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Posts Tagged ‘Dave Winfield’

AJ Burnett‘s time in pinstripes seems to be approaching its end, and the cost to jettison the enigmatic righty looks to be around $13 million. While AJ failed to deliver on his $82.5 million contract, his biggest problem was never attitude or talent: it simply is that AJ remains as inconsistent today as when he first broke into the big leagues. While he certainly can’t be a signing that Brian Cashman considers a success, AJ is far from a total flop. After all, he did actually contribute to a World Championship, and his stand-up attitude and shaving cream pies were welcome additions to the clubhouse. No, the Yankees have made their share of horribly awful deals over the years and I thought it might be fun to remember some of them. Here are the five most miserable transactions, and excuses for baseball players, in Yankee history – at least during the Steinbrenner Era.

#1: Tim Leary (RHP, 1990-92). 18-35 record, 5.12 ERA. The skinny: Originally acquired in a trade from Cincinnati for Hal Morris, nobody expected Leary to be the staff ace. Nobody expected him to lead the league with 19 losses, either. The mystifying part is why, after that, the Yankees signed him to a 3 year, $5.95 million deal. He was so terrible that midway through the ’91 season, he was sent to the bullpen – and the boos were so loud at Yankee Stadium that he ceased pitching at home. Before the ’92 season was over, the “Six Million Dollar Man” was exiled to Seattle. In return, the Yankees received the utterly forgettable Sean Twitty, who never made an appearance in the majors. Morris, however, went on to  a 13 year career in which he hit .304, won Rookie of the Year and was a key member of the Reds 1990 Championship team. Oops.

#2: Steve Kemp (OF/DH, 1983-84). .264 BA, 19 HR, 90 RBI. The skinny: Steve Kemp is the poster child for why guaranteed contracts aren’t necessarily a good thing. A two-time All-Star who averaged 21 HR and 98 RBI from 1979-82, Kemp was supposed to bring a left-handed power bat to Yankee Stadium. After two seasons in which Kemp seemed happier striking out than hitting home runs, the Yanks sent him packing to Pittsburgh for Dale Berra and Jay Buhner (yes, that Jay Buhner). Of course, Kemp’s 5 year, $5.45 million deal was guaranteed, so for the next three seasons the Bombers paid him to ride the bench in Pittsburgh, San Diego and Texas. I realize that in today’s baseball economy, middle relievers make more than a million bucks a season, so the money may not sound outrageous. But this was in 1983 – Kemp’s deal was worth more annually than Dave Winfield’s.

#3: Dave Collins (1B/OF, 1982). .253 BA, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 13 SB. The skinny: remember the Go-Go Yankees? Signed to a 3 year, $2.5M contract, Collins was supposed to team up with Rickey Henderson and Ken Griffey at the top of the line-up and let the Yanks steal a WS title. After stealing 79 bases in 1980 for Cincinnati, Collins only ran 21 times for the Yanks (and got caught 8 times, a miserable 61% success rate). He was traded prior to the 1983 season to Toronto and the Blue Jays demanded Fred McGriff as ransom. George’s attempts at recasting the 1982 Yankees as the 1959 White Sox cost the team more than a lost year and $800,000. It also wound up costing 493 career home runs. And it led to the Yanks signing Steve Kemp.

#4: Kenny Rogers (RHP, 1996-97) 18-15 record, 5.11 ERA. A classic example of a guy who simply couldn’t handle Broadway’s bright lights. When he pitched in small markets, Rogers was a four-time All Star, 5 time Gold Glover and a fixture in the postseason. For the Bombers, the Gambler just couldn’t get the job done, and he and his 3 year, $15M contract were shipped off to Oakland after only two years for the infamous Player to be Named Later. At least the PTBNL turned into Scott Brosius, who was anything but a dud for the Yanks.

#5: Carl Pavano (RHP, 2005-08) 9-8 record, 5.00 ERA. When Pavano hit free agency after the 2004 season, teams were lining up for his services. The Yankees outbid everyone and landed the former Marlin for 4 years and $38 million. We all know how that turned out. Pavano only made 26 starts over those four seasons as a myriad of strange injuries kept him off the pitching rubber (including the now infamous bruised butt). He probably would be more fondly remembered if he had done anything memorable in those starts, but he spent most of his time getting his ego as bruised as his tailbone. Like Rogers, once he left for smaller pastures he became a decent pitcher again, averaging 13 wins and 214 innings over the last three years for the Twins and Indians.

There are some notable honorable mentions who didn’t make the cut; guys like Raul Mondesi, Doyle Alexander, Jeff Weaver and Roy Smalley. AJ Burnett will undoubtedly join this list as a player who failed to live up to expectations, but he is a long way from being considered a flop on this scale.

So, what do you think? Are there any glaring omissions – or would you include AJ in the top 5? Let us know in the comments below. Fire Away!

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ESPN New York released their “50 Greatest Yankees” list the other day. I can’t really argue too much with their list, although I probably would have swapped Thurman Munson (#12) and Bill Dickey (#10). Yes, I know Dickey is in the Hall of Fame and Munson isn’t. But it was Munson’s leadership, as much as anything else that returned the Yankees to their winning ways in the ’70s. And who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up if not for the plane crash?

Anyway, here’s their list. I’ve added in the dates they played for the Yanks, along with their position. An asterisk denotes a playing career interrupted by a military commitment; # denotes a Hall-of-Famer. Current players are in red type. Feel free to let us know how you feel about the list!

50. Mike Mussina (RHP, 2001-2008)

49. Bob Meusel (LF, 1920-1930)

48. Albert “Sparky” Lyle (LHP, 1972-1978)

47. Gil McDougald (IF, 1951-1960)

46. Jim “Catfish” Hunter (RHP, 1974-1978)#

45. David Cone (RHP, 1995-2000)

44. Roy White (LF, 1965-1979)

43. Hank Bauer (RF, 1948-1959)

42. Jack Chesbro (RHP, 1903-1909)#

41. Eddie Lopat (RHP, 1948-1955)

40. Rickey Henderson (1985-1989)#

39. Vic Raschi (RHP, 1946-1953)

38. Joe Gordon (2B, 1938-1946)*#

37. Tommy Henrich (RF, 1937-1950)*

36. Charlie “King Kong” Keller (LF, 1939-1949)*

35. Bobby Murcer (CF, 1969-1974, 1979-1983)

34. Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler (RHP, 1937-1947)

33. Willie Randolph (2B, 1976-1988)

32. Waite Hoyt (RHP, 1921-1929)#

31. Mel Stottlemyre (RHP, 1964-1974)

30. Paul O’Neill (RF, 1993-2001)

29. Graig Nettles (3B, 1973-1983)

28. Dave Winfield (OF, 1981-1990)#

27. Herb Pennock (LHP, 1923-1933)#

26. Allie “Superchief” Reynolds (RHP, 1947-1954)

25. Rich “Goose” Gossage (RHP, 1978-1983, 1989)#

24. Elston Howard (C, 1955-1967)

23. Earle Combs (CF, 1924-1935)#

22. Roger Maris (RF, 1960-1966)

21. Jorge Posada (C, 1995-present)

20. Phil Rizzuto (SS, 1941-1956)*#

19. Bernie Williams (CF, 1991-2006)

18. “Poosh ‘Em Up” Tony Lazzeri (2B, 1926-1937)#

17. Ron “Gator” Guidry (LHP, 1975-1988)

16. Andy Pettitte (LHP, 1995-2003, 2007-2010)

15. Reggie Jackson (RF, 1977-1981)#

14. Vernon “Lefty” Gomez (LHP, 1930-1942)#

13. Alex Rodriguez (3B, 2004-present)

12. Thurman Muson (C, 1969-1979)

11. Don Mattingly (1B, 1982-1995)

10. Bill Dickey (C, 1928-1946)#

9. Charles “Red” Ruffing (RHP, 1930-1942)#

8. Edward “Whitey” Ford (LHP, 1953-1967)*#

7. Derek Jeter (SS, 1995-present)

6. Lawrence “Yogi” Berra (C, 1946-1963)#

5. Mariano Rivera (RHP, 1995-present)

4. Mickey Mantle (CF, 1950-1968)#

3. “Joltin” Joe DiMaggio (CF, 1936-1951)*#

2. Lou “Iron Horse” Gehrig (1B, 1923-1939)#

1. George “Babe” Ruth (RF, 1920-1934)#

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I took an English course this past semester at school, and the main theme of the class was “Spectacle”. For our final paper, we were able to choose a topic that we thought fit that category, and I chose George Steinbrenner’s reign as owner of the New York Yankees. The purpose of my paper was to show how the different personality traits that he possessed led to success in many different aspects of his job.

spec·ta·cle [spek-tuh-kuhl]

–noun
1. anything presented to the sight or view, esp. something of a striking or impressive kind:
2. a public show or display, esp. on a large scale

Steinbrenner’s Reign

              George M. Steinbrenner III has gone down in the record books as one of the most controversial and successful owners in the history of sports. His demand for excellence and his hunger to be the best did not always put him in a good light with the people he worked with, because he was stubborn and wanted to do things his way. During his reign as owner with the New York Yankees, he had run-ins with authorities, MLB officials, players, and team personnel. If things didn’t go according to his plan, he would take matters into his own hands, berating players and messing around with the minds of his managers and employees. Even though many of his tactics were thought to be unethical, Steinbrenner transcended the game of baseball in the process by: bringing about the development of free agency, having the first organization to own and operate its own television cable network, controlling the back pages of the newspapers, and changed the way other clubs ran their teams. These developments allowed the fans to forgive and forget about the stunts Steinbrenner pulled. It was his attitude, competitiveness, larger than life personality, and his generosity that allowed his to shine the brightest in the biggest media market in the country. These personality traits were critical factors in his success as an owner: financially, on the ball field, and with the media and fans.

            Steinbrenner was a remarkable competitor, who was motivated to be successful like no other owner in the sports world. “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next,” he said. His whole life was a competition, dating back to his childhood when he was constantly trying to gain approval from his father. George’s father, Henry Steinbrenner, “ruled with an iron fist” and instilled the idea that winning was all that mattered in life. George could tell him that he won two out of three races in school, but his father would only focus on why he lost that third race and what went wrong. In 1973, Steinbrenner and a small group of investors purchased the New York Yankees from CBS for $8.8 million dollars. Thirty-seven years later, the organization is now worth $1.6 billion, which is the most valuable baseball team in the league (and 3rd most valuable franchise in the world. 1st: Manchester United $1.8B, 2nd: Dallas Cowboys $1.65B). When he first bought the team, he led New Yorkers to believe that he would not be a hands-on owner, but he would rather keep his distance from the team and go back to his family shipping business. “I won’t be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all. I can’t spread myself so thin. I’ve got enough headaches with my shipping company. We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned,” he stated. It turned out to be the complete opposite, because he wanted his own project to work on, rather than staying put in his father’s shipping company. “I’m not here to run a country club,” Steinbrenner said. “I’m here to run a winning organization.” He soon donned the nicknames “The Boss” and “Manager George”, and would meddle in the general manager’s meetings and many of the on-field decisions. There were several occasions during the 1970’s where George would call Yankees manager, Billy Martin in the dugout during a game and give him a tongue-lashing. He would complain about anything from why they didn’t bunt in a particular situation to why Reggie Jackson wasn’t batting fourth in the lineup. It was a display of just how unreasonable George could be at times. (more…)

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Derek Jeter has 2,892 career hits, which places him 108 hits from reaching 3,000. The New York Yankees have never had a player crack the 3,000-hit barrier in their uniform. That’s what makes this so special. They’ve had players in the past who reached the milestone (Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs), but they weren’t career Yankees, and didn’t wear the pinstripes when they did it. Lou Gehrig was the closest player to 3,000, compiling 2,721 hits over 17 seasons.

When a player enters the 3,000 hit club, it’s thought of as a gauranteed spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The club has 27 members, but only 24 are eligible for the Hall of Fame right now. Pete Rose is ineligible for gambling on baseball games, while Craig Biggio and Rafael Palmeiro have been active within the past five seasons. Palmeiro will become eligible in 2011, while Biggio will have to wait until 2013. With Rafael being linked to steroids, it’s highly unlikely he will get in.

For Derek, it will just be another accolade to add to his résumé. He doesn’t need to break this barrier to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but it’s just one of those very special moments in a player’s career. With only 34 games left in the season, Derek won’t be breaking the record this year.

The watch has already started, but it won’t end until early next season.

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The Yankees have been a part of my family since I can remember. I attended my first game in 1970, for my 5th birthday, at the original Yankee stadium. They weren’t very good then and they lost the game, but I do remember Bobby Murcer hitting a drive that hit the monuments and bounced straight back to the center fielder. Murcer was thrown at third. Such was the Yankees fate in those days.

In 1988, I introduced my niece to the Yankees. She was 3 at the time and once again, the team was pretty bad. Oh, they sort of hit – but the pitching staff was terrible. Billy Martin started Rick Rhoden (the pitcher) at DH that day. But somehow, they won that game on a Claudell Washington walk-off single. Afterwards, the real reason I was able to convince my sister to attend the game: a Beach Boys concert. (John Stamos was in the back-up band at the time and she was a huge Stamos fan back then).

So, before getting yourself worked up about Mark Teixeira’s average or Chan Ho Park’s ERA, think back to the first Yankee team you fell in love with. Unless you were born after 1995, odds are that first team was pretty bad. Maybe your first hero was Donnie Baseball or Dave Winfield. Perhaps, like me, you wore a Fred Stanley jersey with pride (and incessant ribbing from your friends and Little League teammates). Yes, the team has room for improvement. But at 50-31, this isn’t the 1988 or 1970 Yankees.

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A handcuffed Howard Spira leaves Manhattan Federal Court in March of 1990.

Howie Spira is the Bronx gambler who dug up dirt on Dave Winfield after being paid $40,000 by George Steinbrenner. Winfield sued George for failing to pay his foundation the $300,000 guaranteed in his contract. On July 30, 1990, Commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner from baseball for life. Steinbrenner was reinstated soon after in 1993. Now, at 50-years old, Spira is down in the dumps.

“George Steinbrenner ruined my health, my life and my reputation. My life is a living hell,” says Spira, a short, slight man with a gray pallor who favors dark, natty suits. “I have no friends, no life and no future. Everything is complete emptiness, loneliness and misery. Everyone hates me.”

“Will somebody please come forward and help me tell my story?” Spira asks. “I go through my own private hell every minute of every day and every night because of George Steinbrenner.”

Spira wants to put his story into a book, but the writers and agents that he’s contacted won’t touch the project. I guess nobody wants to mess with the New York Yankees.

“They get scared of George and his sons,” Spira says. “Or they want the perks that come from hanging around the Yankees – the tickets and memorabilia and the mystique.”

In the 1980’s, Spira served as an unpaid publicist for Dave Winfield’s charity (the Dave Winfield Foundation). He wasn’t a very good gambler either, as he owed $100,000 to Mafia-connected bookies. Not only that, but he owed money to Winfield after he borrowed $15,000 from him. Later on, Winfield charged him outrageously high interest rates. Spira figured out a way that he could solve all of his money problems. In 1986, he contacted Steinbrenner and said he wanted $150,000, a job with his shipping company and a room in his Tampa hotel. In exchange, he would give him proof that Winfield was using his foundation’s money on girlfriends. Steinbrenner agreed to the deal.Spira, who serves 22 months in federal prison for extortion, says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and can't work.

Steinbrenner called his repeated phone calls extortion. According to Spira, Steinbrenner sent his friends from the Tampa FBI office to go after him. The FBI went to his house and the rest is history. Spira wound up serving 22 months in federal prison for extortion. After that, his health started to decline. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, he can no longer work, lives with his parents, and he relies on disability checks and Medicaid.

He says Steinbrenner ruined his life, but it was Spira who sought him out for money. I’m not defending Steinbrenner in any way, as this was one of his lowest points as the owner of the team, but I just feel that Spira got into trouble and brought it on himself. It’s not like George made him owed $100,000 to Mafia-connected bookies and $15,000 to Winfield.

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