The great Yankee bullpen of the late 1990’s had been disrupted by the departure of right-hander Jeff Nelson after the 2000 season. Brian Cashman had spent the first three weeks of June in 2001 trying to put the finishing touches on a trade with the Expos for Ugueth Urbina but the deal fell apart at the last second.
I remember salivating over the possible addition of Ugie when rumors of the proposed deal became public. Naturally, I was disappointed when my favorite team ended up with Jay Witasick in their bullpen instead.
At the time of his acquisition, Witasick had already been pitching in the big leagues for five seasons with three different teams. He also had never posted an ERA below 5.64 in any of them. But then suddenly, during the first half of the 2001 season, he was getting everybody out for the San Diego Padres. His fastball was suddenly faster, his control sharper and his ERA was a microscopic 1.86. Cashman was willing to ignore Witasick’s half decade of big league history and sent Yankee infield prospect D’Angelo Jimenez to San Diego in exchange for the six-foot-four-inch, right-handed native of Baltimore.
The newest Yankee then got shelled in his first appearance against Baltimore but settled down and pitched decent ball for New York through August. Then he got hot during the final month of the 2001 season, turning in ten consecutive appearances without surrendering an earned run, earning him a spot on Joe Torre’s postseason roster. That proved to be a bad decision.
He did not pitch well in his only ALDS appearance against Seattle. He pitched even worse in his only ALCS appearance against the Angels and then turned in one of the worst World Series pitching performances in the history of the Yankee franchise.
After Andy Pettitte gave up four runs during the first two innings of Game Six against Arizona, Torre replaced him with Witasick in the top of the third with two Diamondbacks on base. Witasick permitted those two runners to score and then proceeded to give up nine more runs of his own, making his World Series ERA 54.00. You know what’s even more remarkable? Naturally, George Steinbrenner had this guy jettisoned from New York after that Series and he ended up back in the World Series the very next season with San Francisco. How did he do? In two appearances for the Giants in that Fall Classic, he retired just one batter and posted a second consecutive World Series ERA of 54.00.
Witasick shares his birthday with this Yankee second baseman from the 1920’s, this former Cy Young Award winner, this outfielder known for his sweet swing and this one-time Yankee pitcher who also gave up Bucky Dent’s home run.
|OAK (6 yrs)||5||5||.500||5.26||91||3||25||0||0||1||116.1||127||78||68||22||73||115||1.719|
|SDP (4 yrs)||11||12||.478||3.96||132||11||43||0||0||4||206.2||199||108||91||26||101||206||1.452|
|KCR (2 yrs)||12||20||.375||5.71||54||42||4||3||1||0||247.2||300||173||157||38||121||169||1.700|
|TBD (1 yr)||0||0||6.61||20||0||5||0||0||0||16.1||17||13||12||1||18||8||2.143|
|COL (1 yr)||0||4||.000||2.52||32||0||7||0||0||0||35.2||27||11||10||2||12||40||1.093|
|SFG (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||2.37||44||0||9||0||0||0||68.1||58||19||18||3||21||54||1.156|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||0||1.000||4.69||32||0||8||0||0||0||40.1||47||27||21||5||18||53||1.612|
Jim York had been a pretty decent reliever for both the Royals and Astros, by the time the Yankees purchased the six foot three inch right-hander from Houston in January of 1976. Although he already had five-plus big league seasons under his belt at the time, New York assigned their “new York” to their triple A team in Syracuse where he started the season with a 6-1 record pitching out of the Chiefs’ bullpen. Even though his triple A ERA was a sky high 5.34, the Yankees called him up that July to serve as a middle reliever.
On July 20 1976, Billy Martin started Ken Holtzman in an afternoon game at Comiskey Park. The Yanks had acquired the veteran right-hander a month earlier in a blockbuster 10-player deal they did with the Orioles. Holtzman had struggled in his first few starts in pinstripes and that didn’t please Martin or Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. Based on what I’ve read about their relationships, if I saw these three guys getting on the same elevator, I’d wait for the next one. They hated each other.
So when Holtzman gave up seven runs in the first inning of that start against Chicago, you know both Martin and the Boss had to be fuming as Jim York was called in to pitch for his very first time in pinstripes. The native of Maywood, California was up to the task. He held the White Sox to just two runs over the next seven innings while the Yankee offense went on a roll. When the game was called on count of rain, with one out in the home half of the eighth inning, the Yankees were ahead 14-7 and York had earned his first and only Yankee victory.
He would make two more relief appearances for Martin that year, getting hit pretty hard in both. After that third appearance, the Yankees released him and he would never again pitch in a big league game. He shares his birthday with a former Yankee backup catcher, who also spent some time playing for Houston. Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankees who also played for the Astros:
1b Bob Watson
2b Andy Stankiewicz
3b Morgan Ensberg
ss Jose Vizcaino
c Cliff Johnson
of Jimmy Wynn
of Joe Pepitone
of Lance Berkman
sp Andy Pettitte
sp Roger Clemens
cl Mark Melancon
mgr Bill Virdon
Here ares Jim York’s Yankee and career stats:
|HOU (4 yrs)||9||11||.450||4.19||114||4||55||0||0||7||174.0||201||89||81||9||82||79||1.626|
|KCR (2 yrs)||6||6||.500||2.93||57||0||24||0||0||3||101.1||75||35||33||9||46||109||1.194|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||5.59||3||0||1||0||0||0||9.2||14||7||6||1||4||6||1.862|
Mr. and Mrs. Nix must have wanted their boys to remember to always be curious. They added unnecessary “Y’s” to both their first names. The older of the two boys is named Laynce, who’s been a big league outfielder since 2003 and currently plays for the Phillies. His younger brother, Jayson was a 2001 first round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, and has served as the Yankees’ jack-of-all-trades utility infielder for the past two seasons.
When the Yankees brought up the younger Nix in May of 2012 to take the place of Eduardo Nunez as the team’s primary utility infielder, I thought someone in the front office had made a big mistake. I agreed that Nunez’s defensive shortcomings warranted the demotion, but Nix had batted just .169 for the Blue Jays in 2011, making me think he’d be too big of an offensive liability to play very much. I underestimated him.
I’ve now nicknamed Nix “the Caulk Gun” because he’s done such a credible job filling in the huge cracks in both the Yankee’s offense and defense that have been caused by the un-Godly large number of injuries the team has suffered during the past two seasons. In 2012 he appeared in 74 games for New York, making 54 starts. He played all or parts of 29 games at third, 18 at short, 13 at second and 11 in left field, plus he DH’d in a couple more. Thus far in 2013, Nix had started 41 games at third base for New York and 33 more at short, while the Yankees waited for A-Rod and Derek Jeter to recover from offseason surgeries. Ironically, now that both of those superstars are finally ready to play in the same infield for the first time since those surgeries were performed, it is Nix who is on the DL with a broken hand. Since coming to the Bronx, he’s been more than adequate defensively in every position he’s played and he’s also hit right around .240 in pinstripes, which is 22 points above his career average. He’s also contributed some mighty timely hits along the way. About the only negative thing Nix has done since joining the team is hit the ball in batting practice last May that Mariano Rivera was attempting to catch when the fabled closer blew out his ACL.
The Caulk Gun was born on this date in Dallas in 1982. He made his big league debut with the Rockies in 2008 and in addition to the Blue Jays, he’s also played for the White Sox and Indians. Nix shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee third baseman.
|NYY (2 yrs)||161||505||444||56||106||22||1||7||42||19||38||133||.239||.307||.340||.647|
|CHW (2 yrs)||118||347||304||39||65||12||0||13||37||10||35||76||.214||.301||.382||.683|
|COL (1 yr)||22||65||56||2||7||2||0||0||2||1||7||17||.125||.234||.161||.395|
|CLE (1 yr)||78||306||282||29||66||14||0||13||29||1||13||75||.234||.283||.422||.705|
|TOR (1 yr)||46||151||136||15||23||5||1||4||16||4||12||42||.169||.245||.309||.554|