February 2014

February 23 – Happy Birthday Rondell White

I personally remember three instances when Yankee television broadcast crews actively promoted the acquisition of a player on a competing team. The first was Scott Brosius. It seemed as if whenever New York played the A’s during the 1997 season, somebody in the New York booth would make it a point of commenting how Brosius, then Oakland’s starting third baseman, would be a perfect fit on the Yankee team. The next time I remember it happening was that same season when the Royals were in town and somebody in the booth talking about how Kansas City ‘s switch-hitting DH, Chili Davis would be a great addition to the Yankee lineup. The last time I remember the booth chatting about who would be a great addition for the Yankees, the subject was a Chicago Cub and former Expo outfielder, Rondell White.

I’m sure there have been several other instances when somebody with a Yankee microphone made statements about acquiring players from other teams but either I wasn’t listening or the conversation centered on a superstar that every team coveted at the time. Brosius, Davis and White were all considered good solid players in their day but not superstars. That’s why it is so easy for me to remember thinking the booth chatter about each was odd. It almost seemed as if somebody in New York’s front office asked the game announcers to talk about each player as a way of making the team’s interest in them public but I couldn’t think of any real good reasons why they would want to do so.

In any event, the announcers were spot on about Brosius. The Yankees got him in a trade for Kenny Rogers after the ’97 season. The TV guys were also right about Davis. After a year of bad health, he became a key cog as the full-time DH of New York’s 1999 World Championship team. Unfortunately, their good feelings about Rondell White as a Yankee proved to be unfounded. The Milledgeville, GA native was signed as a free agent after the 2001 season and the hope was that he would fill the huge outfield hole left by the retiring Paul O’Neill. That didn’t happen. His batting average, slugging percentage and on base percentage fell of the cliff as soon as he put on the pinstripes and after just one season in the Yankee outfield, he was traded off to the Padres. White played well just about everywhere else, ending a fifteen year big league career in 2007 with a .284 lifetime batting average and 198 home runs. He was born on February 23, 1972.

This great Yankee catcher and this one-time Yankee outfielder also celebrate birthdays on today’s date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP
2002 NYY 126 494 455 59 109 21 0 14 62 1 25 86 .240 .288
15 Yrs 1474 5852 5357 756 1519 296 34 198 768 94 360 925 .284 .336
MON (8 yrs) 742 3021 2756 420 808 165 23 101 384 88 200 494 .293 .348
MIN (2 yrs) 137 474 446 40 102 21 1 11 58 1 17 73 .229 .266
CHC (2 yrs) 114 431 390 50 121 21 1 19 57 1 31 68 .310 .374
DET (2 yrs) 218 898 822 125 238 45 5 31 120 2 56 125 .290 .342
KCR (1 yr) 22 85 75 13 26 6 1 4 21 0 6 8 .347 .400
SDP (1 yr) 115 449 413 49 115 17 3 18 66 1 25 71 .278 .330
NYY (1 yr) 126 494 455 59 109 21 0 14 62 1 25 86 .240 .288
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/1/2014.

February 22 – Happy Birthday Kelly Johnson

johnsonNo one complained more than me during the 2013 preseason about the Yankees’ penny pinching approach to developing the team’s 25-man Opening Day roster. You won’t hear me complaining this year. Prince Hal and company have put an additional $400 million Yankee bucks back into their product thus far this winter.

The Bronx Bombers have upgraded their catching position, their rotation and their outfield. The recent signing of former A’s closer Andrew Bailey was Brian Cashman’s way of putting in place some insurance for a stretch run just in case David Robertson proves unready to master the Closer’s role in New York’s bullpen.

The only area of the team that the Yanks can be accused of “downgrading” is the infield. Granted, if Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter can both bounce back from serious injuries, Yankee fans will be pleased with the results. But the efforts to replace Robbie Cano with Brian Roberts and A-Rod with today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant were definitely done on the cheap.

Johnson will not make us forget what A-Rod was in his juiced-up prime but, then again, who could. He’s an eight-year veteran who came up with the Braves in 2005 and later put up some good home run numbers for the Diamondbacks. The Yanks are hoping their Stadium’s short right field porch provides as big a boost to Johnson’s power stats as he got from the thin desert air during his top dinger-production days in Arizona. If that does happen, Joe Girardi should be able to live with Johnson’s limited defensive experience and skills as a third baseman

Born in Austin, Texas on this date in 1982, Johnson was a first round draft pick of Atlanta’s in 2000. He spent last year with the Rays and the year before that with the Blue Jays so he’s got lots of experience against AL East pitchers. Both Scott Sizemore and the perennial Yankee infield question mark, Eduardo Nunez will challenge Johnson for the hot corner job this spring but conventional wisdom says the spot is his to lose.  He shares his birthday with this former 20-game-winning pitcherthis one-time Yankee closer,  this former Yankee phee-nom and this grandfather of a number 1 Yankee draft pick.

Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
8 Yrs 1051 4174 3664 540 926 191 38 124 442 79 439 928 .253 .335 .427 .762
ATL (4 yrs) 490 1902 1661 270 439 97 22 45 206 29 203 359 .264 .346 .430 .777
ARI (2 yrs) 268 1152 1015 152 256 59 10 44 120 26 123 280 .252 .335 .460 .795
TOR (2 yrs) 175 713 622 77 145 23 4 19 64 17 78 190 .233 .323 .375 .697
TBR (1 yr) 118 407 366 41 86 12 2 16 52 7 35 99 .235 .305 .410 .715
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/1/2014.

February 21 – Happy Birthday Joel Skinner

Joel Skinner came to the Yankees in a trade with the White Sox during the 1986 season. New York was hoping he could take over the starting catcher slot from a disappointing Butch Wynegar, who was hitting in the low .200s at the time. Skinner did OK for Manager Lou Piniella’s team the rest of that season but not good enough to stop New York from re-acquiring Rick Cerone in 1988 and then Don Slaught from Texas in 1989. Skinner remained in pinstripes both years as the backup catcher, hitting just .214 as a Yankee. He was born in La Jolla, CA on this date in 1961. After his playing days were through in 1991, Skinner got into coaching and managing and in 2002, he was hired to replace Charley Manuel as the Indians’ field boss for the second half of that season. Skinner shares his February 21st birthday with this starting left-fielder for the 1990 Yankees and the first 34th round draft pick in Yankee history.

Can anybody out there tell me what the following Yankee lineup has in common?

C   Joel Skinner

Here are Joel Skinner’s Yankee regular season and MLB career stats:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1986 NYY 54 174 166 6 43 4 0 1 17 0 7 40 .259 .287 .301 .589
1987 NYY 64 154 139 9 19 4 0 3 14 0 8 46 .137 .187 .230 .417
1988 NYY 88 272 251 23 57 15 0 4 23 0 14 72 .227 .267 .335 .602
9 Yrs 564 1551 1441 119 329 62 3 17 136 3 80 387 .228 .269 .311 .580
CHW (4 yrs) 131 311 284 32 65 11 2 5 29 2 21 76 .229 .282 .335 .617
CLE (3 yrs) 227 640 601 49 145 28 1 4 53 1 30 153 .241 .279 .311 .590
NYY (3 yrs) 206 600 556 38 119 23 0 8 54 0 29 158 .214 .253 .299 .551
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/28/2014.

February 20 – Happy Birthday Brian McCann

mccannYankee teams don’t win World Championships without good solid starting catchers. I’ve been a Bronx Bomber fan for over 50 years and during that time its been names like Berra, Howard, Munson, Girardi and Posada, who have been behind the plate when my favorite team won a ring. Most of these guys could hit, most of them were strong defensively as well and each and everyone of them were tough, strong leaders who weren’t afraid to take control of their pitching staffs.

Russell Martin was that type of player for the Yankees. Certainly not a superstar but most definitely a leader behind the plate and a guy who craved at bats with the game on the line. He had no fear and the Yankees could have got to a World Series with him as their starting catcher, which is why it distressed me, when they let him walk away to Pittsburgh last offseason and decided they’d try instead to go cheap by staffing such a critical position with Cervelli, Stewart, and eventually Austin Romine. It was that single front office decision that convinced me that this current Yankee brain trust actually believed they could be clever money-ball practitioners when I knew they were not. More importantly, I knew that trying to win with less money took away the franchise’s biggest advantage over its competition, which is HAVING MORE MONEY to spend!

We all saw the results. The offensive performance of the Yankee catching staff was as bad as I knew it would be last season and the co-catcher model hurt the stability of the pitching staff. There were also more empty seats in Yankee Stadium and fewer viewers watching those commercials on the YES Network.

Brian McCann had to be signed by New York, this offseason. He’s exactly the kind of catcher the Yankees must have to get back to Fall Ball. He’s also the signal I needed to see that this Yankee brain trust fully realized the error of their penny-pinching ways last winter. I’m once again officially excited about Opening Day!

McCann shares his birthday with Old Reliablethis former Yankee outfielder, this one-time Yankee catcher and this one-time Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
9 Yrs 1105 4354 3863 464 1070 227 2 176 661 23 414 630 .277 .350 .473 .823
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/28/2014.

February 19 – Happy Birthday Alvaro Espinosa


The 1989 season was a bad one for Yankee fans. That year’s team became the first New York club in fifteen seasons to lose more regular season games than it won, (74-87.) It was a season of transition for my favorite baseball team but unfortunately, that transition was moving in the wrong direction. That year would be the last time Don Mattingly would average .300 in a full regular season in pinstripes. It was the first time in almost a decade that Dave Winfield wasn’t a Yankee outfielder and the last season Ricky Henderson was. It was the first year of Ron Guidry’s retirement and the final year George Steinbrenner would officially have dictatorial control over all organizational and personnel moves before being suspended for his role in the Howie Spira scandal. The Yankee managers that season were Dallas Green and then Bucky Dent, both of whom were fired, clearing the way for the Stump Merrill era to begin one season later or as I like to refer to it as “the era of being completely Stumped.”

It appeared as if the only good thing happening in Yankee Stadium in 1989 was the introduction of a flashy Venezuelan-born starting shortstop. But alas, even that turned out to be an illusion. When I think of Alvaro Espinosa during his Yankee playing days I’m reminded of a line that comedian Billy Crystal used on Saturday Night Live whenever he impersonated the actor, Fernando Lamas, with one slight modification. “It is better to look good than to play good.”

At first appearance to Yankee fans, Alvaro Espinosa looked like a classic Major League shortstop. He hit .282 his first full year as a Yankee and played shortstop with a flair that often thrilled us.  As time and Yankee seasons wore on however and the team’s losses mounted, it became clear that Espinosa’s defensive skills, though not horrible were far from great and his propensity to swing at terrible pitches on 3-0 counts and his lack of run production made him a liability in the Yankee lineup. When Buck Showalter replaced Stump Merrill in 1992, Espinosa’s three-year reign as New York’s starting shortstop was officially over. There was of course Espinosa’s great gold necklace. I could be wrong but I do believe it was Alvaro who first introduced bling to big league baseball in the Bronx. In any event, happy 52nd birthday to Mr Espinosa and may he enjoy many more. He shares his birthday with this Yankee catcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1988 NYY 3 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
1989 NYY 146 544 503 51 142 23 1 0 41 3 14 60 .282 .301 .332 .633
1990 NYY 150 472 438 31 98 12 2 2 20 1 16 54 .224 .258 .274 .532
1991 NYY 148 509 480 51 123 23 2 5 33 4 16 57 .256 .282 .344 .626
12 Yrs 942 2659 2478 252 630 105 9 22 201 13 76 324 .254 .279 .331 .610
CLE (4 yrs) 344 802 749 88 189 36 2 11 74 4 22 103 .252 .276 .350 .626
NYY (4 yrs) 447 1528 1424 133 363 58 5 7 94 8 46 171 .255 .281 .317 .598
MIN (3 yrs) 70 107 99 9 24 3 0 0 10 0 2 19 .242 .265 .273 .537
NYM (1 yr) 48 144 134 19 41 7 2 4 16 0 4 19 .306 .324 .478 .801
SEA (1 yr) 33 78 72 3 13 1 0 0 7 1 2 12 .181 .213 .194 .408
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2014.