Results tagged ‘ new york yankees ’

May 19 – Happy Birthday Rick Cerone

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I was far from thrilled with the November 1979 trade that sent Chris Chambliss to Toronto and brought Rick Cerone to New York to replace Thurman Munson as Yankee starting catcher. Besides being a huge Chambliss fan I was hoping Steinbrenner’s front office would go after Ted Simmons, the Cardinals switch-hitting receiver, to succeed Munson.

Cerone’s performance in 1980 helped me get over that disappointment pretty quickly. Even though his lifetime average at the time of the trade was just .229, Cerone hit .277 during his first year in pinstripes, caught 147 games, drove in 85 runs and led the league by throwing out 52% of the runners attempting to steal against him. He was a huge reason why that 1980 Yankee team won 103 regular season games and the AL East Division title. He was also one of the few Yankees who played well in the three game loss to the Royals in that season’s playoffs.

Like many players on many teams, Cerone’s Yankee fortunes began to turn sour during the strike shortened 1981 season. He hit just .244 and his run production per game was less than half of what it had been a season earlier. He gave up more steals as well and for the balance of his eighteen-year big league career, he would never again put up anything even close to the numbers he posted during that 1980 season. Cerone’s most widely publicized moment in pinstripes happened during the weirdly configured 1981 post-strike postseason, after the Yankees lost Game Four to fall into a two-two tie with the Brewers. George Steinbrenner came into the Yankee clubhouse after the game and started berating his players. Cerone screamed right back at the Boss, telling the owner his rants were of no value whatsoever to the team’s performance.Cerone was also not a fan of Yankee skipper Billy Martin and the feeling was definitely mutual.

The Yankees let him go a first time in a 1984 postseason trade with the Braves, for pitcher Brian Fisher. They signed him back as a free agent during the 1987 spring straining season. He was the starting catcher for manager Lou Piniella’s team that year and then caught a lot of games for the Red Sox in 1988 and ’89. New York picked him up a third time, in 1990 and Cerone had the first and only .300 batting average of his career that year, even though his season was comprised of just 149 plate appearances.

After he retired as a player, Cerone formed and owned the Newark Bears Minor League team in his New Jersey hometown. He sold the Bears in 2003.

Cerone shares his birthday with the AL Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1951 and this one-time Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1980 NYY 147 575 519 70 144 30 4 14 85 1 32 56 .277 .321 .432 .753 107
1981 NYY 71 254 234 23 57 13 2 2 21 0 12 24 .244 .276 .342 .618 79
1982 NYY 89 329 300 29 68 10 0 5 28 0 19 27 .227 .271 .310 .581 61
1983 NYY 80 266 246 18 54 7 0 2 22 0 15 29 .220 .267 .272 .540 52
1984 NYY 38 132 120 8 25 3 0 2 13 1 9 15 .208 .269 .283 .553 56
1987 NYY 113 327 284 28 69 12 1 4 23 0 30 46 .243 .320 .335 .654 75
1990 NYY 49 146 139 12 42 6 0 2 11 0 5 13 .302 .324 .388 .713 99
18 Yrs 1329 4504 4069 393 998 190 15 59 436 6 320 450 .245 .301 .343 .644 78
NYY (7 yrs) 587 2029 1842 188 459 81 7 31 203 2 122 210 .249 .297 .351 .648 80
TOR (3 yrs) 255 931 851 79 195 39 6 11 91 1 66 84 .229 .285 .328 .613 68
BOS (2 yrs) 186 630 560 59 143 29 2 7 75 0 54 72 .255 .323 .352 .675 86
CLE (2 yrs) 14 30 28 2 5 1 0 0 1 0 1 2 .179 .207 .214 .421 23
NYM (1 yr) 90 258 227 18 62 13 0 2 16 1 30 24 .273 .360 .357 .717 104
ATL (1 yr) 96 316 282 15 61 9 0 3 25 0 29 25 .216 .288 .280 .568 57
MON (1 yr) 33 68 63 10 17 4 0 1 7 1 3 5 .270 .313 .381 .694 96
MIL (1 yr) 68 242 216 22 56 14 0 4 18 1 15 28 .259 .304 .380 .683 83
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2014.

December 12 – Happy Birthday Steve Farr

As bad as the Yankee offense was in the late 1980’s and early ’90s, their starting pitching was even less effective. Tim Leary, Andy Hawkins, Dave LaPoint, Chuck Cary and Mike Witt were the team’s top five starters during the 1990 season and the quintet had a cumulative record of 32-69 in their 133 combined starts. Lee Guetterman led the team in victories that season with 11, pitching out of the bullpen and reliable closer Dave Righetti, had 36 saves. In fact, I remember thinking that particular Yankee team would have been better off letting their relievers start games instead of finishing them. In addition to Righetti and Guetterman, New York had Greg Cadaret and Erik Plunk in the bullpen that season.

To make their horrible pitching situation even more complicated, following that season, New York let the 31-year-old Righetti become a free agent and sign with San Francisco for $10 million over four years. When they replaced Rags three weeks later by signing 34-year-old Steve Farr to a three-year $6.3 million deal, I was truly disappointed. I should not have been.

At the time, Farr was a seven-year veteran who had been an OK Royal closer in 1987 and ’88 before losing his job to Jeff Montgomery the following year. He was able to win thirteen games as a part-time starter and reliever for Kansas City in 1989 but if he lost his job to a guy named Montgomery, how could the Yankees expect him to replace one of the top closers in the game?

Letting Righetti go turned out to be as wise a move as making him the Yankee closer was in the first place. After an OK 24-save first season in San Francisco, the bottom fell out of his career as he accumulated just four saves during the final four seasons of big league pitching. Farr, on the other hand, performed admirably for New York, saving 78 games during his 3-year tenure in the Bronx including a 30-save, 1.56 ERA 1992 season. Steve was 36-years old at the end of his final contract year and when his ERA ballooned to 4.21 in 1993, New York decided not to re-sign the right-hander and handed the 1994 closer role to Steve Howe. You have to give that Yankee front-office credit for their closer decisions during the past quarter-century. Making Rag’s a reliever, replacing him with Farr after Righetti’s last great year, replacing Farr with Howe, signing John Wetteland and then replacing Wetteland with Rivera represents a pretty good track record.

Farr shares his December 12th birthday with this former Yankee shortstopthis former Yankee utility infielder and this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1991 NYY 5 5 .500 2.19 60 0 48 0 0 23 70.0 57 19 17 4 20 60 1.100
1992 NYY 2 2 .500 1.56 50 0 42 0 0 30 52.0 34 10 9 2 19 37 1.019
1993 NYY 2 2 .500 4.21 49 0 37 0 0 25 47.0 44 22 22 8 28 39 1.532
11 Yrs 48 45 .516 3.25 509 28 313 1 1 132 824.1 751 326 298 70 334 668 1.316
KCR (6 yrs) 34 24 .586 3.05 289 12 166 1 1 49 511.0 469 193 173 37 203 429 1.315
NYY (3 yrs) 9 9 .500 2.56 159 0 127 0 0 78 169.0 135 51 48 14 67 136 1.195
CLE (2 yrs) 4 12 .250 4.66 50 16 16 0 0 5 131.1 123 73 68 17 61 95 1.401
BOS (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 6.23 11 0 4 0 0 0 13.0 24 9 9 2 3 8 2.077
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/12/2013.

January 7 – Happy Birthday Johnny Grabowski

GrabowskiToday’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the back up catcher on one of the greatest teams in MLB history, the 1927 Yankees. Johnny Grabowski had broke into the big leagues with the White Sox in 1924 and spent three seasons in the Windy City as a backup receiver to Hall of Fame catcher Ray Schalk. In January of 1927, Chicago traded him and a second baseman named Ray Morehart to the Yankees for second baseman, Aaron Ward. Ward had lost his starting position in New York to a rookie phee-nom named Tony Lazzeri in 1926, making him expendable. Grabowski was the key to the deal for New York. He had developed a reputation with the White Sox as a good defensive catcher and the Yankees wanted him to backup their regular receiver, Pat Collins.

Grabowski filled that spot admirably in 1927, getting 56 starts behind the plate that season and averaging a healthy .277. With Ruth and Gehrig providing the punch, that Yankee team set a record for wins in a 154 game season with 110 and then swept the Pirates in four games in the 1927 World Series. The juggernaut continued the following year as the Yankees won their second straight pennant and pulled off their second straight four-game World Series sweep, this time versus the Cardinals. Grabowski actually started more games behind the plate than any other New York catcher during the 1928 regular season, but his batting average plummeted to just .238 and that offensive ineptitude got him left off that year’s World Series roster. When Grabowski’s offensive troubles continued during the first half of the 1929 season, the Yankees released him.

Grabowski eventually returned to the minors and then got a second shot at the big leagues with Detroit in 1931. When he failed to stick there, he turned to umpiring. He was advancing up the ladder as a minor league man in blue when he was tragically killed attempting to fight a fire in his Guilderland, NY home, in May of 1946. Grabowski was only 46 years old at the time of his death. He shares his January 7th birthday with this former Yankee second baseman and this one-time MVP.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1927 NYY 70 223 195 29 54 2 4 0 25 0 20 15 .277 .350 .328 .678
1928 NYY 75 215 202 21 48 7 1 1 21 0 10 21 .238 .274 .297 .571
1929 NYY 22 64 59 4 12 1 0 0 2 1 3 6 .203 .242 .220 .462
7 Yrs 296 889 816 84 206 25 8 3 86 1 47 84 .252 .295 .314 .609
NYY (3 yrs) 167 502 456 54 114 10 5 1 48 1 33 42 .250 .303 .300 .604
CHW (3 yrs) 89 243 224 21 60 8 2 1 24 0 8 23 .268 .293 .335 .628
DET (1 yr) 40 144 136 9 32 7 1 1 14 0 6 19 .235 .268 .324 .591
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/8/2014.