Let’s face it, the Houston Astros will probably be in for a long season. The organization has officially hit rock bottom over the past two years losing a combined 213 games over the course of that time. The 2013 payroll will be under $25 million dollars with pitcher Bud Norris the highest salaried player on the team at $3 million. At some point, the Astros will get better and eventually contend for a playoff berth; however at this moment that could be anywhere from two to five years. When the team is ready for good things, most of the current players on the roster will probably be long gone. It makes me think about the New York Yankees from about 1989 until 1992, all depressing, losing seasons with the ’92 campaign at least showing a pulse of what was to come. By the time the Yanks won the World Series in 1996, those guys who were signed or traded for to begin the turnaround were mostly gone. The following is a list of players that served the Bronx Bombers well only never to bask in the glory that became the latest Yankee Dynasty. I will leave Don Mattingly off this list as he at least enjoyed a small taste of success in the mid-1980’s and he is an iconic figure. I won’t even include guys like Bob Wickman and Gerald Williams who at least had a taste of playoff experience in New York.
Steve Farr: In his book Steinbrenner, Hall of Fame writer Bill Madden writes how the signing of Farr was the first of the many tremendous deals by general manager Gene Michael that helped rebuild New York. The right-hander was signed by the Yankees after the 1990 season, a year in which he won 13 games and finished with a 1.98 ERA as a spot starter and multi inning reliever with the Kansas City Royals. During his three years in the Bronx, Farr saved 78 games, highlighted by a lights-out 1992 season in which he posted a miniscule 1.56 ERA and 30 saves. He anchored a strong bullpen during his time with the Yanks, a major reason why the road to recovery didn’t take as long as it appeared to have felt during that time. Unfortunately for Farr, he tailed off badly toward the end of the 1993 season as despite 25 saves, his ERA ballooned to 4.21 which resulted in Michael not resigning him for the 1994 season. He pitched only one more year before calling it quits with 48 wins and 132 saves over an 11-year career.
Matt Nokes: The power-hitting catcher came over from the Detroit Tigers in a trade made during the 1990 season. His first two seasons with the Yanks started off with a bang as he slugged 24 home runs in 1991 and 22 home runs in 1992. However, like Farr his 1993 season became one to forget as injuries and ineffectiveness reduced him to only 238 at bats and ten homers. He accumulated only 86 at bats in 1994 though he did manage to bang out seven dingers. His last Major League season was in 1995 with the Colorado Rockies although he did bounce around the game on both the Minor League and Independent League level for a few seasons. He finished his Major League career with 136 home runs over 11 seasons.
Scott Sanderson: During the dreary days of 1991 and 1992, whenever Sanderson took the mound, I always felt the Yanks had a chance to win the game. Those two years were his only two in the Bronx and it was time well-served as he won 28 games and made the All-Start team in ’91. He was the workhorse that season winning 16 games and throwing 208 innings over 34 starts. Remember, that was the year of the hair flap as Don Mattingly was fined and benched for refusing to cut his locks. The prior year, Sanderson was part of the American League Champion Oakland A’s. Then he arrived in the Bronx and played with arguably the league’s worst team. Thankfully, the drastic change in atmosphere did not hurt the righty’s performance. Sanderson retired during the 1996 season as a member of the California Angels with 163 victories and a 3.84 ERA over a 19-year span.
Mike Gallego: The fan-favorite Gallego provided a humorous Yankee Stadium moment for me. I took my future wife and her cousins to an important August 4th, 1993 game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Gallego came to bat in the fifth inning and as the count progressed, the three ladies scream out his name. On the next pitch, Gallego puts one in the left field stands to help the Yanks to a big 6-2 victory. Like Sanderson, Gallego come to New York after the 1990 season and while his four seasons with the Yanks did not produce overwhelming stats, he always seemed to be in the middle of a big rally. His best year was in 1993 as he hit ten home runs and drove in a career-high 54 runs and batted .283, also a single-season best. After the 1994 season, Gallego returned to Oakland and then finished up his career after the 1997 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, retiring after playing in three World Series.
Alvaro Espinoza: At the age of 27, Espinoza finally stuck for good in the Big Leagues, becoming the Yankee starting shortstop in 1989. He was one of the lone bright spots on the team as he batted .282 in 544 at-bats and driving in 41 runs on a dreadful 74-win club. He was the Yanks’ starter at short for the following two seasons as well playing a total of 298 games and performing reasonably well on some bad teams. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians after 1991 and spent the 1992 season in their Minor League System. He came up to Cleveland and stayed for the next four years even managing to play in the 1995 World Series. Espy retired after the 1997 season, playing a total of 12 seasons at the Major League level.
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