January 29 – Happy Birthday Mike Aldrete
Bob 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.