Next up in the Pinch Hitters series is Jesse Ghiorzi, who searched through baseball to put together a team of familiar faces.
Jesse grew up in Westchester County, lives in Ohio and tries to make it home for two or three games at The Stadium every year (he also catches four or five games on the road). “My favorite Yankees memory was sitting on the third-base line during David Cone’s perfect game,” he wrote.
Jesse is the PR coordinator for a race track — “cars, not horses!” — and runs his own blog with his friend Mike Pellegrini, “who had the idea for the ex-Yankees team,” Jesse wrote.
If you take a look at virtually any MLB roster, you’ll recognize a player or three who played in the Yankees organization at one point. Years ago I remember looking at guys like Jay Buhner mashing, Kenny Rogers toeing the rubber and J.T. Snow flashing leather and wondered “what could have been?”
While this team isn’t as star-studded as it could have been in other years, I’ve often thought you could put together a roster comprised of former Yankees that is good enough to compete for the playoffs. I picked the team based on who would give me the best chance to win in one season, not one game, not one series, or for five years. My selections are below, with information about how the player came to and left the Yankees as well as his active years in the organization.
1. Alfonso Soriano, 2B (CHC)
signed after playing for Hiroshima Toyo Carp, 1999-2003, traded to TEX 2004
2. Johnny Damon, CF (FA)
signed as FA, 2006-09, currently unsigned
3. Bobby Abreu, RF (ANA)
acquired via trade from PHI, 2007-09, signed w/ANA 2008
4. Carlos Pena, 1B (TB)
signed as FA, 2006, released 2006
5. Hideki Matsui, DH (ANA)
signed as FA, 2003-09, signed w/ANA 2009
6. Juan Rivera , LF (ANA)
signed as amateur FA, 1996-2003, traded to MON 2003
7. Mike Lowell, 3B (BOS)
drafted, 1995-1998, traded to FLA 1999
8. Dioner Navarro, C (TB)
signed as amateur FA, 2000-04, traded to ARI 2005
9. Nick Green, SS (BOS)
purchased from ATL, 2006, signed w/PIT 2007
Melky Cabrera, OF (ATL)
signed as amateur FA, 2001-09, traded to ATL 2009
Wil Nieves, C (WAS)
acquired via trade LAA, 2005-2007, signed w/WAS 2008
Eric Hinske, UTIL (ATL)
acquired via trade from PIT, 2009, sign w/ATL 2009
Jerry Hairston, Jr., UTIL (SD)
acquired via trade from CIN 2009, signed w/SD 2010
Ted Lilly, LHP (CHC)
acquired via trade from MON, 2000-02, traded to OAK 2002
Jake Westbrook, RHP (CLE)
acquired via trade from MON/WAS (same one as Lilly!) 2000, traded to CLE 2000
Ross Ohlendorf, RHP (PIT)
acquired via trade from ARI, 2007-08, traded 2008
Chien-Ming Wang, RHP (FA)
signed as amateur FA, 2000-09, currently unsigned
Jeff Weaver, RHP (LAD)
acquired via trade from DET, 2002-2003, traded to LAD 2003
Scott Proctor, RHP (ATL)
acquired via trade from LAD, 2003-07, traded to LAD 2007
Octavio Dotel, RHP(CHW)
signed as FA, 2006, signed w/KC 2006
Tyler Clippard, RHP (WAS)
drafted, 2003-07, traded to WAS 2007
LaTroy Hawkins, RHP (HOU)
signed as FA, 2008, traded to HOU 2008
Brett Tomko, RHP (OAK)
signed as FA, 2009, released 2009
Phil Coke, LHP (DET)
drafted, 2002-09, traded to DET 2009
Randy Choate, LHP (TB)
drafted, 1997- 2003, traded to MON 2003
Manager- Joe Torre (LAD) 1996-2007
Bench- Don Zimmer (TB) 1996-2003
Pitching- Joe Kerrigan (PIT) 2006-07
1B- Willie Randolph (MIL) 1994-2004
3B- Larry Bowa (LAD) 2006-07
An outfield of Rivera, Damon and Abreu gives me good pop (68 HR in 2009) and lots of offense but leaves a lot to be desired in the department of defense. Speedy guys like Ellsbury and Ichiro would tag up from 1st base on deep flies. The bench is a major strength, with Leche starting probably three games a week to give Rivera, Damon and Abreu each a day off. It’s also versatile with two guys (Hinske and Hairston, Jr.) who can play multiple positions.
Injury concerns run rampant up and down the roster, so we’re going to throw a crazy amount of money at the vaunted Phoenix Suns training staff to keep our largely injured and/or aging players. Obviously with Green and Lowell on the left side of the infield is a point of concern, but hopefully that’s made up for with All-Stars on the right side. While the term closer-by-committee terrifies any baseball fan, it looks to be the case for the Ex-Yankees without a clear cut favorite. Choate (5 SV/ 13 GF in 2009) and Hawkins (11 SV/ 34 GF in 2009) are most likely going to see the bulk of the action.
I love what Pudge Rodriguez can do for the staff, but I preferred the younger Nieves. It would have been nice to find a place for Xavier Nady, because I think he’ll put together a decent year, but there are enough guys coming back from injury-plagued years on the club already. There was absolutely no way on God’s green Earth I was going to allow Carl Pavano and his cancerous ways into the clubhouse.
If these Ex-Yankees were to play a full season in the AL East they could lose 90-95 games if the injury bug hits them. I think the best they’d do is around .500 based on having such a questionable pitching staff that the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox would abuse at times. However, since we are clearly operating in a fantasy world, imagine Bud Selig’s last act as commissioner was to place the Ex-Yankees in the NL Central in place of his Brewers. With this club getting to play the Reds, Pirates, Astros and Cubs (without Soriano and Lilly, remember) I pencil them in for 88-74, contending for the wildcard.