Results tagged ‘ third baseman ’

March 5 – Happy Birthday Don Savage

savageDon Savage was a depression-era New Jersey schoolboy athlete who could have played football for a number of major colleges but chose baseball instead. Unfortunately, he suffered two serious knee injuries during his high school playing days and those injuries would haunt him and eventually shorten his big league career.

The Yankees signed him in 1938 and groomed him mostly as a third baseman. He spent the next four seasons following another future Yankee third sacker named Billy Johnson through New York’s farm system. That ascent suddenly got abruptly stalled during the winter of 1941 when Savage, feeling unusually tired all the time, went to the doctor to find out what was wrong with him. He was diagnosed with diabetes and would spend the rest of his life trying to keep the disease under control.

The one and only advantage of the diagnosis was that it made Savage permanently ineligible for military service. That meant, once he felt  well enough to resume his career, the Yankees could count on him being available for the remainder of the war years. He got the OK from his doctors to play for the New Jersey Bears in 1943 and put together a good enough season there to get invited to the Yankees’ 1944 spring training camp. With most of the Yankee veterans and top prospects in military service by then, New York manager Joe McCarthy had plenty of time to pay attention to the team’s new arrivals. He liked Savage enough to bring him north and start him at third base on Opening Day, replacing Johnson who had an outstanding rookie season in 1943 but had then been called into the service.

After getting off to a hot start, Savage’s fragile knees failed him and he began missing games and valuable at bats. The injuries also disrupted his fielding work and before he knew it, he was spending most of his time sitting in the Yankee dugout, watching another Yankee wartime third baseman, Oscar Grimes take his position away.

Savage ended up playing just 71 games during his rookie season and averaging .261. His offensive numbers were decent enough, especially considering his injuries, but it was his mediocre defensive play at the hot corner that eventually caused McCarthy to give up on him.

Savage got to play in 34 games for New York in his second season but after averaging just .224, his big league playing days were over. He ended up working as an elevator mechanic back in his New Jersey hometown and then tragically losing his two-decade battle with diabetes at the age of 42, on Christmas Day in 1961.

Savage shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee relief pitcher.

1944 NYY 71 262 239 31 63 7 5 4 24 1 20 41 .264 .323 .385 .708
1945 NYY 34 61 58 5 13 1 0 0 3 1 3 14 .224 .262 .241 .504
2 Yrs 105 323 297 36 76 8 5 4 27 2 23 55 .256 .312 .357 .668
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2014.

February 24 – Happy Birthday Mike Lowell

lowellbow.jpgI remember being upset when the Yankees traded third base prospect Mike Lowell to the Marlins, after New York picked up Scott Brosius in 1998. I had been following Lowell’s progress at Columbus at the time and he looked like the real deal. Brosius of course went on to have a super 1998 season and postseason and worked his butt off during his four years in pinstripes.

But Mike Lowell turned out to be a very good ballplayer and a class act in the clubhouse. And he would come back and haunt his former franchise for dealing him. He spent seven solid seasons with the Marlins and in 2003, he led them to the World Series where the Fish pulled off an upset 4-games-to-2 victory against the Yankees. That regular season, Lowell set career highs with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs.

Then in November of 2005, Red Sox GM Brian Epstein pulled off a stunning trade with Florida, getting both Lowell and starting pitcher Josh Beckett for a package of four prospects that included both Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. That deal brought the one-time Yankee prospect back to the AL East Division. During the next five seasons, Lowell appeared in 76 Red Sox-Yankee games and hit .314 in those contests including 12 home runs and 56 RBIs. Even worse, in 2007, he set new career highs in RBIs (120) and batting average (.324) and led Boston to an AL East Division title. He then averaged .352, smashed 18 hits and drove in 15 runs in the Red Sox’ 14-game ’07 postseason, which culminated with a second ring and a World Series MVP award for Lowell.

That ’07 playoff run would turn out to be the high point of Lowell’s career in Beantown. During the next three seasons, he was afflicted with an A-Rod like hip injury that would eventually force him into retirement after the 2010 season.

Its interesting to think about what would have happened if New York started Lowell at third in 1998. Would they have gone for A-Rod when they did if they had a young and productive Lowell at third? Would that mean Soriano might still be a Yankee today? I of course get to ask these questions while Cashman earns his salary by answering them.

Lowell shares his birthday with this former Yankee utility outfielder.

1998 NYY 8 15 15 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .267 .267 .267 .533
13 Yrs 1601 6500 5813 771 1619 394 7 223 952 30 548 817 .279 .342 .464 .805
FLA (7 yrs) 981 4005 3554 477 965 241 3 143 578 21 354 528 .272 .339 .462 .801
BOS (5 yrs) 612 2480 2244 293 650 153 4 80 374 9 194 288 .290 .346 .468 .814
NYY (1 yr) 8 15 15 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .267 .267 .267 .533
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Generated 3/1/2014.

February 22 – Happy Birthday Kelly Johnson

johnsonNo one complained more than me during the 2013 preseason about the Yankees’ penny pinching approach to developing the team’s 25-man Opening Day roster. You won’t hear me complaining this year. Prince Hal and company have put an additional $400 million Yankee bucks back into their product thus far this winter.

The Bronx Bombers have upgraded their catching position, their rotation and their outfield. The recent signing of former A’s closer Andrew Bailey was Brian Cashman’s way of putting in place some insurance for a stretch run just in case David Robertson proves unready to master the Closer’s role in New York’s bullpen.

The only area of the team that the Yanks can be accused of “downgrading” is the infield. Granted, if Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter can both bounce back from serious injuries, Yankee fans will be pleased with the results. But the efforts to replace Robbie Cano with Brian Roberts and A-Rod with today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant were definitely done on the cheap.

Johnson will not make us forget what A-Rod was in his juiced-up prime but, then again, who could. He’s an eight-year veteran who came up with the Braves in 2005 and later put up some good home run numbers for the Diamondbacks. The Yanks are hoping their Stadium’s short right field porch provides as big a boost to Johnson’s power stats as he got from the thin desert air during his top dinger-production days in Arizona. If that does happen, Joe Girardi should be able to live with Johnson’s limited defensive experience and skills as a third baseman

Born in Austin, Texas on this date in 1982, Johnson was a first round draft pick of Atlanta’s in 2000. He spent last year with the Rays and the year before that with the Blue Jays so he’s got lots of experience against AL East pitchers. Both Scott Sizemore and the perennial Yankee infield question mark, Eduardo Nunez will challenge Johnson for the hot corner job this spring but conventional wisdom says the spot is his to lose.  He shares his birthday with this former 20-game-winning pitcherthis one-time Yankee closer,  this former Yankee phee-nom and this grandfather of a number 1 Yankee draft pick.

8 Yrs 1051 4174 3664 540 926 191 38 124 442 79 439 928 .253 .335 .427 .762
ATL (4 yrs) 490 1902 1661 270 439 97 22 45 206 29 203 359 .264 .346 .430 .777
ARI (2 yrs) 268 1152 1015 152 256 59 10 44 120 26 123 280 .252 .335 .460 .795
TOR (2 yrs) 175 713 622 77 145 23 4 19 64 17 78 190 .233 .323 .375 .697
TBR (1 yr) 118 407 366 41 86 12 2 16 52 7 35 99 .235 .305 .410 .715
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/1/2014.