Results tagged ‘ designated hitter ’

July 2 – Happy Birthday Jose Canseco

The first and only time I attended a game at Fenway Park was a July 17, 1996 night game between the Red Sox and the Yankees. As I settled into the most incredibly uncomfortable seat I had ever been in, the Yankees were surprisingly running away with the AL East Pennant, holding a nine game lead at the time over the Orioles and a full fifteen-game margin over third place Boston. Unfortunately, Kenny Rogers was on the mound for New York and he was facing Boston’s Tom Flash Gordon, who was in his last year as a starter. As usual when he wore the pinstripes, Rogers was not very effective that evening. He was knocked out in the fifth inning after loading the bases, with Boston leading 3-2. Joe Torre brought in Jim Wickman and the right-hander promptly gave up a bases-clearing double. When Wickman put two more Red Sox on base in the sixth, Torre replaced him with big Jeff Nelson.

The first batter Nelson faced was Jose Canseco, who had began his big league career as one of the Oakland A “Bash Brothers” with an end-of-the-season call-up in September of 1985. The following year he hit 33 home runs and was named AL Rookie of the Year. Two seasons later he led the league with 42 home runs and 124 RBIs plus he hit .307 and stole 40 bases becoming the first member ever of MLB’s 40-40 club. He also won the AL MVP that year. During those early years of his career, he was considered one of baseball’s greatest rising stars but as we later learned, that rise was being fueled with human rocket fuel.

Canseco’s string of injuries and DL stays began in 1989. By ’92, the A’s decided he was expendable and they traded him to Texas for Jeff Russell, Ruben Sierra, Mike Witt and money. He spent large portions of his two plus years with the Rangers on the DL. Boston then signed him as a free agent after the 1995 season and again he couldn’t seem to stay healthy. That’s what confused me about Canseco’s later admission of steroid use. I always thought steroids helped athletes not just train harder but also overcome injuries quicker. Jose must have been getting some bad drugs, no?

In any event, Canseco was not on the DL that night I visited Fenway and he had worked the count to 3-2 against the curve-balling Nelson. I will never forget the results of the next pitch. Canseco hit it on a line toward the green monster. I swear, as it passed my eye level, I could hear the ball swoosh. It was still rising when it went over the Green Monster. It remains to this day the hardest hit baseball I have ever seen in my lifetime. To put it in perspective, think back to all those famous bombs Mark McGuire hit during the All Star Home Run Derby contest held at Fenway in 1999. Canseco’s cannon shot was hit harder and travelled further than every one of them. Canseco’s three run blast made the score 9-2 and half of the Fenway crowd got up and left, thinking the game was over. We were able to move to much more comfortable seats behind home plate and as soon as we did the Yankees mounted a comeback. In fact, New York scored nine runs over the last three innings to take the lead. But John Wetteland failed to hold it and Boston ended up with a 12-11 victory in what turned out to be one of the most exciting baseball games I’ve ever seen live.

That home run turned out to be Canseco’s last one of the 1996 season and his final one as a Red Sox. A few weeks later he was again on the DL. The final five years of his career were spent playing for five different teams. They included the Yankees, in 2000. He had been placed on waivers by Tampa Bay that year and New York had picked him up. He appeared in 37 games as a Yankee and hit six of his seventeen-year career total of 462 home runs while wearing the pinstripes. He has since become one of the most controversial ex-big-leaguers of all time.

Update: The above post was originally written in 2010. It has become pretty clear since Canseco’s playing days ended, that his life has turned into a publicity hunting freak show. His long baseball career has become pretty much an afterthought in the memory of most fans who when they think of Jose now, see him testifying in front of that congressional committee hearing in 2005. But like it or not, Canseco changed the course of baseball history. As baseball fans around the world marveled at the almost superhuman achievements of modern day ballplayers like McGuire and Bonds, Jose pulled back the curtain on their games and showed us all that a critical component of their magic came from a needle or from an ingredient in a rubbing cream. Jim Bouton did it with amazing skill forty years earlier and Canseco’s story-telling paled by comparison, but both men simply told the truth about how those who played the game lived their lives while doing it.

Canseco shares his July 2nd birthday with this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2000 NYY 37 137 111 16 27 3 0 6 19 0 23 37 .243 .365 .432 .797
17 Yrs 1887 8129 7057 1186 1877 340 14 462 1407 200 906 1942 .266 .353 .515 .867
OAK (9 yrs) 1058 4531 3970 662 1048 186 8 254 793 135 469 1096 .264 .344 .507 .851
TEX (3 yrs) 193 849 733 126 197 37 3 45 151 22 100 200 .269 .363 .512 .874
TBD (2 yrs) 174 766 648 106 176 33 1 43 125 5 99 200 .272 .373 .525 .898
BOS (2 yrs) 198 882 756 132 225 47 2 52 163 7 105 175 .298 .389 .571 .960
NYY (1 yr) 37 137 111 16 27 3 0 6 19 0 23 37 .243 .365 .432 .797
CHW (1 yr) 76 306 256 46 66 8 0 16 49 2 45 75 .258 .366 .477 .843
TOR (1 yr) 151 658 583 98 138 26 0 46 107 29 65 159 .237 .318 .518 .836
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/2/2013.

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.

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 at the end of his first month as a Yankee, 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 by his third month in pinstripes, both Hafner and the Yankees cooled off considerably. He was striking out more and his power disappeared. He underwent an MRI that showed tendinitis was again flaring up in his shoulder, but because the Yankees were in the midst of an unbelievable epidemic of position player injuries, Girardi kept writing Hafner’s name in the lineup. By the end of the season, his average was down to .202 and his Yankee days were over.

Pronk turns 37-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.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 82 299 262 31 53 8 1 12 37 2 32 79 .202 .301 .378 .679
12 Yrs 1183 4782 4058 619 1107 250 13 213 731 11 598 976 .273 .376 .498 .874
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) 82 299 262 31 53 8 1 12 37 2 32 79 .202 .301 .378 .679
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2014.

May 12 – Happy Birthday Felipe Alou

falouIf you ask any native of the Dominican Republic currently playing big league ball which of their countrymen did the most to pave the way for them to play in the majors, their answer would be Felipe Alou. Actually, they might say Felipe Rojas. (His Dad’s last name was Rojas and his Mom’s was Alou.) Ozzie Virgil was the first Dominican to play in the MLB, when the New York Giants brought him up in 1956 but Virgil had migrated to the US as a youth and attended high school in New York City.  Alou became the second native of his country (and the first to have lived there all his life) to play big league ball the following year as a member of that same Giants organization.

He was born in the Dominican Republic on May 12, 1935 to extremely poor parents. Felipe was an outstanding athlete and an outstanding student, who had been accepted in the pre-med program at the University of Santo Domingo. But he also played on his country’s baseball team that competed in 1955 Pan American Game. When he led the Dominican Republic to a victory over the US in the finals of those Games the MLB scouts came calling and he signed with the Giants.

It took awhile because the Giant organization in the late fifties was loaded with outstanding black and latino prospects, but Alou finally became a starter in San Franciso’s outfield in the  early sixties. His younger brothers Matty and Jesus later joined him there and the three made history when they became the first three siblings to ever play in one team’s outfield at the same time, in September of 1963.

That was also Alou’s last year with the Giants. After the ’63 season, he was traded to Milwaukee in a seven-player deal. Felipe played for the Braves for the next six seasons, including 1966, when the team relocated to Atlanta and he put together his best year in the big leagues, with 31 HRs, a .327 batting average and leading the league in hits (218) and runs (122.)

He was traded to the A’s in 1970. By then he was 35-years-old and his best playing days were behind him. During the first week of his second season with Oakland, he was traded to the Yankees for pitchers Rob Gardner and Ron Klimkowski, where he was reunited with his brother Matty to become the first set of siblings to wear the pinstripes together since Bobby and Billy Shantz had done so in 1960.

Ralph Houk, the Yankee skipper at the time of the trade loved Felipe and put him in the lineup as a first baseman or outfielder 131 times during his first season in the Bronx. Alou responded with a .289 batting average and 69 RBIs that year. He continued to play a lot for Houk the following year, but his run production took a nose dive. Still, when the Yankees 1973 spring training season came around, Felipe was hammering the ball and Houk was telling the press that the elder Alou would share the brand new DH position with Ron Blomberg and also play a lot of first base. But on September 6th of that season, with his average hovering in the .230’s, Alou was put on waivers and picked up by the Expos. On that same day, the Yankees sold his brother Matty to the Cardinals and the Yankees were suddenly Alou-less.

Felipe Alou would retire as a player the following year and became a minor league manager in the Expos organization. He would later become a highly successful big league skipper of the Expos and also manage the Giants. His son Moises became a big league all star outfielder who played for his Dad with both Montreal and the Giants.

This Hall-of-Fame Yankee catcher and this former Yankee Murderer’s Row third baseman and this WWII era Yankee pitcher were also born on May 12th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1971 NYY 131 501 461 52 133 20 6 8 69 5 32 24 .289 .334 .410 .744
1972 NYY 120 351 324 33 90 18 1 6 37 1 22 27 .278 .326 .395 .721
1973 NYY 93 293 280 25 66 12 0 4 27 0 9 25 .236 .256 .321 .577
17 Yrs 2082 7907 7339 985 2101 359 49 206 852 107 423 706 .286 .328 .433 .761
G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
SFG (6 yrs) 719 2478 2292 337 655 119 19 85 325 51 138 308 .286 .328 .466 .794
ATL (6 yrs) 841 3604 3348 464 989 163 20 94 335 40 188 284 .295 .338 .440 .778
NYY (3 yrs) 344 1145 1065 110 289 50 7 18 133 6 63 76 .271 .311 .382 .694
OAK (2 yrs) 156 627 583 70 158 26 3 8 55 10 32 32 .271 .307 .367 .674
MON (1 yr) 19 50 48 4 10 1 0 1 4 0 2 4 .208 .240 .292 .532
MIL (1 yr) 3 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/12/2013.

April 23 – Happy Birthday Andruw Jones


If you’ve been a Yankee fan for at least eighteen years, used to be that whenever you heard the name “Andruw Jones”, a bad memory crept into your head. Your mind shifted back to that opening game of the 1996 World Series in old Yankee Stadium on a Sunday afternoon in October. Your Yankees had finally made it back to the Promised Land after a decade and a half of roaming through the regular season desert, but every Yankee hater you knew was telling you that New York had no chance to beat the powerful Atlanta Braves. You would laugh off their taunts but secretly you were worried. The experts always said that the best starting pitching won in the playoffs and nobody had better starters than the Braves’ big three of Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine. Plus, Bobby Cox had some studs in that ’96 lineup. Chipper Jones and Ryan Klesko both had thirty-homer seasons and Fred McGriff, Marquis Grissom and catcher Javy Lopez had each hit over twenty of their own. So when the Game One Yankee starter, a young left-hander named Andy Pettitte was able to retire the first three Atlanta hitters in the top of the first inning you breathed a sigh of relief. But that sense of relief would not last long.

In the visitors half of the second inning, with two outs and Lopez on first, you saw the name “Andruw Jones” flash up on your TV screen and your first thought is “That’s supposed to be an E, not a U.” Whoever was broadcasting the game kept making a big deal of the fact that this sleek-looking athlete with a bat in his hand was just nineteen years old, as he quickly worked Pettitte into a full count. Then suddenly, Bam! This kid with the misspelled first name hits Andy’s sixth pitch into the Stadium’s left-field stands and the Braves took a quick 2-0 lead. Your stomach got a bit queazy but heck, you’d seen that ’96 Yankee team bounce back from deficits all season long. Pettitte retired the next hitter and as he headed back to the dugout, you hoped that pitch to Jones would be his only mistake of the game. Unfortunately, in the very next inning, this Jones kid would reemerge from the Braves dugout and take Pettitte even deeper and that three-run home run would drive a very long nail into the Yankees’ hopes of winning Game 1.

Sixteen years later, Andruw was a Yankee. He was no longer a nineteen year old rookie about to begin a career that would result in over 400 big league home runs. Instead, he’d played 15 big league seasons and was on the back end of a very good big league career. He had become a baseball nomad, the Yankees were his fourth different team in four years. But as he proved in his very first at bat in pinstripes against the Twins Brian Duensing, he could still take southpaws deep and he could still display moments in the outfield filled with that unique style and grace that was so fun to watch. I was hoping that before his Yankee career ended, Andruw would have a Johnny Damon-like “pinstripe redemption moment.” Until Damon made that famous double-steal against the Phillies during the 2009 Series, all I could think of when I saw him wearing a Yankee uniform was that grand slam he hit off of Jeff Weaver to complete Boston’s amazing comeback against New York in the ’04 ALCS. But Jones never really had that a-ha moment for New York that served to instantly eradicate the image of him hitting those two bombs off of Pettitte from my head. But he did have enough good moments wearing those pinstripes to dull that image and make me wish the Yankees could have picked him up earlier in his career.

He actually had his best stretch for New York during the first couple of months of the 2012 season, when he and Raul Ibanez were forming the two halves of the Yankees’ most effective run producer but he stopped hitting completely in the second half of that year. The Yankees ended up signing Travis Hafner as their right-handed DH for the 2013 season and it looks as if Andruw Jones very good big league career is over. Happy 37th birthday Andruw.

This not-very-well-known other former Yankee who celebrates a birthday today is one I happen to remember real well.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2011 NYY 77 222 190 27 47 8 0 13 33 0 0 29 62 .247 .356 .495 .851 126
2012 NYY 94 269 233 27 46 7 0 14 34 0 0 28 71 .197 .294 .408 .701 89
17 Yrs 2196 8664 7599 1204 1933 383 36 434 1289 152 59 891 1748 .254 .337 .486 .823 111
ATL (12 yrs) 1761 7276 6408 1045 1683 330 34 368 1117 138 55 717 1394 .263 .342 .497 .839 113
NYY (2 yrs) 171 491 423 54 93 15 0 27 67 0 0 57 133 .220 .322 .447 .769 106
TEX (1 yr) 82 331 281 43 60 18 0 17 43 5 1 45 72 .214 .323 .459 .782 100
LAD (1 yr) 75 238 209 21 33 8 1 3 14 0 1 27 76 .158 .256 .249 .505 35
CHW (1 yr) 107 328 278 41 64 12 1 19 48 9 2 45 73 .230 .341 .486 .827 120
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/22/2013.