March 2013

March 17 – Happy Birthday Tim Lollar

TimLollar.jpgThis tall southpaw is one of the few members of the New York Yankees to be born on St Pattie’s Day. Lollar had already appeared in 13 games out of the bullpen when Manager Dick Howser gave the then 24-year-old rookie his first and only pinstripe start against the Tigers in the very last game of the 1980 season. Lollar responded by pitching six innings of one-run ball and getting the victory. Then on the last day of the 1981 spring training season, Lollar was included in a package of players sent to the Padres for outfielder Jerry Mumphrey. After a bad 2-8 initial season in San Diego, Lollar broke out with a 16-9 record in 1982 and a 3.13 ERA. That turned out to be his one and only great season. He finished his big league career as a Red Sox in 1986 with a career record of 47-52. Lollar shares his St. Patrick’s Day birthday with this very troubled former Yankee reliever.

Lollar is the only Yankee and only big league ballplayer to have been born in Poplar Bluff, MO. Plenty of Yankees however, have been born in the “Show Me” state. Here’s my top six Pinstriped Missourians of all time:

Yogi Berra – St Louis (in Hall of Fame)
Casey Stengel – Kansas City (in Hall of Fame)
Mel Stottlemyre – Hazelton
Elston Howard – St Louis
Clete Boyer – Cassville
David Cone – Kansas City

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1980 NYY 1 0 1.000 3.34 14 1 5 0 0 2 32.1 33 14 12 3 20 13 1.639
7 Yrs 47 52 .475 4.27 199 131 20 9 4 4 906.0 841 459 430 93 480 600 1.458
SDP (4 yrs) 36 42 .462 4.07 119 106 4 8 4 1 680.2 617 325 308 64 328 454 1.388
BOS (2 yrs) 7 5 .583 5.48 48 11 8 1 0 1 110.0 108 72 67 16 74 72 1.655
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 3.34 14 1 5 0 0 2 32.1 33 14 12 3 20 13 1.639
CHW (1 yr) 3 5 .375 4.66 18 13 3 0 0 0 83.0 83 48 43 10 58 61 1.699
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.

March 16 – Happy Birthday Curtis Granderson

granderson.jpg

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.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 NYY 136 528 466 76 115 17 7 24 67 12 53 116 .247 .324 .468 .792
2011 NYY 156 691 583 136 153 26 10 41 119 25 85 169 .262 .364 .552 .916
2012 NYY 160 684 596 102 138 18 4 43 106 10 75 195 .232 .319 .492 .811
2013 NYY 61 245 214 31 49 13 2 7 15 8 27 69 .229 .317 .407 .723
11 Yrs 1194 5073 4464 782 1161 202 80 218 609 123 517 1175 .260 .339 .488 .827
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.

March 15 – Happy Birthday Kevin Youklis

youklisIf 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.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder, this long-ago first baseman and this one-time Yankee third baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 28 118 105 12 23 7 0 2 8 0 8 31 .219 .305 .343 .648
10 Yrs 1061 4436 3749 653 1053 254 18 150 618 26 539 828 .281 .382 .478 .861
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/8/2014.