June 25 – Happy Birthday Mike Stanley

One of the key reasons the Yankees were not successful reaching the postseason for a dozen seasons after 1981 was their lack of a strong all-around catcher during that time span. From Dickey-to-Berra-to Howard-to-Munson, those Yankee teams that regularly reached fall ball had catchers who could hit well, field well, and lead their pitching staffs. When the Yankees signed Mike Stanley as a free agent before the 1992 season, I thought we had the makings of the next great Yankee receiver. He did well enough offensively in pinstripes but the Yankee front-office ended up replacing him with a better defensive catcher.

Stanley started his Yankee career as a backup for Matt Nokes. He took over as starter in 1993 and had a great offensive season, hitting 26 home runs, driving in 84 and averaging .305. He continued to hit well in 1994 as the Yankees became the best team in the League under Buck Showalter. When the disastrous strike ended that season, it also marked the peaking of the Yankee careers of both Showalter and Stanley. Even though New York made the postseason in 1995, Stanley’s batting average took a 30-point dip and after the Yankees got knocked out of the playoffs by the Mariners in the first round, Yankee fans could feel the Steinbrenner-induced winds of change blowing. Showalter was fired and replaced by Joe Torre. They let Mattingly retire and Stanley was not re-signed. The Yankees traded for Tino Martinez and Joe Girardi instead.

Update: The above post was originally written in 2009. Stanley did rejoin the Yankees during the latter half of the 1997 season. At the time, Yankee GM Bob Watson had been looking for a right-handed bat to replace the one lost when Cecil Fielder broke his thumb just before the All Star break that year. He traded coveted Yankee pitching prospect Tony Armas Jr to the Red Sox to bring Stanley’s opposite field power back for a second go-round in the Bronx. At the time the deal was made, Watson told the press he intended to re-sign the returning player to a longer term deal, but even though Stanley hit .287 in the 28 games he played down the stretch of that ’97 regular season and a .388 on-base-percentage, the Yankees let him walk when the year ended.

During the 1995 season, Stanley became the 13th Yankee in history to homer three times in the same regular season game. Here’s a list of the 20 Bronx Bombers who have accomplished this feat during their pinstriped careers: Tony Lazzeri (1927, ’36) Lou Gehrig (1927, ’29, ’30, ’32*) Babe Ruth (1930) Ben Chapman (1932) Joe DiMaggio (1937) Bill Dickey (1939) Charley Keller (1940) Johnny Mize (1950) Mickey Mantle (1955) Tom Tresh (1965) Bobby Murcer (1970, ’73) Cliff Johnson (1977) Mike Stanley (1995) Paul O’Neill (1995) Darryl Strawberry (1996) Tino Martinez (1997) Tony Clark (2004) Alex Rodriguez (2005) Mark Teixeira (2010) Curtis Granderson (2012)
*Gehrig went on to hit a fourth home run in the 1932 game.

Stanley shares his June 25th birthday with this former Yankee long reliever.

Here are Stanley’s Yankee and career playing stats:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1992 NYY 68 207 173 24 43 7 0 8 27 0 33 45 .249 .372 .428 .800
1993 NYY 130 491 423 70 129 17 1 26 84 1 57 85 .305 .389 .534 .923
1994 NYY 82 333 290 54 87 20 0 17 57 0 39 56 .300 .384 .545 .929
1995 NYY 118 470 399 63 107 29 1 18 83 1 57 106 .268 .360 .481 .841
1997 NYY 28 103 87 16 25 8 0 3 12 0 15 22 .287 .388 .483 .871
15 Yrs 1467 4989 4222 625 1138 220 7 187 702 13 652 929 .270 .370 .458 .827
TEX (6 yrs) 452 1164 987 114 248 43 4 16 120 6 147 215 .251 .348 .352 .699
BOS (5 yrs) 459 1703 1425 224 391 76 1 73 254 3 234 293 .274 .381 .483 .864
NYY (5 yrs) 426 1604 1372 227 391 81 2 72 263 2 201 314 .285 .377 .504 .882
OAK (1 yr) 32 113 97 11 26 7 0 4 18 0 14 21 .268 .363 .464 .827
TOR (1 yr) 98 405 341 49 82 13 0 22 47 2 56 86 .240 .353 .472 .825
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/25/2013.

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