Results tagged ‘ starting pitcher ’

April 22 – Happy Birthday Jimmy Key

After a solid nine-year career with the Blue Jays, this left-hander was signed as a free agent by New York after the 1992 season to become the ace of the Yankee rotation. For the next two years, Key was exactly that, winning
thirty five games and losing just ten. He got beat out for the AL Cy Young Award during the strike-shortened 1994 season by future Yankee teammate, David Cone. A rotator cuff injury then wiped out his 1995 season. He had an ok 12-11 record in 1996 but then got the opportunity to win the sixth and final game of that year’s World Series against Atlanta in his final performance in pinstripes.

I remember thinking the Yankees had gone crazy after that Fall Classic, when they let both Key and the Series MVP, closer John Wetteland, sign with other teams. Key signed a nice deal with the Orioles but he really wanted to stay in New York. Turns out that rotator cuff injury that sidelined him in ’95 was enough to convince the New York front office they couldn’t match Baltimore’s guarantee of a second year. Key pitched well for the Birds in 1997, going 16-10 but when he fell off to 6-3 the following season he decided to call it quits, doing so with a 186-117 lifetime record.

The retired southpaw made Big Apple back page headlines again during the 1999 preseason when the Yankees approached him about coming out of retirement to pitch in their bullpen. Key had made his big league debut as a closer for the Blue Jays back in 1984, saving ten games in his rookie season. The native of Hunstville, AL quickly threw cold water over the comeback rumors when he insisted he was done with baseball for good.

Key shares his April 22nd birthday with this one-time New York Highlander shortstop.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1993 NYY 18 6 .750 3.00 34 34 0 4 2 0 236.2 219 84 79 26 43 173 1.107
1994 NYY 17 4 .810 3.27 25 25 0 1 0 0 168.0 177 68 61 10 52 97 1.363
1995 NYY 1 2 .333 5.64 5 5 0 0 0 0 30.1 40 20 19 3 6 14 1.516
1996 NYY 12 11 .522 4.68 30 30 0 0 0 0 169.1 171 93 88 21 58 116 1.352
15 Yrs 186 117 .614 3.51 470 389 28 34 13 10 2591.2 2518 1104 1010 254 668 1538 1.229
TOR (9 yrs) 116 81 .589 3.42 317 250 24 28 10 10 1695.2 1624 710 645 165 404 944 1.196
NYY (4 yrs) 48 23 .676 3.68 94 94 0 5 2 0 604.1 607 265 247 60 159 400 1.268
BAL (2 yrs) 22 13 .629 3.64 59 45 4 1 1 0 291.2 287 129 118 29 105 194 1.344
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/22/2013.

April 19 – Happy Birthday Scott Kamieniecki

kamieniecki.jpgWhen this Michigan native went 10-7 as a starter for the 1993 Yankees I thought it was the beginning of what would become a very good pinstripe pitching career for the right hander. Instead, he got fewer and fewer starts over the next two seasons and actually was sent back down to the minors in 1996, when he was 32 years-old. During the 1995 ALDS, with the Yankees up two games to one over the Mariners, Buck Showalter had pegged Kamieniecki to start Game 4 in Seattle. The night before the game, he and his wife received a call from the baby sitter watching their two kids back home in Michigan telling them that their two children were in the hospital being treated for smoke inhalation, victims of a house fire. Scott and his wife decided that he would stay in Seattle and pitch while she returned home to be with the couple’s two young sons, who both ended up being fine.

He did not pitch well the next night, giving up three runs in the first inning as Seattle evened the series. To make a bad off season even worse, doctors found bone chips in his pitching elbow and he underwent surgery to have them removed. In the mean time, Joe Torre had taken over as Yankee skipper and Kamieniecki would soon became part of a small but vocal group of ex-Yankees who did not like the way they were treated by him.

According to the pitcher, he had fully recovered from the elbow surgery and the new Yankee manager had promised him he’d be given an equal shot at one of the starting spots in the Yankees’ 1996 rotation. Just a day later, Torre told the media that Kamieniecki’s off season surgery had put him behind the other candidates. Even though Torre apologized to him, the episode left a bitter taste in Kamieniecki’s mouth. He started the 1996 season on the DL and later claimed the Yankees forced him to fake the injury to avoid an assignment back to the minors. He ended up spending much of the ’96 season back in the Triple A anyway, contributing just one regular-season win to the Yankees’ championship. He was then released after the season. The Orioles evidently saw enough of Kamieniecki to give him a 3-year free agent contract just shy of $8 million in 1997. He went 10-6 for Baltimore that year, helping the Birds make the playoffs. Old wounds were also reopened when an embarrassed Yankee front office admitted they had not ordered World Championship rings for many of the players who had been part of the 1996 squad, including Kamieniecki. He was then measured for the valuable keepsake but never actually received one.

After his 10-6 1997 performance, Scott’s career faded quickly, as he went a combined 4-10 in ’98 and ’99. He was out of the Majors for good after the 2000 season. He shares his birthday with another pitcher who had problems with a manager and this former Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1991 NYY 4 4 .500 3.90 9 9 0 0 0 0 55.1 54 24 24 8 22 34 1.373
1992 NYY 6 14 .300 4.36 28 28 0 4 0 0 188.0 193 100 91 13 74 88 1.420
1993 NYY 10 7 .588 4.08 30 20 4 2 0 1 154.1 163 73 70 17 59 72 1.438
1994 NYY 8 6 .571 3.76 22 16 2 1 0 0 117.1 115 53 49 13 59 71 1.483
1995 NYY 7 6 .538 4.01 17 16 1 1 0 0 89.2 83 43 40 8 49 43 1.472
1996 NYY 1 2 .333 11.12 7 5 0 0 0 0 22.2 36 30 28 6 19 15 2.426
10 Yrs 53 59 .473 4.52 250 138 37 8 0 5 975.2 1006 519 490 105 446 542 1.488
NYY (6 yrs) 36 39 .480 4.33 113 94 7 8 0 1 627.1 644 323 302 65 282 323 1.476
BAL (3 yrs) 14 16 .467 4.71 85 44 19 0 0 2 290.1 298 156 152 31 122 173 1.447
CLE (1 yr) 1 3 .250 5.67 26 0 7 0 0 0 33.1 42 22 21 6 20 29 1.860
ATL (1 yr) 2 1 .667 5.47 26 0 4 0 0 2 24.2 22 18 15 3 22 17 1.784
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2013.

April 8 – Happy Birthday Catfish Hunter

hunter-jim-1979.jpgFrom the moment I started following my Yankees as a six-year-old in 1960 right up until the team’s fifth place finish in the AL Pennant race in 1965, I loved Major League Baseball’s Reserve Clause. It is what had permitted the Yankee’s skillful and ruthless front office to firmly imprison the best baseball talent in America in Pinstripes until they could no longer run, hit, field, or throw or at least until they could be traded for someone who could do these things a bit better.

But after 1966, my stance on the sanctity of this oppressive piece of contract language began to soften. Overnight, the Yankees’ glamorous galaxy of star players seemed to grow old. Compounding the problem was that CBS, the team’s new owner, stopped investing in the Yankee farm system and that thriftiness, combined with the impact of the newly introduced MLB Amateur Draft, caused New York’s cupboard of bonafide home grown prospects to quickly grow bare. Also coming back to bite the team in the rear end was the tendency of the Yankee front office to avoid signing black prospects all throughout the late forties and fifties.

So by the late sixties I was one of the biggest advocates of testing baseball’s reserve clause in the courts and when George Steinbrenner took control of my favorite team, I was actively rooting for Curt Flood’s legal victory.

The New York Yankee’s first signing in Baseball’s new free agent era took place on the very last day of 1974. At the time, Jim Catfish Hunter was the American League’s premier starter. He had just completed a string of four consecutive 20-victory seasons for Oakland, the ace pitcher on a team that had won the last three World Series.

Hunter’s best season in pinstripes turned out to be his first, in 1975. He won 23 of his 37 decisions, threw 7 shutouts and compiled a 2.49 ERA. It wasn’t enough to win the Yankees a pennant but that certainly was not Catfish’s fault. He literally pitched his arm off that year, completing 30 games and amassing 328 innings pitched. In fact, during the three seasons of 1974, ’75 and ’76, Hunter threw 944 innings of baseball and the damage caused to his arm by that strain helps explain why he spent much of his last three seasons with New York on the DL.

What many Yankee fans fail to fully appreciate about Hunter was his ability to pitch effectively and be a clubhouse leader on teams that had rosters full of strong player personalities led by eccentric, very vocal owners. Hunter’s experience with Charley Finley’s Oakland A’s prepared him well for the Bronx Zoo and George Steinbrenner. And even though he had just that one twenty-victory season with the Yankees, Catfish showed his Yankee teammates how to focus on winning while on the field and how to survive the glare of a hyperactive media, monitoring a crazy clubhouse.

I will never forget Catfish’s gutty seven-inning performance in Game 6 of the 1978 World Series. That victory clinched a second straight championship for New York and I felt it was Hunter’s finest moment as a Yankee.

Inducted into Cooperstown in 1987, Catfish died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, twelve years later.

Below is my all-time Yankee free agent lineup. Only players who became Yankees’ originally via free agency are eligible. This disqualifies Yankees like Derek Jeter, who became a free agent while he was a Yankee and re-signed with the team. It also disqualifies free agent signers like Andy Pettitte, who was a Yankee, left and then re-signed with NY as a free agent.

The Pinstripe Birthday Blog’s All-Time Yankee Free Agent Line-Up

1B Mark Teixeira
2B Steve Sax
3B Wade Boggs
SS Tony Fernandez
C Russ Martin/Butch Wynegar
OF Reggie Jackson
OF Dave Winfield
OF Hideki Matsui
DH Jason Giambi
P CC Sabathia
P Catfish Hunter
P Mike Mussina
P David Wells
CL Goose Gossage

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1975 NYY 23 14 .622 2.58 39 39 0 30 7 0 328.0 248 107 94 25 83 177 1.009
1976 NYY 17 15 .531 3.53 36 36 0 21 2 0 298.2 268 126 117 28 68 173 1.125
1977 NYY 9 9 .500 4.71 22 22 0 8 1 0 143.1 137 83 75 29 47 52 1.284
1978 NYY 12 6 .667 3.58 21 20 1 5 1 0 118.0 98 49 47 16 35 56 1.127
1979 NYY 2 9 .182 5.31 19 19 0 1 0 0 105.0 128 68 62 15 34 34 1.543
15 Yrs 224 166 .574 3.26 500 476 6 181 42 1 3449.1 2958 1380 1248 374 954 2012 1.134
OAK (10 yrs) 161 113 .588 3.13 363 340 5 116 31 1 2456.1 2079 947 853 261 687 1520 1.126
NYY (5 yrs) 63 53 .543 3.58 137 136 1 65 11 0 993.0 879 433 395 113 267 492 1.154
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.