Saturday, September 17, 2005

 
September 17th, 1993

Frank Tanana Traded


The trade was made by the Yankees, in a last ditch effort to catch up to the division leading Blue Jays, acquiring Tanana from the Mets for Kenny Greer, who had cups of coffee with the Mets and Giants but otherwise flamed out. (This marked a change from earlier Yankee teams which would've made this deal in August and given up Derek Jeter.) Tanana went 0-2 for the Yankees despite a pretty good performance, allowing just seven runs in three starts.

That 0-2 would be the last results of
Tanana's career, leaving him with a career record of 240-236 and a rather dubious distinction. Although Tanana won nearly two hundred and fifty games, including nineteen in 1976 and eighteen in 1978, he never crossed the boundary to win twenty. Tanana ranks then, as the man with the most career victories without ever having won twenty. For a while it seemed he might have been able to cede that crown to Mike Mussina, but “Moose” has struggled with ineffectiveness and injuries the last two years. As of today he's at two hundred twenty-three career victories, or eighteen short of passing Tanana for the honor.

Mussina will be thirty-seven next year, the last of his current Yankee contract (there's an unlikely to be picked up team option for 2007) and it will be interesting to see if he stays around long enough to reach victory number two forty-one, and take a bit of trivia away from Tanana.



Friday, September 16, 2005

 
September 16th, 1960

Mel Hall Born


Ok, so it's another Yankee from their hugely mediocre early 1990s period. So shoot me I had to watch those teams, you can bear to read about their players for a few minutes every now and then. Or you could can just skip over and go to one of the brighter lights. (Gotcha!) Anyway, Hall is worth remembering, for any number of reasons. For one thing, he was a jerk. When Bernie Williams--that's Mr. Clean-up hitter and centerfielder on four World Champion teams Williams to you—was first called up to the Yankees he was shy and reserved. Furthermore, the glasses he wore combined with the jazz guitar he would practice in the clubhouse, made him an easy target for Hall. Hall ridiculed the young rookie until Gerald Williams (no relation to Bernie, by the way) stepped in and told Hall to...well, you can probably imagine.

But Hall wasn't all bad; he is the source of some great stories. For one thing, it was Mel Hall's Memorial Day 1991 home runs which led (through a series of circumstances) to the creation of one of, if not the, best Yankee blogs, Larry Mahnken's Replacement Level Yankee Weblog. For another, Hall was quite a character. While in
New York he rented an apartment on the upper floors of Trump Tower. He would drive around town from that apartment with his two pet cougars (they were later confiscated by the city and cost Hall a $10,000 fine), and also used his fancy cars to drive his sixteen year-old girlfriend to school, and he would later attend her prom. While Hall didn't get along with Bernie Williams, this did make quite an impression on Deion Sanders (with the Yankees then) who asked Hall to be Godfather to one of his children.

Offended by the Yankees refusal to give him a contract extension (although given that he only managed to get his on-base percentage over .320 once in four years, it's hard to blame them) Hall took to complaining and instead headed to
Japan. He spent a few years there but returned to the Majors in 1996 with his knees in worse shape--which limited him largely to pinch-hitting duty--but his attitude intact, complaining that while pinch-hitting was a "vital role" it was one that he “would never accept.” Surprising no one, he was released within a month and never played in the Majors again.



Thursday, September 15, 2005

 
September 15th, 1941

Jim Barbieri Born


No relation, so far as I know, Jim Barbieri played one season with the Dodgers in 1966. I don't know what the story was; Barbieri didn't set any houses afire with his performance but he was perfectly competent, hitting .280/.352/.341 in eighty at-bats, good for a better than average OPS in Dodger Stadium that year. He was on the Dodgers' post-season roster, albeit appearing in just one game, and was only twenty six. Why Barbieri never appeared in the Majors again is a mystery I can't unravel; I can only assume that injury played some part.

Despite his limited Major League career, Barbieri was still inducted into the Schenectady County School District (SCSD) Hall of Fame in 2003. Among his listed accomplishments is his Captainship of the 1954 Schenectady Little League World Series winning team, which makes him--to this point anyway--the only man to win the Little League World Series and play in the Major League World Series. That's more of a feat than an accomplishment, but let's give Jim his due, for all of the hype that surrounds the Little League World Series every year, it seems almost none of them make the Majors. Barbieri accomplished that, if only for a brief moment.



Wednesday, September 14, 2005

 
September 14th, 1957

Jerry Don Gleaton Born

No, he wasn't a lost member of the Beverly Hillbillies; Jerry Don Gleaton was a pitcher who had a twelve year career mostly as a reliever with a variety of teams. Gleaton was involved in a trade in 1980 which featured not only him but also (deep breath) Steve Finch, Brian Allard, Rick Auerbach, Ken Clay, Richie Zisk, Rick Honeycutt, Mario "I have a Line named after me" Mendoza, Larry Cox, Leon Roberts and Willie Horton. That's eleven men in one trade, between just two teams no less. That's quite a range of mediocre players by the way, from Mendoza, who famously never hit, to Horton who had once been a star but was running on fumes at this point to Honeycutt who had the best year of his career still nine years ahead of him.

Back to Gleaton. Jerry Don (how can you not use the first name, er, names?) spent all but one year of his career as a reliever, which worked best for his two pitch fastball/curve arsenal. Gleason mixed some good seasons (1987, '88, and the best in 1990) with some poor ones (1985, 1992 and the worst in 1989). He left the Tigers after the 1991 season claiming they weren't offering him enough money and signed with
Pittsburgh, declaring in Spring Training that he was throwing harder than he had been previously. Whether that was true or not, Jerry Don had a lousy season for the Bucs in 1992--he was left off the post-season in the 1992 NLCS--and would not pitch in the Majors again.



Tuesday, September 13, 2005

 
September 13th, 1996

Charlie O'Brien Debuts New Gear


Baseball is an ever changing game. The "take-and-rake" offensive style that has won championships for the Yankees and Red Sox, and division titles for the A's and Dodgers would never have worked in the early portion of the century. You could walk then, of course, but if you waited for the big home run, you would be waiting, waiting, and...losing. On the other hand, John McGraw's 1904 Giants won one hundred six games and had one hundred sixty-five sacrifice bunts, more than one a game. If you tried that these days, you'd bunt your way to a bunch of a 5-1 and 7-2 defeats.

In the same manner, the equipment changes. The kind of glove Honus Wagner, a shortstop, would use (you can also see it here) bares so little resemblance to the glove that Derek Jeter uses that although you can see how one got to the other, you would hardly guess they were used for the same purpose. On the other hand, some gear has remained more or less the same. Catchers' masks are one piece of equipment like that. The mask worn by Roger Bresnahan is basically the same as the one worn by Yogi Berra as the one worn by Johnny Bench as the one worn by Mike Piazza. And it might have stayed that way but for Charlie O'Brien.

O'Brien was an unremarkable catcher whose 1996 in
Toronto was his only year as a starter. On this day that year, as the Jays were losing to Andy Pettitte (the lefty's twenty-first victory of the season) , O'Brien came out in a mask that must've made much of the SkyDome crowd wonder if the Jays had brought in Curtis Joseph in an attempt to drum up late season attendance. O'Brien was the first catcher to wear the now fairly common style of hockey masks behind the plate. The trend took a few years to take off, but is now fairly popular, worn by catchers including Gregg Zaun (pictured in the collision), the Nats' Brain Schneider and John Flaherty, who has apparently switched from the old style mask to the new.

Changes in baseball are inevitable, and they generally happen in slow bits. Charlie O'Brien, however, made a huge leap in one game, and one that may someday relegate the traditional catchers' mask to the realm of memory.



Monday, September 12, 2005

 
September 12th, 1979

Carl Yastrzemski Recods 3,000th Hit


"Yaz" got the landmark hit on a single off then Yankee (and current Orioles' co-GM) pitcher Jim Beattie at Fenway Park. This made him the first American Leaguer with three thousand hits and four hundred home runs and was another notch on Yaz's Hall of Fame belt. But here's an amazing thought: As great as Yaz was--and he was--he might end up as neither the greatest nor second greatest player to patrol under the shadow of the Green Monster for the Red Sox.

Truthfully, the statement that Yaz is not the best BoSox left fielder ever is hardly a controversial one. The greatest Sox left fielder is the man who might also be the greatest hitter of all time, Ted Williams. Williams' shadow over Sox left fielders is nearly as long as that of the Green Monster, and he is clearly the finest man to play the position, not only for the Sox, but also of all-time.

But Yaz, number eight in your scorebooks, is generally enshrined at number two in the Sox left field history. But what of the man who occupies that spot currently? Manny Ramirez will obviously never be able to attain the same place in the hearts of Sox fans that Yaz has; he isn't a lifelong member of the team for one, and for another, well, let's just say no Sox fans ever owned a t-shirt with this sentiment about Carl. Offensively however, there is almost no comparison between the two. To this point, "Man Ram" (his nickname isn’t as good as Yaz’s either) has a career line of .313/.409/.596, which is ahead, well ahead in average and slugging, of Yaz's .285/.379/.462. Of course, that's somewhat unfair as we have all of Carl's career and only part of Manny's--notably without his decline phase.

But looking at it even on a year-by-year basis, it's hard to give Yaz the nod. He had the edge at age twenty one and twenty two, before Manny became a regular. At age twenty-three, they posted identical 148 OPS+, but after that, through to Manny's last full year Manny has posted a superior OPS+ in seven of nine years, including every year from age twenty-eight going forward. Moreover, while Yaz had some good seasons in that time (three over one seventy, including a one ninety-five), he mixed them in with some poor ones (four of less than one hundred twenty five). In comparison, Manny was remarkably consistent, never posting an OPS+ less than
one forty. Manny Ramirez, whatever else you can say about him, is a fantastic hitter.

But can you say he's better than Yaz? Well, he's not yet. And his Sox time only marks five years of his career, with more looking tenuous at best. But if he stays in
Boston, and keeps hitting, chances are by the time Manny retires, Carl Yastrzesmki will be the greatest man to be the third best player at a position in any franchise.



Sunday, September 11, 2005

 
September 11th, 2001

9-11




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