June 3 – Happy Birthday Travis Hafner

travis-hafnerThere was no doubt in my mind that the Yanks were going to re-sign Raul Ibanez to once again serve as their left-handed DH for the 2013 season. After all, the guy had just hit four of the most clutch home runs in franchise history last fall and even though he turned 40-years-old yesterday, he had proven he was in great physical condition by handling an almost full-time outfielder’s slot after Brett Gardner went down with an injury last spring. So I was certain GM Brian Cashman would sit down with Ibanez sometime over the winter and work out a new one year deal. I was dead wrong.

Evidently, Cashman did not think those four huge home runs warranted a $1.6 million dollar raise for Ibanez because that’s what he got when he signed with the Mariners in December. Five weeks later, the Yankees signed Travis Hafner to a one-year deal for $2 million, which was $750,000 less than the Mariners agreed to pay Ibanez.

I had always liked Hafner’s bat during the 11 seasons he played in Cleveland, but what I didn’t like about his signing was the fact that he was strictly a DH. Coming into the 2013 season, Hafner had played in a total of 1,043 big league games and served as the DH in all but just 71 of them. On top of that, even though all he did was swing a bat and run when he hit the ball, this native of Jamestown, North Dakota had become injury prone. He averaged just 86 games played per year during his last five seasons with the Indians.

If I’d finished this post about Hafner just one month ago, its tone would have most certainly been different. That’s because “Pronk” got off to a great start with New York and by the end of April he was hitting .319 with six home runs and 19 RBIs. With high-paid Yankee hitters like A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira and Granderson on the DL at the start of the season, Hafner’s hot bat was crucial to the team’s surprising early success. But now, as the 2013 season enters its third month, both Hafner and the Yankees have cooled off considerably. He’s striking out more and hit just two home runs during the month of May. A couple of weeks ago, he underwent an MRI that showed tendinitis was again flaring up in his shoulder. Hopefully, as more injured Yankees return to action, this guy will get both the days off and protection in the lineup he probably needs to optimize his value to the team. Like thousands of anxious Yankee fans, I got my fingers crossed hoping the Hafner honeymoon in the Bronx isn’t over and like Ibanez, this guy will have the opportunity to pay some postseason dividends.

Pronk turns 36-years-old today. He was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the later rounds of the 1996 draft. He had some huge years in the minors but the Rangers hardly seemed to notice because they didn’t bring him up for a look-see until 2002 and then that December, they traded him to Cleveland.

Hafner shares his birthday with this former Yankee catcher.

2013 NYY 44 159 135 21 33 5 1 8 25 2 22 42 .244 .358 .474 .833
12 Yrs 1145 4642 3931 609 1087 247 13 209 719 11 588 939 .277 .380 .505 .886
CLE (10 yrs) 1078 4413 3734 582 1039 238 11 200 688 9 558 882 .278 .382 .509 .890
TEX (1 yr) 23 70 62 6 15 4 1 1 6 0 8 15 .242 .329 .387 .716
NYY (1 yr) 44 159 135 21 33 5 1 8 25 2 22 42 .244 .358 .474 .833
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/3/2013.

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