There’s nothing quite like the lure of a Triple-A slugger. Those guys mash away at the highest level of minor league baseball, convincing you that they’ll be able to do the same in the big leagues if their team just gave them a chance. After hitting .295/.380/.577 with 25 homers in 91 Triple-A games in 2007, Shelley Duncan got that chance. He hit his first career homer in his second career Major League game, then whacked two more the next day. I was actually at both of those games, it was pretty awesome.
The early heroics earned Duncan regular at-bats against left-handed pitchers, and he hit .257/.329/.554 with seven homers in 83 plate appearances the rest of the season. Shelley made the team out of Spring Training in 2008, platooning with Jason Giambi at first base and specializing as the lefty masher. Joe Girardi actually used him as the cleanup hitter against southpaws while Alex Rodriguez was on the disabled list in May, but Duncan was sent back to Triple-A in early-June thanks to his one homer and .175/.262/.281 batting line. His shot at a return trip to the bigs was snuffed out when he separated his shoulder diving for a ball in the outfield in July.
The Yankees had Shelley spend the majority of the 2009 season back in Triple-A, where he hit .277/.370/.546 with a then-franchise record 30 homers before giving him a September call-up (three singles in 15 plate appearances). Three years ago today, the Yankees cut ties with their top Triple-A slugger, releasing Duncan and his forearm smashes. He eventually hooked on with the Indians, and has hit .246/.320/.451 with 22 homers during his two years in Cleveland (.254/.327/.434 vs. LHP). Staying true to his Yankees roots, Shelley’s still giving Josh Beckett and the Red Sox hell.
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Also on this date, the Yankees re-signed Bernie Williams to a seven-year contract worth $87.5M in 1998. Ben recapped the saga a few years ago, one that was dangerously close to ending with Bernie in Boston and Albert Belle in pinstripes.
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Here is the day’s open thread. Based on some of Black Friday wackiness I’ve heard about (waffle maker riots, getting pepper sprayed over an XBox, etc.), I hope you folks are doing what I do this time of year and Amazon.com your holiday shopping. If you’re not out getting your legs broken over a Snuggie, you can use this thread to talk about anything you want. All three hockey locals are in action this afternoon (not this evening), but anything goes. Enjoy.