Pinch hitting: Michael Brennan • 02.08.15
Our next Pinch Hitter is Michael Brennan, who was raised firmly in Journal News territory between Westchester and Rockland counties. He wrote that he still considers Tarrytown to be his hometown after spending 10 of his first 25 years living there. In July of 2011, Michael moved from to south Florida to live with his wife (then fiancé), and he now works for the state of Florida in the social services sector. “My favorite Yankee moments from when I was younger are split,” Micheal wrote, “between going to Game 2 of the World Series to see El Duque take the mound and celebrate after walking the streets with thousands of other fans.”
For his post, Michael is looking back at one of the keys to those great Yankees teams of the late ’90s.
During the 1990s, the Yankees had a number of future Hall of Famers, from Wade Boggs and Joe Torre, to (one day) Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. While all of the previously mentioned were great during their time with the Yankees, they were never my favorite or the one I hoped to see play when I made a trip to Yankee Stadium.
The Yankee I called my favorite was Paul O’Neill, a veteran player who was developed and won a World Series with the Cincinnati Reds in 1990. By the time he came to the Yankees in a trade for Roberto Kelly in the offseason of ’92, the Yankees were in the midst of their longest World Series drought dating back to 1978.
What O’Neill represented during his years, not just to myself but to many fans, was a “Warrior” as George Steinbrenner himself once call O’Neill. What I think this label meant was that Paul put all he could out there on the field day after day, even when the results in the box score may not have reflected that. The images the media would show of O’Neill talking to himself and taking out his frustrations on the dugout water cooler, I think, were a little overblown. What those moments showed was how much of a critic Paul was on himself and how seriously he took his performance.
His presence in the dugout and locker room had a lasting impact on players. I think he along with his teammates helped to mentor Jeter into being the great Captain of the team a couple of years after O’Neill’s own retirement at the end of the 2001 World Series. What I have yet to even mention was how valuable Paul’s bat was in the lineup. From 1994 to 1998, O’Neil always hit at least .300, hit hit 20 or more home runs four times, and struck out 100 times only once. What surprises me is that, even as his career was winding down, from 1999 to 2001 O’Neill reached 100 RBIs twice (’00 & ’01). In his final year playing ball, he stole the most bases of his career, 22, and had a memorable send off in the 2001 World Series against Arizona.
Even after he retired, O’Neill kept his face and voice around the Yankees as he became an on-air personality to call games with Michael Kay of the YES Network. Last season, the Yankees enshrined Paul with a plaque in Monument Park, where he was supported by his friends and family.
What I believe the Yankees missed the opportunity to do was finally retire his number and not leave it out there for another role player to one day inherit.
Associated Press photos
Mark Teixeira took some swings off a tee yesterday, testing the left pinkie that took a three-stitch cut on Wednesday. It didn’t go well.
“It’s not the cut,” Teixeira said this morning. “The joint is really, really sore.”
Then Teixeira tested it again after he spoke.
“He took swings and he felt better,” Joe Girardi said. “Hopefully it’s not much longer with him.”
The Yankees just announced that Brian McCann is going on the 7-day concussion DL. He suffered a mild concussion on a foul tip to the face mask in last night’s game. Austin Romine was recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Brian Roberts was unconditionally released.
Michael Pineda went 4 1/3 for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Friday night, allowing one run and six hits while striking out seven. He threw 72 pitches.
“Everything is there,” Pineda said, back at his locker this morning. “The velocity is there. I’m feeling good. I’m happy with that.”
That was his second rehab start in his latest comeback from the upper back muscle strain near that right shoulder. Asked if he’s ready to pitch for the Yankees again, Pineda said, “I’m ready for pitching, yeah.”
Esmil Rogers turned in a strong five-inning start last night, filling in for the injured David Phelps. Both Rogers and Pineda are set to throw a bullpen session tomorrow, so both are on line for Wednesday.
But will Pineda make his return that night against the first-place Orioles in Baltimore?
“That’s something we’ll have to talk about,” Girardi said. “Ideally you’d like to get someone to 90 pitches. … We’ll sit down, Brian (Cashman) and the people who saw it, and decide what’s next for him.”
Paul O’Neill is receiving his Monument Park plaque honor before the game.
“The intensity he brought, I used to love to watch,” Girardi said.
Photo by The Associated Press.