Results tagged ‘ first baseman ’

April 11 – Happy Birthday Mark Teixeira

teixeira.jpegI believe it was my son Matthew who e-mailed me to let me know the Yankees had signed Mark Teixeira. I was both shocked and smiling when I read his message. It was early January in 2009 and New York had already snagged CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett during that free agent signing season to rejuvenate their starting rotation. The prevailing rumor was that Teixeira was going to sign with the Red Sox but at the last minute, the Yankees swooped in and made the offer that Tex was waiting for and he was on his way to the Bronx.

What surprised me most as I got to watch this guy play every day was how good he really is as a defensive first baseman. I knew he was a quality hitter with good power from both sides of the plate but I had no idea that he would make such a positive impact for New York with his glove. In both 2009 and 2010, his extraordinary range and his ability to catch any ball thrown anywhere near him improved the entire Yankee infield dramatically. In fact, during the 2009 postseason Teixeira was terrible at the plate but was so good in the field I truly doubt the Yankees would have gotten to or won that World Series without him.

Through 2011, his offensive numbers since arriving in the Bronx had also been pretty impressive. During his first three seasons in pinstripes, he averaged 34 home runs and  114 RBIs per season with 102 runs scored per year. He was on his way to similar numbers in 2012 when he suffered a calf injury in late August and missed the last month of the regular season and the playoffs. He managed to hit  24 home runs and drive in 84 runs in the 123 games he played. His 138 HRs as a Yankee put him in 35th place on the all-time list, two behind the late Tom Thresh.

What has been dropping since he came to New York are Teixeira’s batting average, on base percentage and most unfortunately, his playing time. A torn wrist tendon pretty much wiped out his entire 2013 season and he was back on the DL just six games into the 2014  season with a groin pull. One has to start wondering if this guy has become too frail to withstand the rigors of a complete season.

He has also been pretty much an offensive bust during his Yankee April’s and more problematically, his Yankee October’s. This is one of the few guys in baseball history to have hit at least 30 home runs and drive in 100 or more runs for eight straight seasons. When he’s in one of his hitting funks, it really has a negative impact on New York’s ability to score runs. I think one of the big reasons the Yanks signed Carlos Beltran was their uncertainty that Texeira could once again be the effective middle-of-the-lineup slugger they signed five seasons ago.

Mark was born on April 11, 1980, in Annapolis, MD. The Yankees have him under contract through 2016.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 NYY 156 707 609 103 178 43 3 39 122 2 81 114 .292 .383 .565 .948
2010 NYY 158 712 601 113 154 36 0 33 108 0 93 122 .256 .365 .481 .846
2011 NYY 156 684 589 90 146 26 1 39 111 4 76 110 .248 .341 .494 .835
2012 NYY 123 524 451 66 113 27 1 24 84 2 54 83 .251 .332 .475 .807
2013 NYY 15 63 53 5 8 1 0 3 12 0 8 19 .151 .270 .340 .609
2014 NYY 6 24 22 2 6 1 0 0 3 0 2 7 .273 .333 .318 .652
12 Yrs 1518 6645 5739 945 1594 357 18 341 1116 21 756 1149 .278 .368 .524 .893
NYY (6 yrs) 614 2714 2325 379 605 134 5 138 440 8 314 455 .260 .355 .500 .855
TEX (5 yrs) 693 3006 2632 426 746 173 12 153 499 11 318 555 .283 .368 .533 .901
ATL (2 yrs) 157 691 589 101 174 36 1 37 134 0 92 116 .295 .395 .548 .943
LAA (1 yr) 54 234 193 39 69 14 0 13 43 2 32 23 .358 .449 .632 1.081
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

April 7 – Happy Birthday John Ganzel

25787_standardLong before the ballfields of Kalamazoo, Michigan produced Derek Jeter, the first Yankee to achieve 3,000 hits in pinstripes, they also produced Johnny Ganzel, the first starting first baseman in the history of the Yankee franchise, after it was relocated from Baltimore to New York. Known as “the first family of Michigan baseball” the Ganzel clan produced a bevy of players. There were five Ganzel brothers and every one of them played big league or minor league ball.

Ganzel had three prior years of experience in the National League, when he accepted Clark Griffith’s offer to play for New York’s new American League franchise in 1903. He had a strong season that year, averaging a solid .277 and finishing second on the team in RBIs with 71. He then slumped in 1904, causing Griffith to refuse the first baseman’s demand for a raise for the ’05 season. Ganzel then demanded a trade but Griffith waited until he had Hal Chase under contract before complying with his request and sending Ganzel to Detroit.

Ganzel would never get to play for Detroit. Instead he became the player manager for a minor league team in Grand Rapids before taking over the same role with the NL’s Cincinnati Reds in 1908. He shares his April 7th birthday with the first manager in Yankee franchise history,  this former Yankee pitcher and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1903 NYY 129 533 476 62 132 25 7 3 71 9 30 38 .277 .336 .378 .714
1904 NYY 130 502 465 50 121 16 10 6 48 13 24 41 .260 .309 .376 .686
7 Yrs 747 2957 2715 281 682 104 50 18 336 48 136 173 .251 .298 .346 .644
CIN (2 yrs) 257 1002 919 93 232 36 26 3 117 15 48 51 .252 .293 .358 .651
NYY (2 yrs) 259 1035 941 112 253 41 17 9 119 22 54 79 .269 .323 .377 .700
CHC (1 yr) 78 308 284 29 78 14 4 4 32 5 10 10 .275 .316 .394 .710
NYG (1 yr) 138 562 526 42 113 13 3 2 66 6 20 32 .215 .256 .262 .518
PIT (1 yr) 15 50 45 5 6 0 0 0 2 0 4 1 .133 .220 .133 .353
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

April 6 – Happy Birthday Andy Phillips

Jason Giambi’s mediocre defensive talents at first base were a source of constant consternation for Joe Torre and the Yankee front office. When he first joined the club as a prized free agent in 2002, the Giambino’s offensive production was good enough to offset his weakness
in the field but over the years, as his hitting declined, his defensive deficiencies became more of a net negative. So beginning in 2004, the
Yankees began employing what I’ve come to refer to as the “Affordable Gloves for Giambi” initiative. These were first basemen who could field better than Jason and who were willing to play for what the Yankee’s then considered were “modest” salaries. In 2004, Giambi’s glove was Tony Clarke. Then in 2005, the Yankees handed the job to an aging Tino Martinez. In 2006, as Giambi’s contract was nearing its end, the team took a new approach by giving the role to a first base prospect in the Yankee’s Minor League organization. That turned out to be today’s Birthday Celebrant.

Andy Phillips had hit 80 home runs during his three previous seasons in New York’s farm system when he assumed the “Glove for Giambi” role in April of 2006. The Yankees had selected the Tuscaloosa, AL native in the seventh round of the 1999 draft out of the University of Alabama, so he was already 29-years-old when given the opportunity to become the Yankee’s regular first baseman. He turned out to be solid defensively but as a right handed hitter, his power was marginalized by Yankee Stadium. He hit just .240 that first season and his on-base percentage was a very-low .288.

He found himself back in the minors to start the 2007 season as the Yankees opened that year with former Gold Glove winner and World Series Game 4 ball-stealer, Doug Mientkiewicz at first. When Mientkiewicz got hurt in June of that year, Phillips was called up to replace him and he did that rather well. Andy hit .292 in 61 games that year plus he played flawless defense at first base, handling 408 chances without making an error. Despite the improved effort, the Yankee front office decided Phillips was not in their plans for the future and released him after the 2007 season. He was picked up by the Reds and even played a few games for the Mets in 2008 but was back in the minors the following year and playing in Japan, during the 2010 season.

Phillips shares his April 6th birthday with another Yankee prospect who was trying to work his way up New York’s farm team chain the same time as Andy. This Yankee pitching prospect, also born on April 6th tried to make the same climb three decades earlier.


Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2004 NYY 5 8 8 1 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 1 .250 .250 .625 .875
2005 NYY 27 41 40 7 6 4 0 1 4 0 1 13 .150 .171 .325 .496
2006 NYY 110 263 246 30 59 11 3 7 29 3 15 56 .240 .281 .394 .676
2007 NYY 61 207 185 27 54 7 1 2 25 0 12 26 .292 .338 .373 .711
5 Yrs 259 604 557 77 139 25 4 14 70 3 34 110 .250 .294 .384 .679
NYY (4 yrs) 203 519 479 65 121 22 4 11 60 3 28 96 .253 .294 .384 .678
CIN (1 yr) 52 80 73 11 17 3 0 3 10 0 6 14 .233 .300 .397 .697
NYM (1 yr) 4 5 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

March 15 – Happy Birthday Charley Mullen

mullen2AThere was a two-season gap in between the time that Hal Chase, the Yankees’ first great first baseman left the team in 1912 and Wally Pipp, the franchise’s second great first baseman took over that position in 1915. Charley Mullen was one of the interim first sackers New York used to fill that gap.

This native of Seattle was 25 years old when Yankee manager Frank Chance began starting him during the 1914 season. He wasn’t a disaster. Mullen hit .260 that year, which was actually third best among the team’s starting lineup and he drove in 44 runs, which was also third best on the squad during that low-scoring deadfall era.

Just before the 1915 season began, the Yankee franchise was purchased by brewer Jacob Ruppert and his partner Tillinghast Huston.  The two men had been assured by AL President Ban Johnson that the Junior Circuit’s other team owners would help the Yankees become more competitive with their New York City neighbors, the Giants. The plan was to have the other clubs make some of their best players and prospects available to New York for acquisition. One of the first such acquisitions made by the new Yankee ownership was Pipp, a young hard-hitting Detroit Tiger prospect who would start at first for New York for the next decade until his famous headache opened the door for Lou Gehrig.

So what happened to Charley Mullen? He actually remained a Yankee for the next couple of seasons in a utility role before returning to the minors. He played his final season in 1919 with the Seattle Raniers of the Pacific Coast League. He remained in his hometown after he retired and died there in 1963 at the age of 74.

Mullen shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielderthis one-time Yankee third baseman and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1914 NYY 93 380 323 33 84 8 0 0 44 11 33 55 .260 .332 .285 .617
1915 NYY 40 102 90 11 24 1 0 0 7 5 10 12 .267 .340 .278 .618
1916 NYY 59 162 146 11 39 9 1 0 18 7 9 13 .267 .310 .342 .652
5 Yrs 253 848 741 77 183 22 3 0 87 28 61 97 .247 .306 .285 .591
NYY (3 yrs) 192 644 559 55 147 18 1 0 69 23 52 80 .263 .328 .299 .627
CHW (2 yrs) 61 204 182 22 36 4 2 0 18 5 9 17 .198 .236 .242 .477
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/8/2014.

March 12 – Happy Birthday Ray Barker

barkerThe lucrative salaries paid in Major League Baseball nowadays continue to shock me. Those huge bucks have changed the way big leaguers play the game and live their lives. Even the most marginal players today have contracts sizable enough to permit them to not have to worry about working a second career, at least during their playing days. And with decent investment counseling and a much improved MLB pension plan, when these guys retire in their thirties, many can afford to kick back and relax their way through their forties and fifties too. Good for them. I just hope they tell their children and grandchildren the story about Marvin Miller some day.

When I was a kid, guys like Ray Barker, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had to scrape to make a living on what they were paid to play the game. Barker, who had grown up a Yankee fan, had been originally signed by the Orioles in 1955 when he was a 19-year-old kid and given a $1,000 bonus. The son of a West Virginia stone quarry worker, that was more money than his family had ever seen.

He then spent the next ten years of his life trying to get to the big leagues and trying to take care of his growing family on the few thousand dollars he would earn playing both minor league and winter baseball. His wife and children lived in a trailer park back in West Virginia and when Barker’s dad was killed while riding his motorcycle, his Mom moved in with them.

After brief big league appearances with the Orioles and Indians, Cleveland traded this left-hand-hitting first baseman to the Yankees for infielder Pedro Gonzalez, in May of 1965. The defending AL Pennant winners were a mess that year under new skipper, Johnny Keane. In addition to rebelling at Keane’s strict disciplinarian management style, injuries began crippling the veteran Yankee lineup. Both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were out for extended periods, forcing Keane to play his starting first baseman, Joe Pepitone in the outfield. That Yankee misfortune was the piece of good luck Barker needed to finally get an extended stay on a big league roster.

His debut season in the Bronx wasn’t spectacular but it was steady and in 1965, steady was good enough for the Yankee front office. In addition to tying a big league record that season by hitting two consecutive pinch-hit home runs, Barker’s 7 total round-trippers and 31 RBIs in 98 games got him invited back for a second season. He returned to West Virginia, bought a home and moved his brood out of that trailer park.

Unfortunately, the Yankees got even worse in 1966, finishing in last place and Barker got worse too. He pretty much stopped hitting, which meant he pretty much stopped getting chances to hit. During most any other season in Yankee history, Barker’s .187 batting average would have got him banished forever but not in 1966.

Ralph Houk brought Barker back to spring training in 1967 as a Mickey Mantle insurance policy. The Yankees had become convinced that in order to extend the switch-hitting legend’s career, they needed to get him out of the outfield and start him at first base. That meant they also had to commit to playing Joe Pepitone in the outfield full-time. Houk needed somebody to serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Mantle at first. The organization’s bonus-baby heir to that position was Mike Hegan, who was doing Army reserve duty until May of that ’67 season. That gave Barker just a small window of time to impress Houk enough to keep him on the 25-man roster and get Hegan sent back down to the minors.

Barker couldn’t get it done. In the 17 games he appeared during the first part of that ’67 season, he hit an atrocious .077. During that trying period of his career, Barker was interviewed by long-time New York Times’ sports journalist Robert Lipsyte. He explained to Lipsyte that he needed to get hot at the plate in order to stick with the Yankees but he needed more at bats to get in an offensive groove but he would only get those at bats if he could get hot. It was the age-old Catch-22 lament of big-league utility players.

During that interview, Barker said his goal was to get five seasons of service as a Major League player so that he could qualify for the pension plan. If he could make that milestone, Barker would start receiving a retirement benefit of $250 per month when he reached the age of 50. Barker didn’t make that five-year milestone but hopefully, he’s not missing that $250 check every month.

Barker shares his March 12th birthday with this 1994 Rookie of the Year outfielder this 1983 Rookie of the Year outfielder, this former Yankee center-fielder and this former NL All Star.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1965 NYY 98 231 205 21 52 11 0 7 31 1 20 46 .254 .326 .410 .736
1966 NYY 61 82 75 11 14 5 0 3 13 0 4 20 .187 .225 .373 .598
1967 NYY 17 29 26 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 5 .077 .172 .077 .249
4 Yrs 192 356 318 34 68 16 0 10 44 1 29 76 .214 .283 .358 .642
NYY (3 yrs) 176 342 306 34 68 16 0 10 44 1 27 71 .222 .289 .373 .662
CLE (1 yr) 11 8 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .000 .250 .000 .250
BAL (1 yr) 5 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2014.