After an MVP-level season in 2011, in which he led the AL in runs scored and RBIs, the Grandy Man slumped a bit in 2012. He averaged a career low .232 and struck out a franchise record 195 times. But the native of Blue Island, IL did reach the 100 run, 40 HR, 100 RBI plateaus for the second straight season in 2012 and he is the only hitter in either league who can claim that achievement. That’s why I was always a bit perplexed by the significant level of negative press this guy got during his days in the Bronx. Yes he disappeared in the 2012 postseason but the same can be said of just about every hitter in the Yankee lineup.
Since 2013 was the final year of his Yankee contract and he was becoming eligible for free agency during the same season as Robinson Cano, conventional wisdom said that Granderson needed to have a career year in 2013 to get re-signed by New York. Thanks to just two pitches, he never got the chance. An exhibition-game fastball from the Jays’ J.A. Happ broke his left wrist in spring training and delayed his 2013 regular season debut until mid May. Just nine days later, an inside pitch from the Rays’ Cesar Ramos broke his wrist and put him back on the DL until August and when he failed to get hot down the stretch, his career in the Bronx was effectively over. He was signed as a free agent by the Mets in December of 2013.
It was toward the end of the 2010 regular season that Granderson, who had been hitting horribly against left-handed pitching, spent some time working with Yankee hitting coach, Kevin Long to improve his swing against southpaws. Those practice sessions resulted in one of the most amazing hitting adjustments I’ve ever seen a big league hitter make and in 2011, Granderson, who has a lifetime average of just .229 against lefties, raised that mark to .279. Curtis also provided the Yankees with strong defense in the middle of the outfield and his enthusiasm for the game was an important ingredient both on the field and in the Yankee clubhouse.
The Yanks got Granderson in December, 2009 three-team trade in which they gave up Austin Jackson and Phil Coke to the Tigers and starting pitcher Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks. All three of those ex-Yankees have performed well for their new teams as has Granderson. I’d love to see him remain in pinstripes beyond 2013.
Granderson shares his May 16th birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher.
|DET (6 yrs)||674||2896||2579||435||702||125||57||102||299||67||274||618||.272||.344||.484||.828|
|NYY (4 yrs)||513||2148||1859||345||455||74||23||115||307||55||240||549||.245||.335||.495||.829|
|NYM (1 yr)||7||29||26||2||4||3||0||1||3||1||3||8||.154||.241||.385||.626|
If you love the Yankees, you hate, or at the very least dislike the Red Sox. But if you love the Yankees, you also find it easy to root for guys who at one time used to be Red Sox but now have landed in the Bronx and wear the pinstripes. If somebody told me in the late 1980s that I’d one day be praying Wade Boggs would drive in a runner from third or that Roger Clemens would strike out the sides, I’d have thought they were looney. Same goes for Johnny Damon fifteen years later. And more recently, it was Kevin Youklis.
When he was with Boston, I hated seeing “The Greek God of Walks” stride up to the plate in a close Red Sox/Yankee game. I knew at the very least he’d get into that completely weird batting stance of his and put together a very good at bat, forcing whatever Yankee pitcher happened to to be on the mound at the time to throw at least a dozen pitches. It seemed as if more often than not, those Youklis at bats would end up with him driving in a huge run or he would at least get on base and put himself in position to score that run. I did not like this guy at all and then in December of 2013, he signed as a free agent with the Yankees, forcing me to root for him too.
The problem with the signing was that it had been about four years since big Kevin had a good season. During his last two plus years in Boston, injuries and Bobby Valentine disrupted his game and he hit just .236 after getting traded to the White Sox in June of 2012. The only reason the Yankees came calling last winter and agreed to pay him $12 million was because A-Rod’s hip went bad. At the time of his signing, New York was hoping they’d only need him to start at the hot corner till Rodriguez recovered and returned at mid-year. With sluggers like Teixeira and Granderson still in the powerful Yankee lineup, they could even afford to absorb the mediocre bat Youklis had swung the previous few years. Joe Girardi just needed him to provide decent defense at third, use that great eye of his to earn frequent “walks” to first base and most importantly, stay healthy.
After his first regular season month in Pinstripes, Youklis was on the DL. By the middle of June both his season and his Yankee career were over, forcing Yankee fans to once again look forward to getting A-Rod back on the field sooner rather than later. In 2014, Youklis is playing in Japan.
|BOS (9 yrs)||953||3974||3352||594||961||239||17||133||564||26||494||728||.287||.388||.487||.875|
|NYY (1 yr)||28||118||105||12||23||7||0||2||8||0||8||31||.219||.305||.343||.648|
|CHW (1 yr)||80||344||292||47||69||8||1||15||46||0||37||69||.236||.346||.425||.771|
If former Yankee catching phee-nom, Jesus Montero had become the next great Yankee catcher, today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant would have had a lot to do with his success. That’s because Butch Wynegar served as Montero’s hitting and catching coach at Scranton/Wilkes Barre in 2010. Montero didn’t need much help at the plate but Wynegar’s task that season was to try and make the kid a better player behind it. At one time, Wynegar himself was being proclaimed as baseball’s next superstar catcher when he was drafted by the Twins in 1974. Two years later, when he was just 20-years-old, he was Minnesota’s starting catcher, made the AL All Star team and finished second behind Mark “The Bird” Fidrych in that season’s Rookie of the Year balloting. Wynegar was a switch hitter who like Montero, felt naturally comfortable hitting but uncomfortable catching. Ironically, Butch turned himself into one of baseball’s better defensive catchers but he never became the offensive force pundits had predicted he would be at the big league level.
Wynegar played for Minnesota from 1976 until May of 1982, when the Twins traded him to New York. The Yankees had given up hope that Rick Cerone was ever going to be the next Thurman Munson and their thinking was that Wynegar, who was only 26 at the time of the trade, still had his best years ahead of him. It looked like the Yankee brass had made the right decision after Butch hit .296 in 1983, his first full year in pinstripes and caught Dave Righetti’s unforgettable fourth-of-July no-hitter against Boston. But that turned out to be the best year he would have in New York. I remember he did do a great job handling a very unstable Yankee pitching staff during his tenure with the team but his bat never made much noise. By 1986, the Yankees decided they’s seen enough of Wynegar and shipped him to the Angels for next to nothing in return.
Wynegar shares his March 14th birthday with this former bad-tempered Yankee pitcher.
|MIN (7 yrs)||794||3188||2746||325||697||112||9||37||325||8||358||259||.254||.340||.342||.682|
|NYY (5 yrs)||449||1712||1437||161||372||58||5||27||168||2||251||149||.259||.368||.363||.730|
|CAL (2 yrs)||58||167||147||12||33||6||1||1||13||0||17||20||.224||.301||.299||.601|
George Steinbrenner was not the first Yankee owner of German extraction who liked to wheel and deal his way to a pennant. That honor belonged to millionaire brewer, Jacob Rupert, who purchased the New York AL franchise in 1914. He considered every day his baseball team made the headlines as free advertisement for his beer and since the teams that made it to the World Series got the most headlines, old Jake was determined to turn the Yankees into winners as quickly as possible.
His first big move in that direction was the acquisition of Baseball’s first famous slugger. Frank Baker’s nickname was “”Home Run””. He had led the American League in home runs four straight times as a Philadelphia Athletic from 1911 through 1914, during which he hit 11, 10, 12 and 9 round trippers, respectively. He then got into a contract dispute with Connie Mack and sat out the 1915 season. The Hall of Famer spent the last six of his thirteen-year big league career with New York and hit half of his 96 career round trippers as a Yankee. When he retired for good in 1922, he had helped New York make it to the franchise’s first two World Series.
|PHA (7 yrs)||899||3843||3436||573||1103||194||88||48||612||172||266||232||.321||.375||.471||.845|
|NYY (6 yrs)||676||2823||2548||314||735||121||15||48||375||63||207||114||.288||.347||.404||.751|
When Oklahoma-born Johnny Callison made his big league debut with the White Sox in 1958, he was being favorably compared to another native Oklahoman who at the time had already won two MVP awards playing center field for the Yankees. Callison could run, hit for average and power plus field and throw. The White Sox back then were loaded with pitching but desperate for some power hitters so after just two years in the minors and that cup-of-coffee preview the season before, Chicago made the twenty year-old Callison their 1959 Opening Day left-fielder. He fell flat on his face. When he was sent back to Indianapolis that June, his batting average was just .163 and his confidence was shattered.
Chicago went on to win the ’59 AL Pennant and then continued their quest for more power by trading for Roy Sievers and sending Callison to the Phillies for third baseman Gene Freese, who had just hit a career high 23 home runs. The Phillies had something that would be very good for Callison’s evolution into a great big league player and also something that would hinder it. The something good was manager Gene Mauch, who would become the young player’s mentor and biggest fan. He handled his new outfielder’s fragile ego pretty close to perfectly and by the third year of their relationship, Callison was an NL All Star. He hit .300 in 1962 and put together two straight 30-HR, 100-RBI seasons in 1964 and ’65.
He would hit 195 home runs during his ten seasons as a Phillie but he would have hit a heck of a lot more if it wasn’t for the that one thing in Philadelphia that proved detrimental to Callison’s power legacy, a 34 foot high wall in right field of Connie Mack Stadium. That wall converted many of Callison’s hardest hit balls from home runs in any other park to just triples and doubles in the City of brotherly love.
In 1966, Callison’s offensive stats began declining. Still one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, he would never again hit 20 home runs in a regular season or drive in even 70 runs. No one could explain why his hitting skills deserted him but by 1969, with Gene Mauch no longer the team’s skipper, the Phillies traded him to the Cubs for Oscar Gamble and pitcher Dick Selma. Though he played decently in Chicago for two seasons, Callison didn’t get along with Cubs’ skipper Leo Durocher and was not at all upset to be traded to the Yankees in January of 1972.
Now 33-years old, the three-time all star loved playing for Ralph Houk, who’s managing style reminded him of Gene Mauch’s. Callison started in right field for much of his first season in pinstripes, averaging .258 in 92 games of action, with 9 home runs but just 34 RBIs. He was hitting just .176 during his second season with New York, when he was given his outright release in August of 1973.
He sold cars and tended bar in his post baseball career and experienced a lot of health problems. He died from cancer in 2006 at the age of 67. This former NL Rookie of the Year, this other former NL Rookie of the Year, this former Yankee back-up first baseman and this one-time Yankee center-fielder were all also born on march 12th.
|PHI (10 yrs)||1432||5930||5306||774||1438||265||84||185||666||60||513||854||.271||.338||.457||.795|
|CHC (2 yrs)||250||876||767||92||187||35||3||27||106||9||96||118||.244||.329||.403||.732|
|NYY (2 yrs)||137||442||411||38||95||14||0||10||44||4||22||58||.231||.266||.338||.604|
|CHW (2 yrs)||67||189||168||22||37||7||2||4||24||1||19||34||.220||.302||.357||.659|
The Yankee franchise’s first season in New York was 1903. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the starting right fielder on that historic ball club. In fact, Herm McFarland was one of the very few members of the 1902 Baltimore Orioles’ team that accompanied the franchise in its move from B’town to the Big Apple. McFarland had been used as the fourth Oriole outfielder that year and in 61 games of action, he hit a very impressive .322 with a .488 slugging average.
His real name was Hermas Walter McFarland and he was born in Des Moines, Iowa on March 11, 1870. Just five feet six inches tall, he gained some fame in 1897 when he walloped 13 home runs while playing for the Indianapolis Indians. He had a couple of brief tenures with two of the original National League teams in the 1890’s but his real big league rookie year took place in 1901, with the American League’s original Chicago White Sox franchise. He hit .275 as a starting outfielder for Chicago during that team’s inaugural season and he hit the first ever grand slam home run in that franchise’s history. He also stole 33 bases and was a key cog on a White Sox team that won the very first AL Pennant.
His manager with Chicago was Clark Griffith. During the team’s 1902 spring training camp, Griffith took the players on a ten mile run. The trail they followed for that jaunt included a railroad trestle that spanned a deep ravine. McFarland and a few other White Sox were trapped in the middle of it by an approaching train and forced to grab hold of railroad ties and hang over the side of the trestle until it passed overhead. They then held on until their teammates could get to them and pull them back up to safety.
One week into the 1902 season, McFarland was hitting just .185 when his contract was sold to the Orioles. One year later he joined the starting Highlander outfield that also included Lefty Davis and Hall-of-Famer Wee Willie Keeler. McFarland hit .243 in 103 games for New York during the 1903 season. He also led that year’s squad in home runs with 5. By the way, guess who managed that 1903 Highlander team? Clark Griffith. Perhaps the reason McFarland got the Highlander starting outfield spot had something to do with Griffith feeling guilty he had almost killed the guy by forcing him to run over that railroad bridge two years earlier.
In 1904, McFarland returned to Baltimore to play for the Orioles, who were by then playing in the Eastern League. He never played another big league game.
|NYY (2 yrs)||164||705||604||95||166||35||15||8||81||23||82||72||.275||.368||.422||.790|
|CHW (2 yrs)||139||598||500||88||135||21||9||4||63||34||77||51||.270||.377||.372||.749|
|LOU (1 yr)||30||120||110||11||21||4||1||1||12||4||9||14||.191||.252||.273||.525|
|CIN (1 yr)||19||73||64||10||18||1||3||0||11||3||7||1||.281||.361||.391||.752|
Clay Rapada signed with the Yankees as a free agent just as New York’s 2012 spring training camp was opening. His career up to that point had been mediocre. He had gone un-drafted out of college (Virginia State University) and then signed with the Cubs in 2002. He didn’t make his big league debut until five seasons later, in July of 2007. Six weeks after that debut he was traded to the Tigers. His real rookie season was 2008, when he appeared in 25 games for Detroit and went 3-0. He spent most of the following year back in the minors and in December of 2009 he was traded to Texas. He appeared in ten games for the Rangers in 2010 and actually made their postseason roster. It was during the 2010 ALCS, when Texas defeated the Yankees that I first remember seeing the six foot five inch southpaw pitch with his extreme side-arm motion. Texas released him the following January and he was signed by Baltimore, where he appeared in 32 games for Buck Showalter and spent lots of time also pitching for the O’s Norfolk farm team.
So the Clay Rapada the Yankees signed in February of 2012 was by then 30-years-old and had spent at least part of each of the previous ten seasons in the minors, with four different organizations. He had started his professional career as a pitcher with a traditional overhand delivery, who would occasionally drop down to sidearm if an opposing hitter kept fouling off his pitches. A coach in the Cubs’ system convinced him that converting full-time to the submariner style would improve his chances of getting regular work in a big league team’s bullpen. Rapada made the change, modeling his new motion at first off of Dennis Eckersley.
One month after the Yankees signed Rapada, they acquired his mirror image, Cody Eppley off of waivers from Texas. Eppley was a right-handed sidearmer who had pitched with Rapada when both were in the Texas farm system. Together, this submarining duo would form the heart of Joe Girardi’s middle-inning relief corps. Rapada appeared in 70 games for New York during his first season in Pinstripes and Eppley appeared in 59. Rapada’s ERA was 2.82 and Eppley’s 3.33. Neither had ever pitched better and they credited their mutual success in part on being able to turn to each other for advice. The challenge most sidearmers have is that their teams’ pitching coaches are always retired hurlers who threw with traditional overhand motions. A traditional coach like the Yankees’ Larry Rothschild, can therefore not be of much help to Eppley or Rapada with their mechanics if their pitches stop doing what they are supposed to do. So having each other to serve in that role just might have been the secret to their success during their initial season together in the Bronx.
As I write this post, Rapada is currently trying to recover from a case of bursitis in his pitching shoulder. One interesting sidenote on this native of Portsmouth, Virginia. He will begin the 2013 regular season having never lost a decision in the big leagues. Through 2012, he has a perfect 8-0 record.
Rapada shares his March 9th birthday with this Yankee who hit one of the most famous home runs in franchise history, this former AL MVP, this former Yankee outfielder and one of the great base-stealers in MLB history.
|DET (3 yrs)||3||0||1.000||5.00||32||0||6||0||0||0||27.0||26||16||15||3||18||21||1.630|
|TEX (1 yr)||0||0||4.00||13||0||2||0||0||0||9.0||6||4||4||2||7||5||1.444|
|CLE (1 yr)||0||0||0.00||4||0||2||0||0||0||2.0||1||0||0||0||2||0||1.500|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||0||0.00||1||0||0||0||0||0||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.000|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||0||1.000||2.82||70||0||7||0||0||0||38.1||29||14||12||2||17||38||1.200|
|BAL (1 yr)||2||0||1.000||6.06||32||0||4||0||0||0||16.1||14||11||11||3||7||18||1.286|
When Dallas Green took over as Yankee manager after the 1988 season he told New York’s front office that the Yankee pitching staff had grown ancient and he wanted some good young arms added to the roster. Bob Quinn, the Yankee GM complied by sending slugger Jack Clark to San Diego for a promising young starting pitcher named Jimmy Jones and a hard-throwing right-handed reliever named Lance McCullers. Mission accomplished, right?
Nope. Ten months later, New York was about to disappear from the AL East Division race, Jones was pitching in Columbus, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had an ERA over five and Green, who knew he was about to be fired, was probably wishing he still had Clark who was well on his way to a 26 HR, 94 RBI first-year performance with the Padres.
McCullers was a native of Tampa, Florida who had been a second-round draft pick of the Phillies in 1982. The Padres got him in a multi-player deal in 1984 and brought him right up to the big leagues in ’85. He had pitched impressively during his four years in San Diego for some pretty mediocre Padre teams and since he was only 25-years-old when the Yankees got him, it really did look like he’d be a valuable asset in New York’s bullpen for a long time to come.
But according to Green, McCullers still hadn’t learned how to pitch. The Yankee skipper told the media his new reliever depended to heavily on his fastball and unless he started throwing his slider and change up more, Green insisted his reliever would never be a successful big league pitcher. McCullers did at least outlast Green as a Yankee.
He went 4-3 during his one and only full season in pinstripes. He also earned 3 saves and had an ERA of 4.57. Things were definitely looking better for McCullers as he approached his second year in the Big Apple. Green had been replaced by Bucky Dent as Yankee skipper and during the 1989 offseason, the Yankees signed Lance to a new contract and gave him a $170,000 raise. But almost as soon as the 1990 regular season began, McCullers name was being bandied about in all kinds of trade rumors. Those rumors became true in early June, when the reliever was traded to the Tigers for catcher Matt Nokes. He would end that year pitching in the minors and after one more five-game stint with the Texas Rangers in 1992, McCullers big league career was over at the age of 28. His son Lance was the Houston Astros first round pick in the 2012 MLB amateur draft.
It certainly was not one of the better trades in Yankee franchise history. Goose Gossage had just bolted the Bronx Zoo via free agency and George Steinbrenner’s front-office minions were desperately seeking candidates to replace him. As is usually the case when teams are desperate, New York made a deal they would later regret. Mike Armstrong was a tall, right-hander from Long Island who had pitched well enough for the University of Miami to become the Cincinnati Reds’ first round pick (24th overall) in the 1974 MLB amateur draft. Five years later, while still in the minors, he was traded to the Padres for an outfielder named Paul O’Neill. After a couple of unimpressive big league trials with the Padres, Armstrong was sold to the Royals, where he quickly evolved into an effective member of the supporting staff of Kansas City’s All Star closer, Dan Quisenberry. He had his best season in 1983, when he went 10-7 in 53 appearances, with 3 saves and an ERA of 3.86.
Those numbers caught the attention of the Yankees and they wanted Armstrong badly enough that they agreed to give the Royals their young slugging prospect, Steve Balboni, in exchange. The trade was completed in December of 1983 and a few short weeks later, Armstrong reported to his first Yankee spring training camp with a sore pitching arm. As it turned out, the Royals had actually told the New York front office that Armstrong had a tender elbow before finalizing the deal, but the now Goose-less Yankees shrugged off the news. They would quickly regret their lack of follow-up.
Turned out that in addition to a glove, his spikes and a ball, Armstrong needed a steady diet of cortisone injections and anti-inflammatory pills in order to take the mound. His right elbow was so bad that the Yankees actually asked the MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to look into the possibility that the Royals had knowingly dealt them damaged goods. Kuhn never issued a ruling on the case and Armstrong didn’t make his Yankee debut until the middle of June of the 1984 season. He didn’t pitch badly. He went 3-2 during the second half, appearing in 36 games, with 1 save and a 3.48 ERA. But during the next two years he would only pitch in a total of 16 big league games before being released by New York. Fortunately for the Yankees they did not need to depend on Armstrong to replace Gossage because Dave Righetti proved to be more than up for that challenge. Unfortunately for New York, the guy they gave up for Armstrong would hit 117 home runs during his first four seasons with the Royals. Armstrong for Balboni turned out to be a terrible trade for the Yankees.
Armstrong shares his March 7th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder.
|NYY (3 yrs)||3||3||.500||4.06||52||1||27||0||0||1||77.2||69||35||35||14||33||62||1.313|
|KCR (2 yrs)||15||12||.556||3.51||110||0||58||0||0||9||215.1||174||98||84||20||88||127||1.217|
|SDP (2 yrs)||0||2||.000||5.81||21||0||7||0||0||0||26.1||30||19||17||4||24||23||2.051|
|CLE (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||8.68||14||0||2||0||0||1||18.2||27||18||18||4||10||9||1.982|
I was a Marcus Thames fan after his first-ever at bat in pinstripes. That came in June of 2002, when the 25-year-old rookie came to the plate in the original Yankee Stadium in the third inning of an intra-league game against the Diamondbacks and smacked a two-run home run off of their then un-hittable ace, Randy Johnson. At that wonderful moment, I never thought it would be eight years before he’d hit another one for New York, but you can’t blame Marcus. After appearing in just 7 games that first season, the Yankees sent him back down to Columbus and then one year later, traded him to Texas for Ruben Sierra. The Rangers released him after the 2003 season and Thames finally found a more permanent big league home in MoTown. The Tigers signed him as a free agent and he became an important part of their team as a DH and fourth outfielder. He hit 99 home runs for Detroit during his five season there.
The Yankees entered the 2010 season with mostly young low-paid farm-system products and bargain-basement-type outfielders Randy Winn and Thames on the team’s bench. I’ve spent more money at Subway than it cost the Steinbrenner’s for that collection of subs. Thames turned out to be the best of the bunch and when DH Nick Johnson got hurt and was lost for the year, Thames became the team’s primary DH and one of New York’s best late-inning hitters. He carried the team in the dog-days of late August when he went on a tear at the plate that saw him hit six home runs and drive in 11 runs in one six game stretch. He then cooled down a bit in September. After playing well against the Twins in the 2010 ALDS, he along with most of the Yankees’ offense disappeared in the ALCS against Texas. It was probably Thames failure to hit in that Rangers series that convinced New York not to re-sign him and Marcus signed on with Don Mattingly’s Dodgers in 2011.
Marcus shares his birthday with this Yankee back-up catcher who has the best name in all of baseball.
|DET (6 yrs)||485||1612||1463||216||358||72||3||99||255||3||128||411||.245||.307||.501||.808|
|NYY (2 yrs)||89||250||225||24||64||8||0||13||35||0||19||65||.284||.344||.493||.837|
|LAD (1 yr)||36||70||66||4||13||1||1||2||7||0||4||16||.197||.243||.333||.576|
|TEX (1 yr)||30||84||73||12||15||2||0||1||4||0||8||18||.205||.298||.274||.572|