The last Yankee days of Shelley Duncan



In 2007, a 27-year-old rookie named Shelley Duncan arrived in the Bronx. Drafted by the Yanks in the second round of the 2001 draft, Shelley, son of Dave, brother of Chris, had a Major League pedigree, and a body to match. He is 6’5″ and 215 pounds, and when he hits, he puts all of those pounds behind his swing.

Through his first 16 games, Duncan reminded Yankee fans of Shane Spencer, another old rookie who came up and smashed. After just 46 big league at-bats, Duncan was hitting .317/.391/.756 with six home runs and 13 RBIs. He played with enthusiasm, smashing forearms with his teammates after each home run and seemed destined for a spot on the Yanks’ bench as a pinch hitter extraordinaire.

But soon thereafter, the holes emerged. Duncan would play in just 18 more games in 2007, earning himself 37 plate appearances. He hit a meager .182/.250/.303 and struck out nine times. In fact, overall, since his hot start, Duncan has been given 117 plate appearances with little successful. He has hit .181/.250/.276 with 27 strike outs and just two home runs. He loves himself some fastballs, but against the breaking balls, Duncan comes up empty.

Yesterday, for the second time during his career, the Yankees outrighted Duncan to AAA, and for all intents and purposes, Duncan’s Yankee career is all but over. When a player is outrighted for a second time, he can refuse the assignment to AAA and become a free agent. Chad Jennings spoke with the 30-year-old this evening, and Duncan said he would do that. “I’ll wait and see,” Duncan said. “I might clear on Monday or something, and if do, then I’ll become a free agent.”

Jennings also sums up the Yanks’ view on Shelley. “The Yankees were clearly never sold on Duncan,” he writes. “He toiled in Tampa and Trenton too long, and his chances of being an impact player in this organization were slim. Duncan, though, has done all he can to prove himself and earn a chance at some big league at-bats.”

The Lo Hud scribe goes on to compare Shelley Duncan to Garrett Jones on the list of those who never made it with their original organization. Jones was a Twins farmhand who broke out this year for the Pirates, but Jones was never the Minor League hitter Duncan was nor was he given the same chance with the Twins Duncan was given with the Yankees. New York brought Duncan with them out of Spring Training in 2008, but after two months of nothing, he was shipped back to AAA.

In the end, Duncan is a consummate Quadruple-A guy. He crushes Minor League pitching but can’t take that next step to become at least a serviceable hitter. Without his oversized personality, he would never be remembered in the Bronx. This year, he’ll get a World Series ring. He did, after all, play in a handful of games in October, but he is also going to have to find himself a new baseball home for the first time in his career. And so it goes with the feeling demands of baseball success.

Categories : Musings
  • Mike Axisa

    I’ll miss him … for a little while.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      I’m over it already.

      • Slugger27


        (i think that was his #)

  • Mike Pop

    I’ll never forget that 2 run homer he hit against the O’s in the bottom of the 9th to tie it up that one game. The game that Bedard was just completely dealing and they took him out for a lesser reliever(I want to say Chris Ray but I don’t think it was but might of been ;)). Mo later blew the game if I remember correctly.

    But that was awesome, Bedard just pwned the Yankees all game and then a Shelley smash to LF to tie it up.

    • Brent

      It was a 3-run home-run off of a hung slider against Jamie Walker. Mo lost it in the 10th.

      • Accent Shallow

        Why would you let a sidearming lefty like Walker face someone like Duncan? The mind reels.

      • Slugger27

        dude check out that lineup… look at hitters 1,2,7,8,9


  • thurdonpaul

    if team chemistry was all that important, Shelley would be a yankee forever. i think everybody loved his personality, good luck to you Shelley

    • Slugger27

      personally i found a lot of his antics to be a bit over-the-top, but i do wish him well, as i do every former yankee not named pavano or farnsworth

      • Januz

        Farnsworth is not like Pavano. Farnsworth did not hate the team like Pavanod did, nor was e despised by the clubhouse, He just stunk on the mound, Pavano belongs in a select group of haters (See Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson and Ed Whitson of examples of this)

        • Slugger27

          i never said farnsworth had a bad relationship with the team… i just dont like him… i didnt like him as a yankee, and i dont like him now

          u know how theres just some ppl in the world that u dont like? u dont have a reason to but u just dont like them? thats farnsworth for me… im sure he gave it his all and did the best he could, and he handled the boos well i thought, i just dont like the guy

          good point with kevin brown though… that guys performance in game 7 broke my heart. i still to this day think javy vasquez shouldve started that game (not that it wouldve mattered)

          • Evil Empire

            Yeah but c’mon, isn’t Farnsworth the type of guy you want on your side in a fight?

            Haha, Pete Abe always used to crack me up back in the day with his jokes about how crazy of a person Farnsy was.

            • Slugger27

              the man can kick some ass, ill give him that

            • sabes

              Haha, Pete Abe always used to crack me up beat the dead horse back in the day with his jokes about how crazy of a person Farnsy was.

              Fixed that for you

          • Januz

            Farnsworth is just one of these guys who should not be playing in a pressure situation (Such as New York, Boston or the playoffs). I was happy to see him leave, because of his lack of productivity. However, I will not think about him five years from now, when negative discussions about Yankee players, or those players on other teams you just don’t like come up. Ed Whitson, Kevin Brown, Pedro Martinez and Gerrit Cole certainly will. Those guys are in a class by themselves.

            • Andy in Sunny Daytona

              No need to hate Gerrit Cole so much. Can’t hate a kid for wanting to be college student for a while. Besides, didn’t you hear, his father is a trillionaire.

              • Januz

                I would not be so anti-Cole if he was going to attend a superior academic school like Stanford or Harvard, or going to attend a University that can win Championships (Like LSU or Oregon State) (Instead of a party school like UCLA, with the WORST baseball facilities in the Pac-10), or if he was not nasty from draft day one (Being angry about interrupting his golf game, reminding me of Randy Johnson’s first day in New York), or if he did not claim to be a Yankee fan. This guy was such a jerk, he made Boras look like a good guy (To the extent of having Cashman say he holds “Scott blameless”).
                I hope he ends up on a team like San Diego or Cleveland where he will never win.

                • steve (different one)

                  he will end up on the Nationals as part of their Strasburg-Harper-Cole championship core.

                • Evil Empire

                  Along with grizzled veterans and sure HOFers John Lannan and Ryan Zimmerman.

            • Evil Empire

              I was about to make a sarcastic comment about what I thought was Farnsworth’s shitty 2009 campaign with the Royals, but upon further review, he actually posted a 3.10 FIP (only 37.1 IP though). He’s had a flukey, so-so career and he’s gonna start showing more and more decline.

              Anyway, yeah, Farnsworth is definitely not a shithead like some of the other guys you listed. The dude was in tears when he was interviewed about being traded, he really loved being a Yankee. Can’t blame him!

  • Pasqua

    Two words: Pedro. Cerrano.

    • Slugger27

      if u win 3 in a row its called a “winning streak”… it HAS HAPPENED before

    • Rockdog


      Pedro Cerrano: Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.

      Eddie Harris: You know you might think about taking Jesus Christ as your savior instead of fooling around with all this stuff.

      Roger Dorn: Shit, Harris.

      Pedro Cerrano: Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.

      Eddie Harris: You trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?

      • Joe S.

        Me: Are you saying Jesus Montero can’t hit a fastball?

  • manimal

    Just a lucky guess but… I think the Pirates or Nationals will sign him. Its not like they don’t have half of our minor league rejects…

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Jeff Karstens is available again.

      • Slugger27

        lol at jeff karstens… u remember “the yankee clippard”??? how bad was that? he sucked, and so did that nickname

        • AndrewYF

          Tyler Clippard had that nickname.

          And he’s done quite well in the bullpen for the Nationals.

          • Mike Pop

            Tyler Clippard hit that double against the Mets that one time!

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona

          Tyler Clippard and Clay Buchholz should do a Proactive commercial together.

          • Mister Delaware

            Clay … Clay … Come back with that … CLAY!!!

          • Slugger27

            the key to those commercials is to look great at the time the commercial takes place… thats not the case with these 2

            theyre still working on their “before” shot

  • Januz

    Shelley Duncan has nothing to feel sorry about. Very few draftees even make the Majors, and he now has a Championship Ring (I think of guys long-time Yankees like Mussina, Righetti, and of course, Mattingly who don’t have that). Those facts alone, put him ahead of most players, who put on a professional uniform at any level.
    I wish him well, wherever he ends up (Unless he goes to Boston or the Mets of course.

    • Slugger27

      he wont go to the mets… hes white

      • AJ

        So is Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, and Jeff Francouer. Only the good players are Latino.

        • steve (different one)

          don’t forget the mets did sign the original Shelley Duncan, Andy Phillips.

          those were the days on LoHud, with half the populace arguing the merits of Andy Phillips. Cashman was raked over the coals for letting that one get away.

  • Zack

    Favorite memory of Shelley is the uproar he started with the forearm smash: OMGz he’s going to break someone’s arm!!1!

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    First the Duncan’s are gone then half of the Fat Sanchezes may be as well….TSJC must be devestated.

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  • AJ

    I remember Kim Jones called him one of the most popular Yankees. Really? What in hell has he done for this team?

    His most memorable and idiotic memory is when he yelled Sieg Heil in the locker room after making the playoffs in 07, a common term used among Nazis to salute Hitler. Everyone was stunned and silent. Jackass.

    • Slugger27

      i find it surprising as well that he was so popular… i found his antics annoying more than anything, and i wouldve thought the players would be even more annoyed by it

      maybe their difference in abilities causes me to have a bias, but ive always found nick swishers attitude genuine, and shelleys to be “show” … an annoying show at that

      but admittedly, if shelley was as good as nick, i may not think that, who knows

      • Whitey14

        There’s a thin line between being popular and being a big scary guy that other guys would prefer to not mess with so they treat you nice. I’m guessing he crossed that line.

        If he ends up in Boston, he’ll join David Wells, J.D. Drew, and Mike Lansing as guys I refused to root for even though they wore (or unfortunately still wear) the Sox Uniform.

        • Slugger27

          i had no idea mike lansing even played for the sox… nor do i have any idea how he lasted so long in the big leagues, particularly as an everyday player for so long

        • Januz

          Lansing played 155 games for Boston in 2000 and 2001. I have seen worse players than Lansing trust me. I can see why Boston fans would not like Duncan (I did not like Clemens when he pitched here). As for Drew, I can’t blame ANYONE for not liking JD Drew (Particularly Phillie fans. Keep in mind, we have our own Drew…………… named Gerrit Cole).

          • steve (different one)

            the two situations (Cole and Drew) are not even remotely close.

            Cole was in HIGH SCHOOL.

            we need to stop this craziness.

          • Zack

            Not really. Drew held out strictly for money, Cole had nothing to do with money.

            • Andy in Sunny Daytona

              Agreed. UCLA Co-Eds >>>>>> than the chicks at Charleston, Tampa or Trenton games.

              • Januz

                I happen to agree UCLA chicks are hot although NOT as hot as The University of Miami (Cuban girls nuff said), But the idea of playing for the Yankees sure beats the chance of playing for KANSAS CITY, CLEVELAND or WORSE, PITTSBURGH, where you are guaranteed to be behind HOCKEY in popularity. This is why Mitchell chose the Yankees over North Carolina.

                • Zack

                  Or maybe by going to KC, CLE, ETC he knows he’ll get a chance to stay in the rotation, not 10 starts then to the 8th inning ;)

        • JMK aka The Overshare

          I understand your point totally. If Papelbon were to become a Yankee, I feel many of us here would have similar feelings. That said, I think Shelley’s a pretty likable player. I could understand if it were someone like Damon (hah!) or Posada but…it’s Duncan.

          There are a number of Sox players I’d have no problem rooted for if they were to join the Yanks. I’m just curious, are there any Yankees players you’d be able to really root for if they were to join the Sox?

          • JMK aka The Overshare

            *rooting for if they were to join the Yanks.

          • Evil Empire

            No way could I ever root for any player on the Sox. I’m always crushed when any of my favorite players – Yankee or otherwise – join those bastards.

            I really wouldn’t mind any productive Red Sox player switching to the Yankees so long as there is a need for him (i.e. wouldn’t want Youk right now because we have A-Rod and Tex). Lester is obviously the player one would most covet, no?

            • steve (different one)

              yes, i would have no problem rooting for Lester. Papelbon is another story.

              • Evil Empire

                I’d love to see Papelbon set up for Mo, since I’m only evaluating the guy on sheer talent. That would be a vicious knockout punch.

        • steve (different one)

          don’t get the JD Drew hate.

          i mean, i am sure you have your reasons, which is fine, but i was more talking about the widespread disapproval amongst the fanbase. don’t get it, he’s a good player.

          i think Boston fans resent him b/c he’s a reminder to the outside world that Boston is secretly a very, very rich franchise. they don’t want anyone to know.

          • Whitey14

            I hate JD Drew for the same reason I hated John Elway, Bo Jackson, Eli Manning and several others. They were amateurs, about to cash in on their dreams and decided that they should have special privileges and would circumvent the draft and refuse to play for certain teams. In my case it has nothing to do with their abilities, it’s all about their ginormous egos. And JD Drew, when healthy, is a very good player whom we resent because he has, or shows, very little emotion for the game. It’s almost as if it doesn’t matter to him. He’s come up with some huge hits in his Red Sox career and I appreciate that, but I don’t have to like him because of it.
            I have the same problem with any player who signs a contract and then threatens to hold out later if it isn’t renegotiated. I despise that mentality.
            There are Yankees I could root for if they came to Boston. Jeter and Rivera come to mind immediately. They are classy ballplayers, play the game the right way and go about their business.

            • steve (different one)

              what about Varitek?

              he did the exact same thing as Eli.

              • Andy in Sunny Daytona

                Whitey’s head just exploded.

              • Whitey14

                Explain the situation, I was not aware of one. My wife will be crushed because she loves “Old Redwood Thighs”. Me, outside of 1999-2004, I could take him or leave. He does call a good game, as much as you guys hate to hear that, but he’s crap with the bat.

                So he somehow forced his way to Seattle, or away from somebody else, during the draft….I’m curious about the scenario and I don’t ask to be snarky, I really am unaware.

  • Evil Empire

    I would venture to guess that Slam Duncan ends up on the 40 man of someone in the NL Central, but not the Cardinals. I’m thinking more like, the Reds or Pirates.

    • steve (different one)

      i’d say it’s close to a lock he signs with the Pirates.

      • Benjamin Kabak

        The Pirates actually have no need for Duncan unless they use him off the bench. Between Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen and a few others, they’re set there.

        • vin

          FWIW, Morgan is with the Nationals.

          • steve (different one)

            he meant Millege.

            point taken, but the pirates have almost literally taken every single yankee castoff since Josh Phelps. obviously that doesn’t mean they’ll take Shelley, but my comment was a partially in jest.

            do they have a 1Bman?

        • Evil Empire

          Agreed, I was thinking of him for a bench role. PH and random OF/1B stints. I don’t see him being good enough on any team to actually having a starting job.

  • AJ

    Was Shelley the Scarecrow during the hazing?

    • steve (different one)

      no, but he did play the hunchback in “300″…

      • usty

        + “THIS…IS….SPARTA!!!”

  • http://www.flipflopflyball Craig Robinson

    I will always remember Shelley for one moment in particular. Beating the O’s 2-1 on Sept. 19th, 2007; everyone had one eye on the Red Sox-Blue Jays score on the out-of-town scoreboard (the Jays won 6-1). Mo closed the game, the Yanks were just 1.5 games out of first place. Great atmosphere as we left the stadium. My mate and I had a couple of beers, then went to get the train back to Brooklyn. Near us, in the crowded doorway area of the train carriage, was Shelley Duncan. He was chatting, smiling, signing autographs, posing for pictures. A woman asked him if he really was a ballplayer. He said yes. She asked him his name. He said “Bob Woodcock.” Here’s a photo.

  • SF Yanks

    I don’t understand why Shelley never got more of a chance to be a serviceable bench player. He could definitely provide some power as he has shown, and with a little help from the hitting coach and some more experience he may have done well enough. I understand that he was hitting poorly, but he could have come out of it. Why not have given him more of a chance to succeed back then? Was the sample size large enough? I don’t think so, but of course, I could be wrong.

    • steve (different one)

      sometimes you just have to trust that your scouts know what they are doing.

      Shelley Duncan – “can hit a fastball a mile, can’t do anything with major league quality off-speed stuff”

      • SF Yanks

        I fully agree, and with the information at my disposal, which is not much, I can’t argue with it. But had he remained the last guy off the bench I think it’s possible he could have turned into something useful as the 25 player. But point taken.

  • bonestock94

    It would be so hilarious if he joined a bad NL team and hit 25 hrs next season.

    • SF Yanks

      I could see it happening. Small chance, but possible

  • Lanny

    The definition of a 4A player.

  • miketotheg

    i bet he’s going to kick ass on some national league team from april to may. pirates, brewers or maybe even the mets. hahahahahahaha.