .407 .751
CAL (2 yrs) 49 71 64 6 12 1 0 3 11 0 5 12 .188 .239 .344 .583
MON (2 yrs) 172 359 297 34 69 15 2 2 30 2 56 61 .232 .355 .316 .671
SDP (1 yr) 12 18 15 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 4 .000 .167 .000 .167
CLE (1 yr) 85 222 183 22 48 6 1 1 19 1 36 37 .262 .380 .322 .702
NYY (1 yr) 32 77 68 11 17 5 0 3 12 0 9 15 .250 .338 .456 .794
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2014.