Results tagged ‘ january 12 ’
Let me explain how difficult it has been for the Yankees to use their top pick wisely in the MLB Amateur Draft. Steve Chilcott; Dave Cheadle; Doug Heinhold; Dennis Sherrill; Jim McDonald; Steve Taylor; Todd Demeter; Steve Madden; Tim Birtsas; Jeffrey Pries; Rick Balabon; Brien Taylor; Matt Drews;Brian Buchanan; Shea Morenz; Scott Bradley; Tyler Godwin; Andy Brown, Dave Walling; Dave Parrish; Jon Skaggs; Bronson Sardinha; Eric Duncan; Jon Peterson; should I keep going? These are the names of Yankee number 1 draft picks most of you have never heard of. There will be many more in the future.
Its why when I hear or read Yankee fans insisting the team needs to stop signing high-priced free agents and start building from within, I take it with a grain of salt. I’ve been a Yankee fan since 1960 and I can remember reading articles in the Daily News, Sporting News and Street and Smith’s Annual Baseball Season Preview in which some Yankee front office exec or another insists the team’s number 1 draft pick has all the tools to make it on the big stage. Some have. Derek Jeter and Thurman Munson proved that. Most have not and there have been several who, though they did not become bonafide all-stars, they did eventually put together some productive years in the big leagues.
That was the case with today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Terry Whitfield. The Yankees drafted the Blythe, California native with their number 1 pick out of high school in 1971, when he was just 18-years-old and assigned him to their Class D Appalachian League farm team in Johnson City, Tennessee. In just 67 games, the young outfielder belted 10 home runs and drove in 43 runs. Two seasons later, he put together a .968 OPS for the Yankees Class A affiliate in Kinston, North Carolina. He got his first cup-of-coffee look by the parent club in September of 1974 and his first big league and Yankee hit, a single off of Milwaukee Brewer right handed Jim Colburn.
Whitfield spent most of the next three years in Syracuse, but when Elliott Maddox suffered his devastating knee injury while playing a slippery Shea Stadium outfield during the 1975 season, the Yankees brought Whitfield back up and he got to play in 28 games and averaged .272. But he went homer-less during that stretch and his power numbers in general during his final years in the minors were not that impressive. That’s probably why when the Yankees felt they needed to shore up their infield depth during the team’s 1977 spring training season, they traded Whitfield to San Francisco for middle infielder Marty Perez.
Whitfield then put together four decent but unspectacular seasons as an outfielder for the Giants. His best year would be 1978 when he averaged a career-high .289 with 141 hits. Two seasons later he made national headlines when he moved to Japan to play for the Seibu Lions. He returned three years later and finished his big league career with three seasons as a Dodger fourth outfielder.
Ivan became the Yankees’ Super Nova during the 2011 season. I’m the first to admit I was skeptical that spring when New York made the decision to include this 6’4″, 225 pound Dominican right-hander as the fifth starter in the team’s regular season pitching rotation. He changed my mind! In fact, when this kid went 8-4 during the first half of 2011 and then was demoted back to Scranton to make room for Phil Hughes’ return from the DL, I strongly disagreed. What impressed me most about Nova two seasons ago however, was the fact that he understood those circumstances, accepted that demotion and just kept pitching and getting better. When he was called back up to New York, he was a beast on the mound, winning each of his eight final decisions to finish the year, 16-4. His hot streak was huge for the Yankees’ drive to the AL East Division crown because Bartolo Colon, Freddie Garcia and even CC Sabathia all experienced bad streaks in the second half of the 2011 season.
Nova continued to impress in that year’s ALDS versus Detroit. Scheduled to start Game 2, instead he found himself finishing the rain-delayed Game 1 in place of CC Sabathia. He went out and pitched seven and a third solid innings to help New York capture that first game. In fact, the only time all season he failed to deliver more than expected turned out to be Game 5 of that same Series. He gave up back-to-back home runs to the Tigers in the first and left the game after completing the second inning with a “tight forearm.”
I remember when the Yankees first brought Nova up in 2010, when both AJ Burnett and Javier Vazquez were pitching like crap. There was a story in the media at the time that the kid was being investigated for taking vitamin B12 shots before his minor league starts. I’d read about how players from the Dominican Republic were big B12 users and how often-times the substance they are told is B12 is laced with PEDs. Nova was eventually cleared of any wrong doing but I was definitely put off by the fact that he hadn’t even gotten started with the Yankees and already rumors about steroid use were circulating. I’ve kept my fingers crossed since that the kid is and remains PED clean.
If he was using the juice last year, he must have gotten a bad batch. Even though he won ten of his first 13 decisions in 2012, he really struggled with his consistency from start-to-start and even inning-to-inning. Sure enough, those struggles got the best of him in the second half. He went 2-5 during from July 9th on, his ERA climbed to over five and he was even dropped from the rotation by Joe Girardi, in favor of Yankee rookie, David Phelps.
Nova turns 26-years-old today and the Yankees have him wrapped up through 2016. If he can rebound to his form of two seasons ago, that will be good news for the Yankees and a big boost to their chances of defending the AL East flag in 2013.
I remember being pretty happy hearing the news that Andy Fox had made the Yankee’s big league roster coming out of spring training in 1996. Living just a half-hour outside of Albany, I had become a big fan of the Albany Colonie Yankees, New York’s Double A franchise at that time. It was fun watching Fox and teammates like Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mo Rivera play for Albany and having all four of them playing in the Bronx in 1996, made rooting for that Yankee team not just easy, but special. Manager Joe Torre gave Fox quite a bit of playing time that first year, mostly at second base. The guy just loved to play the game and his hustle and enthusiasm was impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, he could not get his average above the .200 mark. At the same time, teammate and fellow second baseman Mariano Duncan was having a career year at the plate relegating Andy to a strict utility role. When he got traded to the Diamondbacks after the 1997 season and hit .277 his first year in Arizona, I thought he was on his way to a solid career. That turned out to be the best year of an otherwise mediocre nine season big league stay that ended when Texas released him in 2004. Andy was born on this date in Sacramento in 1971.