Dave Righetti and two important Yankees’ decisions

Monday Night Open Thread
The thanklessly reliable Ramiro Mendoza
(Getty)
(Getty)

The Dave Righetti era in the Bronx started because of Goose Gossage. Left-hander Sparky Lyle had been the Yankees’ go-to ninth inning reliever from 1972-77, compiling 132 saves with a 2.23 ERA in 634 innings during that time. He pitched so well in 1977 — 2.17 ERA with 26 saves in 137 innings — that he was named the AL Cy Young award winner, beating out Jim Palmer (2.91 ERA in 319 innings) and Nolan Ryan (2.77 ERA in 299 innings), among others.

Lyle pitched well enough in 1977 to win the Cy Young but not well enough to stop the Yankees from replacing him. The team signed Goose Gossage to a six-year contract worth $2.75M that offseason and gave him the closer’s job. Gossage saved 27 games with a 2.01 ERA in 134.1 innings during his first year in New York while Lyle put up a 3.47 ERA in 111.2 innings as a middle reliever. Both were a big part of the team as they won their second straight World Series title.

At age 27, Gossage was seven years younger than Lyle and flat out better. He made Lyle expendable. So, on November 10th, 1978, the Yankees shipped Lyle to the Rangers in a massive ten-player trade. Lyle went to Texas with four prospects (catcher Mike Heath, shortstop Domingo Ramos, and lefties Larry McCall and Dave Rajsich) for light-hitting veteran outfielder Juan Beniquez and four prospects (outfielder Greg Jemison, righty Mike Griffin, and lefties Paul Mirabella and Righetti).

Although it was a ten-player swap, the principals were Lyle, Mirabella, and Righetti. Lyle was Lyle, a Cy Young award winning veteran reliever, and Mirabella and Righetti were two highly touted young players. Mirabella was the 21st overall pick in the 1976 January draft and Righetti was the tenth overall pick in the 1977 January draft. The Yankees flipped Mirabella to the Blue Jays in the Chris Chambliss/Rick Cerone trade the following offseason but they held on to Righetti.

Righetti was only 20 years old at the time of the trade and he spent most of the 1979 season in the minors, where he had a 2.31 ERA with 122 strikeouts in 109 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. He made his MLB debut in September and had a 3.63 ERA in 17.1 innings across three starts. Righetti spent the entire 1980 season in Triple-A and was pretty awful — he had a 4.63 ERA with 139 strikeouts and 101 walks in 142 innings. The Yankees declined to call him up in September.

”I don’t mind still being a rookie, but I got tired of being a ‘flame-throwing prospect,”’ said Righetti to Dave Anderson early in the 1981 season. ”Especially when I went home to San Jose, California, last year after the record I had in Columbus last season. All my friends kept asking me, ‘What happened?’ Even people I didn’t know would come up on the street and ask me.”

Righetti had a strong Spring Training in 1981 but the team send him back to Triple-A anyway, where he put up a 1.00 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 26 walks in 45 innings across seven starts. ”At least they told me that if I pitched well (in Triple-A), I’d be back soon,” said Righetti to Anderson. ”I tried to make sure that I pitched well … Getting a taste of the big leagues two years ago made me want to get back here.”

Tommy John’s ailing back helped clear a rotation spot for Righetti, who, at age 22, got his first extended taste of the show. He allowed two runs in seven innings against the Indians in his first start, then held those same Indians to two runs (one earned) in eight innings next time out. Eight shutout innings against the Orioles followed that. In his first eleven starts of the 1981 season Righetti had a 1.59 ERA with 71 strikeouts and 28 walks in 79.1 innings. He finished the regular season with a 2.05 ERA and 89 strikeouts with 38 walks in 15 starts and 105.1 innings, which earned him the AL Rookie of the Year award with ease.

The Yankees won the AL pennant in 1981 thanks in large part to Righetti. He struck out ten in six scoreless innings in Game Two of the ALDS against the Brewers, then came out of the bullpen to throw three innings of one-run ball in the decisive Game Five. In his Game Three start against the Athletics in the ALCS, Righetti threw six more scoreless innings. His worst postseason start came in Game Three of the World Series, when Ron Cey clubbed a three-run homer in the first inning. Righetti allowed three runs in two innings before being replaced.

It was a disappointing end to the season — the Dodgers won the World Series four games to two with Righetti lined up to start Game Seven — but Righetti had established himself as a bonafide big league starter. He spent the 1982 season in New York’s rotation and had a 3.79 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 183 innings spread across 27 starts and six relief appearances. The problem? He led the league with 108 walks. He rebounded during he 1983 season to post a 3.44 ERA with 169 strikeouts in 217 innings while cutting his walk total down to 67. On July 4th of that season, he became the first Yankee to throw a no-hitter since Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

Through age 24, Righetti had a 3.29 ERA (117 ERA+) with a well-above-average 7.5 K/9 — the AL average was 4.7 K/9 from 1979-83, if you can believe that — in 522.2 career innings. He also had a Rookie of the Year award and World Series experience to his credit. Righetti wasn’t a star, per se, but he was a damn fine Major League starter and a promising piece of the Yankees rotation going forward. The kind of player every team would love to have. So, naturally, the Yankees took him out of the rotation and moved him to the bullpen full-time for the 1984 season.

Gossage took a five-year contract from the Padres after the 1983 season, leaving New York with a big hole in the bullpen. George Frazier was traded to the Indians that offseason as well, further decimating the reliever corps. ”We’ve talked about all the starters (taking over as closer) at one point or another,” said GM Murray Cook to Murray Chass after the Frazier trade. ”(Manager Yogi Berra) will talk to each one in Spring Training and make a decision. We’re not going to do anything between now and then.”

The Yankees got off to a dreadful start in 1984. The team went 8-17 in its first 25 games and 22-31 in their first 53 games. Righetti was doing his part in the bullpen but the rotation was unimpressive — the starting staff had a 4.03 ERA during those first 53 games, slightly better than the 4.19 ERA league average. ”No one has picked up the slack there. That made it even harder to take. I knew I could do the job as a starter. That made it tougher to make the move,” said Righetti to Chass in early-June.

Righetti was dominant in his first season as a reliever, saving 31 games with a 2.34 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 96.1 innings. The team went 87-75 and finished in third place in the AL East, their third straight postseason-less year after winning four pennants and two World Series titles from 1976-81. Both Berra and GM Clyde King wanted to keep Righetti in the bullpen, and, after a brief dance with free agent closer Bruce Sutter that offseason, the bullpen is where Righetti remained.

Ed Whitson was brought in to solidify the rotation and Righetti again dominated out of the bullpen in 1985, saving 29 games with a 2.78 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 107 innings. The Yankees went 97-64 but missed the postseason for the fourth consecutive year. Righetti was a first-time All-Star and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting the following season — he led MLB with 46 saves and had a 2.45 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 106.2 innings in 1986 — though the Yankees went 90-72 and again missed the postseason.

From 1984-90, Righetti was New York’s ninth inning stopper and one of the best relievers in all of baseball. He ranked second in saves (223, one behind Jeff Reardon), second in innings (614), and third in strikeouts (506) among full-time relievers from 1984-90, and among the 182 pitchers who threw at least 500 innings during those years, only four bested his 137 ERA+. Righetti was dominant. And the Yankees never once made the postseason from 1984-90.

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(Getty)

Righetti became a free agent after the 1987 season and returned to the Yankees on a three-year contract worth $4.5M after reportedly spurning a lucrative offer from the Tokyo Giants. Righetti became a free agent again after the 1990 season and, at age 31, winning had become the priority. The Yankees went 67-95 in 1990 and had traded away several big name players in recent years, including Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield. Righetti’s return to New York was not a given.

“We’re negotiating to the extent we’re still speaking warmly with each other about the length of contract,” said Bill Goodstein, Righetti’s agent, to Michael Martinez in September 1990. “The Yankees have given me parameters of the kind of money they’re willing to pay, but I can tell you that I have absolutely rejected those parameters because they were unacceptably low.”

The Yankees and GM Gene Michael were sticking to a three-year contract offer but Goodstein was looking for five years — “If Bud Black can come up with four years, why shouldn’t Righetti command a five-year contract?” he said to Martinez — and had begun talking to other teams. The Yankees, meanwhile, added some bullpen insurance by signing Steve Farr to a three-year contract worth $6.3M. “I think our bullpen would be okay without Righetti,” said Michael to Jack Curry after the Farr signing.

One week after the Yankees signed Farr, Righetti decided to leave the only big league team he’d ever known — he was the Yankees’ all-time saves leader at the time — and took a four-year contract worth $10M from the Giants, who had just won the NL pennant. The Yankees’ offer reportedly topped out at three years and $9.3M. Righetti, who grew up in San Jose, told Chass he “would have loved to stay in the right circumstances.”

“We had a set policy and we weren’t going to break it,” said Yankees vice president George Bradley to Chass. “It was an organizational decision. We were all in agreement. I think more than three years is a big risk with a pitcher. Three years is a risk, too … Anytime you lose a player of that caliber, it’s a big loss.”

Farr, the new closer, was excellent in both 1991 (2.19 ERA with 23 saves in 70 innings) and 1992 (1.56 ERA and 30 innings in 52 innings) before slipping in 1993 (4.21 ERA and 25 saves in 47 innings), the final year of his contract. The Yankees let him walk as a free agent and used the late Steve Howe as their closer in 1994 before bringing in John Wetteland for 1995.

Righetti, meanwhile, was very good with the Giants in 1991, saving 24 games with a 3.39 ERA in 71.2 innings. He started to fall apart the following season though, pitching to a 5.06 ERA in 78.1 innings in 1992 and a 5.70 ERA in 47.1 innings in 1993. San Francisco released him following the 1993 season. Righetti had a 5.94 ERA in 69.2 innings with the Athletics, Blue Jays, and White Sox from 1994-95 to close out his playing career. He took over as the Giants pitching coach in 2000 and has been there ever since.

Holding firm on a three-year offer and losing Rags as a free agent was an unpopular decision but ultimately the right one for the Yankees, in hindsight. His golden left arm had just one good year left in it and the Yankees replaced him with the cheaper and more effective Farr. The decision to move Righetti into the bullpen in the first place is the one that deserved plenty of second guessing. His potential as a starter is one of the franchise’s great “what if” scenarios.

Monday Night Open Thread
The thanklessly reliable Ramiro Mendoza
  • W.B. Mason Williams

    CUE THE BETANCES TO THE ROTATION COMMENTS

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Pineda to da ‘pen!

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Pineda to da ‘pen!

      • Scott

        Lord of the Playground has you covered.

      • Scott

        Lord of the Playground has you covered.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          That was tongue-in-cheek in response to W.B. Mason Williams’ comment. But I wouldn’t discount the chance if over the next 2-3 seasons he proves unable to stay healthy for a full season in the rotation.

          • Scott

            I know you were TIC, just showing how quick someone mentioned it already. I imagined when I read the article it would be one of the first two things posted, the other – WB Mason’s comment about Betances. Both of you were spot on.

          • Scott

            I know you were TIC, just showing how quick someone mentioned it already. I imagined when I read the article it would be one of the first two things posted, the other – WB Mason’s comment about Betances. Both of you were spot on.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          That was tongue-in-cheek in response to W.B. Mason Williams’ comment. But I wouldn’t discount the chance if over the next 2-3 seasons he proves unable to stay healthy for a full season in the rotation.

  • Walter E. Kurtz

    I believed you erred, Mike, Chambliss came over in ’75 from Cleveland. Cerone from Toronto in ’80.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Chambliss was traded for Cerone after 1979.

      • 86w183

        That is correct… you beat me to it!

        I remember when they moved Rags to the bullpen. I wanted them to move Guidry who was eight years older. Who knows how that would have turned out? “Gator” would have just one more excellent season (1985, 22-6, 3.27) in his career.

      • 86w183

        That is correct… you beat me to it!

        I remember when they moved Rags to the bullpen. I wanted them to move Guidry who was eight years older. Who knows how that would have turned out? “Gator” would have just one more excellent season (1985, 22-6, 3.27) in his career.

    • FriarFlyer

      Chambliss came over earlier maybe 74?

      • TheEvilUmpire

        Midseason trade with Cleveland. I believe Danny Cater was part of that deal.

        • FriarFlyer

          Cater was an off season deal for Lyle…Chambliss came over with Tidrow and Fritz Peterson was part of that deal.

          • TheEvilUmpire

            I stand corrected. I should know better than to quote trades that occurred before I was born.

    • FriarFlyer

      Chambliss came over earlier maybe 74?

  • TheEvilUmpire

    In 2015, I don’t see any team taking an effective starter out of the rotation and putting him in the bullpen.

  • TheEvilUmpire

    In 2015, I don’t see any team taking an effective starter out of the rotation and putting him in the bullpen.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      That’s because they don’t have an Ed Whitson to plug in, or a Doug Drabek to trade for Rick Rhoden, anymore.

      • TheEvilUmpire

        You speak names I only hear these days in my nightmares, sir.

  • Scott

    Joba?

  • Scott

    Joba?

  • Lord of the Playground

    Move Pineda back into the bullpen and preserve his health. He used to be a reliever in the minor leagues and can’t pitch more than 5 innings anyways. Sign Joba and stretch him out as a starter and you have a fine rotation along with 4 great pen options Betances, Miller, Warren and Pineda

    • 86w183

      Why stop there? Move CC and Tanaka to the pen — less wear and tear — Joba, Capuano, Mitchell, Nova and Whitely would make a fine rotation backed by the greatest and most expensive bullpen in the history of the planet. doh!

      • Lord of the Playground

        I speak my opinion and you try to insult my integrity. Get lost

        • Scott

          He can’t take you seriously with the “Joba as a starter” line you have in your post. And I don’t blame him.

          • TheEvilUmpire

            Seconded. That meme experienced it’s final death throw when Joba left as a free agent last year.

          • Lord of the Playground

            Why the hell not? Capuano is in the rotation, Eovaldi is in it why not Joba?

            • Scott

              I’m seriously not getting into the Joba debate anymore. Nice try trolling though.

            • The Great Gonzo

              Many reasons… But mostly because the same criticism you just gave about Pineda’s health would apply even more so to Joba.

          • Lord of the Playground

            Why the hell not? Capuano is in the rotation, Eovaldi is in it why not Joba?

        • Scott

          Also, looking at Bref, I don’t believe Pineda was a reliever in the minors, W-L and IPs (plus GSs) are too high for him to be a reliever.

        • Scott

          Also, looking at Bref, I don’t believe Pineda was a reliever in the minors, W-L and IPs (plus GSs) are too high for him to be a reliever.

        • 86w183

          Criticizing an idea is not insulting someone’s integrity. I know nothing of your integrity and would never comment on it.

          • TheEvilUmpire

            Indeed, what makes these boards fun are our differences in opinion. I was just debating with blake this morning on the merits of signing James Shields. I still don’t fully agree with him, but I can see his side. And maybe that has helped me to grow as a person. (cue NBC “The More You Know” graphic)

        • 86w183

          Criticizing an idea is not insulting someone’s integrity. I know nothing of your integrity and would never comment on it.

      • Lord of the Playground

        I speak my opinion and you try to insult my integrity. Get lost

    • 86w183

      Why stop there? Move CC and Tanaka to the pen — less wear and tear — Joba, Capuano, Mitchell, Nova and Whitely would make a fine rotation backed by the greatest and most expensive bullpen in the history of the planet. doh!

    • pfoj

      Oh man that’s a sweet avatar.

    • pfoj

      Oh man that’s a sweet avatar.

    • DeutschlandVolkNY

      Plakatkarton.

    • DeutschlandVolkNY

      Plakatkarton.

    • Wonald

      Cmon now. You don’t seriously think that’s a viable option, do you?

    • Wonald

      Cmon now. You don’t seriously think that’s a viable option, do you?

  • Lord of the Playground

    Move Pineda back into the bullpen and preserve his health. He used to be a reliever in the minor leagues and can’t pitch more than 5 innings anyways. Sign Joba and stretch him out as a starter and you have a fine rotation along with 4 great pen options Betances, Miller, Warren and Pineda

  • Drew

    Man I don’t know what I would do if the Yankees won 97 games and didn’t make the playoffs. That is unreal.

  • Drew

    Man I don’t know what I would do if the Yankees won 97 games and didn’t make the playoffs. That is unreal.

  • TheEvilUmpire

    In 1994, the Yankees actually employed a bullpen by committee. They had acquired the forgettable Xavier Hernandez from the Astros in the offseason for Andy Stankiewicz and Domingo Jean (don’t worry, neither measured up to much) and planned to install him as closer. He flopped, and they ended up flipping primarily between Howe and Bob Wickman until Howe won out. And then the strike hit, and baseball oblivion for this then teenage boy.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      I also seem to recall early in the season that the rotting corpse of Jeff Reardon (that’s right, proven closer Jeff Reardon, kids!) picked up a few saves early in the season for them. He was fried by that point in his career.

      • 86w183

        1-0, 2 saves, 8.38 ERA…. yuck!

        Steve Howe was the main closer… 3-0, 1.80, 15 saves. Wickman and Hernandez each had six saves.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          Never said it was pretty!

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Imagine how different Howe’s career would have gone if it wasn’t for his demons. Dude could get the job done.

            • TheEvilUmpire

              I seem to remember him having to work in the ticket booth in Tampa during the strike to fulfill his work requirement for his probation. He was one of those guys whom George was willing to go the extra mile for and give a second, third, even fourth chance to.

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                He had almost a Jimmy Johnson-like drive to give guys second chances, except that Jimmy gave chances to guys I don’t think GS3 would even touch.

            • TheEvilUmpire

              I seem to remember him having to work in the ticket booth in Tampa during the strike to fulfill his work requirement for his probation. He was one of those guys whom George was willing to go the extra mile for and give a second, third, even fourth chance to.

            • Moncada’s Codpiece

              Career and life.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Imagine how different Howe’s career would have gone if it wasn’t for his demons. Dude could get the job done.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          Never said it was pretty!

      • 86w183

        1-0, 2 saves, 8.38 ERA…. yuck!

        Steve Howe was the main closer… 3-0, 1.80, 15 saves. Wickman and Hernandez each had six saves.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        There were many rotting corpses that passed through the Yankee bullpen. Yes, I am shocked Bruce Sutter didn’t happen, complete with big Santa beard.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          There may be credence to that, if you believe the urban legend that the players were buried out in monument park in old Yankee Stadium underneath their monuments.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          There may be credence to that, if you believe the urban legend that the players were buried out in monument park in old Yankee Stadium underneath their monuments.

        • TCF16

          Don’t forget Lee Smith!

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            We had Al Holland for about a second as well, right?

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        There were many rotting corpses that passed through the Yankee bullpen. Yes, I am shocked Bruce Sutter didn’t happen, complete with big Santa beard.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      I also seem to recall early in the season that the rotting corpse of Jeff Reardon (that’s right, proven closer Jeff Reardon, kids!) picked up a few saves early in the season for them. He was fried by that point in his career.

  • TheEvilUmpire

    In 1994, the Yankees actually employed a bullpen by committee. They had acquired the forgettable Xavier Hernandez from the Astros in the offseason for Andy Stankiewicz and Domingo Jean (don’t worry, neither measured up to much) and planned to install him as closer. He flopped, and they ended up flipping primarily between Howe and Bob Wickman until Howe won out. And then the strike hit, and baseball oblivion for this then teenage boy.

  • JFH

    I absolutely hated it when they moved him into the bullpen. I never really understood it and it still bothers me to this day.

  • JFH

    I absolutely hated it when they moved him into the bullpen. I never really understood it and it still bothers me to this day.

  • Bpdelia

    One of my top five non playoff memories of games i attended. This, Claudel Washington’s 17th inning walk off home run. Mattinglys record breaking consecutive game Homer (yup we were on vacation and made an 11 hour “detour to Arlington and left my mom in the car because she’s broken her ankle the day before!), godsend Jim abbots no hitter and mel halls walk off memorial day homer against Boston.

    Also even at the time many fans (like my whole family) were aghast at this decision. Ironically i mentioned this in the earlier thread when mentioning the mid 80s Yankees inability to augment a ferocious lineup with even two competent SPs at any time.

    • David Masino

      That’s awesome you were at that game, IIRC, from watching at home the homer Donnie hit was like a golf ball shot hit like ankle high on a rope to left-center… That streak was crazy exciting

      • Bpdelia

        The only opposite field hr I EVER recall mattingly hitting.

        Fun fact Pags hit one of the highest hrs i have ever seen that night. An absurd blast directly down the right field like and literally straight OVER the fair/foul pole.

        Also pete incaviglia was one of my favorite players back then. Always liked guys who were supposed to be great and stunk. Just a soft spot for those that life and outsize expectations humble in full view of the public eye.

        Man he was bad. Hard to recall now but 3 true outcome his were insanely rare back then.

        Rob deer, incy, kingman (who was actually a two outcome one tool player). Any one else I’m forgetting?

  • Bpdelia

    One of my top five non playoff memories of games i attended. This, Claudel Washington’s 17th inning walk off home run. Mattinglys record breaking consecutive game Homer (yup we were on vacation and made an 11 hour “detour to Arlington and left my mom in the car because she’s broken her ankle the day before!), godsend Jim abbots no hitter and mel halls walk off memorial day homer against Boston.

    Also even at the time many fans (like my whole family) were aghast at this decision. Ironically i mentioned this in the earlier thread when mentioning the mid 80s Yankees inability to augment a ferocious lineup with even two competent SPs at any time.

  • andrewyf

    What I got from this writeup is that the Yankees have had the ninth inning locked up pretty much every year since the 70s. That’s pretty cool.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Except 1994, but all that team did was finish with the best record in the AL before the strike.

      • TheEvilUmpire

        1993 was dicey too with Farr imploding, but they picked up Lee Smith at the waiver trade deadline.

      • TheEvilUmpire

        1993 was dicey too with Farr imploding, but they picked up Lee Smith at the waiver trade deadline.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Except 1994, but all that team did was finish with the best record in the AL before the strike.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Sort of. They had a strong late-inning presence. The idea of ninth-inning specialization is a fairly recent one.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Sort of. They had a strong late-inning presence. The idea of ninth-inning specialization is a fairly recent one.

  • andrewyf

    What I got from this writeup is that the Yankees have had the ninth inning locked up pretty much every year since the 70s. That’s pretty cool.

  • Lord of the Playground

    Tino should have been the captain for all those years, subpar since 2000 in New York market is not good.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      What does Tino have to do with Dave Righetti?

      • Scott

        Seriously, this guy is a troll to the nth degree.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          I know, I know. Starve a troll, and he dies a slow, painful death. Feed a troll, he lives forever.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            BGT hoards food for the tough days, however.

            • David Masino

              Maybe harder these days since they put up high fences on the bridges to prevent jumpers, likely means less scrap food thrown overboard to hoard underneath…

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                Just keep it under the mattress.

      • Scott

        Seriously, this guy is a troll to the nth degree.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      What does Tino have to do with Dave Righetti?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Shut up, BGT.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Shut up, BGT.

  • Lord of the Playground

    Tino should have been the captain for all those years, subpar since 2000 in New York market is not good.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I can tell you exactly where nine year-old R-Tils was on 7/4/83. Fortunately, and unfortunately, it wasn’t watching Righetti’s no-hitter. I remember my dad driving us to the Jersey shore that day, and only knowing the no-hitter happened when he turned on 660 AM on the drive back home right when the post-game show began. We were both thrilled, no matter. Loved Righetti.

    Funny how childhood makes some things matter less. I had no clue Righetti had such control issues early on until reading this. I just loved watching him pitch as a kid.

    Steve Farr. Another guy who took a few bullets for us in the name of weathering the storm. I salute you.

    • David Masino

      JS, that is an astute line about Farr… “Bridge” guys like him, mostly forgotten now, helped re-establish some cred for the org, which, if you really don’t remember them days, was an embarrassing circus… George had really gone off the rails by then (as evidenced by Mike’s great writeup about Syd Thrift). Stick was particularly good at getting guys like that helped to start the turnaround (Scott Sanderson was another guy), tho Farr was not his signing…

      Anyway, Farr was a good pitcher, kind of a less hard throwing Flash Gordon, great curve was enough to make him a good closer… had a droll, laid-back country kind of vibe; I remember when he signed he said something about how he planned to ride his boat down the water to the Stadium to avoid city traffic… Don’t know if he ever got around to doing that…

      When Rags was in his heyday, the “What should we do with Rags?” debate in regards to starting/ relieving was a huge deal, or at least it seemed to me as a kid…

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        They may have stunk, and it may have been hard to watch but, in retrospect, I have a lot of love for those early 90’s Yankees. They took it right on the chin.

        • Moncada’s Codpiece

          Right in the head and ass.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I can tell you exactly where nine year-old R-Tils was on 7/4/83. Fortunately, and unfortunately, it wasn’t watching Righetti’s no-hitter. I remember my dad driving us to the Jersey shore that day, and only knowing the no-hitter happened when he turned on 660 AM on the drive back home right when the post-game show began. We were both thrilled, no matter. Loved Righetti.

    Funny how childhood makes some things matter less. I had no clue Righetti had such control issues early on until reading this. I just loved watching him pitch as a kid.

    Steve Farr. Another guy who took a few bullets for us in the name of weathering the storm. I salute you.

  • Dale Mohorcic

    These articles date back to when I was first following baseball as a kid so it’s interesting to have some modern perspective on the game that I enjoyed and the business that I didn’t fully understand back then. One note on this article-the Giants won the pennant in 1989 (earthquake series), but the Reds won the pennant in 1990 (and swept the A’s in the World Series).

    • David Masino

      Good on you w/ that handle for remembering “The Horse”… I think it was Dallas Green who had one of the more memorable put-downs of his own guys when he said something like, “Whenever there is a blowout, this guy is right in the middle of it”, F**king ouch…

  • Dale Mohorcic

    These articles date back to when I was first following baseball as a kid so it’s interesting to have some modern perspective on the game that I enjoyed and the business that I didn’t fully understand back then. One note on this article-the Giants won the pennant in 1989 (earthquake series), but the Reds won the pennant in 1990 (and swept the A’s in the World Series).

  • JonathanC

    In 1982 the Yanks sent Righetti down to Columbus for a few weeks in one of those ahole George moves. I remember this because I lived in RI at the time and it was a big deal when he squared off against former Cy Young winner Mark Fidrych, who was trying to make a comeback with the Red Sox and was pitching for Pawtucket.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Papa Bear was not kind to young kids who didn’t get the job done right away. Poor Jim Beattie probably still keeps a voodoo doll of him.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Papa Bear was not kind to young kids who didn’t get the job done right away. Poor Jim Beattie probably still keeps a voodoo doll of him.

  • Y’s Guy

    I will never forget Rag’s no-no, I was listening on the radio, I’m pretty sure it was Phil doing the play by play. Getting Wade Boggs for the last out on a K no less was awesome! On George’s Birthday, no less!
    Man, that was sweeeeeeet!

    • Posada_20

      Frank Messer called the last out on radio. I was listening that day as we were barbecuing at Macy Park in Ardsley and we had the game on.

      • basil1229

        I was driving home from somewhere that day; was on the MDE going past the Stadium when the game ended.

        • Y’s Guy

          …safe to say you didn’t have to deal with people slipping out of the Big Ballyard early?

      • Y’s Guy

        You may be right, my memory is always questionable post brain surgery, but that is Messer on the video above, though it’s certainly possible it was from the radio and spliced ovr the video. (Do they still call it ‘spliced’ since you no longer actually splice audio and videotape?)

  • YankeeB

    Really enjoy these articles. They either verify the memories or fill in the blanks that weren’t known at the time. And Righetti was a classic case of letting a guy one year too early rather than one year too late. The former is almost always the right way to go. Great stuff. Thanks.

  • YankeeB

    Really enjoy these articles. They either verify the memories or fill in the blanks that weren’t known at the time. And Righetti was a classic case of letting a guy one year too early rather than one year too late. The former is almost always the right way to go. Great stuff. Thanks.

  • TheEvilUmpire

    Seems like Papa George looms large over all of these retro articles so far, whether he is mentioned or not. The sobering effect of his then “suspension for life” seems like a watershed moment for the development of this franchise.

    • Havok9120

      If it is the theme, it’s a good one.

      I loved the Boss as an idea, especially growing up in the 90s/00s. But his legacy has become much too reliant on rose-tinted glasses worn by those looking to disparage the sons.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Mike is going to let Hank write the rest of the pieces.

      • TheEvilUmpire

        Good, Hank needs to get out of that basement and get some fresh air.

  • TCF16

    One of the dumbest fucking moves the Yankees ever made. Couldn’t believe they did it back then, and it looks even worse in hindsight.

    • Dwnflfan

      I’m assuming you’re referring to moving Rags to the pen.

      • Moncada’s Codpiece

        No. Tino Martinez walking out on the Yankees or something.

  • Stan

    Steinbrenner has made many bad moves over the years but he also built many championship teams. I guess he rolls the dice and more often than not he comes out on the winning end.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      I think he started listening to his baseball people more in the ’90s rather than his gonads.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Ding ding ding.

      • Y’s Guy

        There are parallels between the Yankees current cost-consiousness and George’s sudden and chaotic change of heart in the late 80’s. First there was a ‘dynasty’ (4 WS in 6 years) then there was the attempt to keep it alive with lots of F/A’s and All-Stars, followed by cost cutting and getting rid of big payroll. We’re in a somewhat similar situation now.

    • Y’s Guy

      He built exactly 2 Championship teams in 25+ years before his 2nd suspension allowed someone else to build a real Championship team in his absence.

      • Havok9120

        To be fair, a 97 win team should not have been on the outside looking in on the playoffs.

        But yeah, I largely agree. The Boss’s skills legacy largely relies on the periods where baseball ops people had a good amount on influence.

        • Y’s Guy

          Ed Whitson failed.

        • Mayan Brickann

          That was the way it went back then. The Giants had a 103 win team miss the playoffs.

          • Y’s Guy

            …uphill both ways through the snow, now get off my lawn!
            j/k
            Yankees missed the PS with a 103 win team in ’54

            • Mayan Brickann

              They were what 10 games back? Crazy times. That late 70’s stretch was a tough AL East. O’s and Sox both won 97 in 1977. Sox won 99 in ’78. O’s won 100 in 1980.

              • Y’s Guy

                There were some terrible teams at the bottom of the AL East back then, the BJ’s, Tigers and Indians traded off being division whipping-boys.

          • Havok9120

            Ouuuuch.

      • Mayan Brickann

        Did he really build the 1977/78 teams? Didn’t he purchase the team in 1973? That building process was well underway. They finished 2 games out in ’74, were in the WS in ’76 and won the next two. He got in at the right time, but I don’t think he really built anything.

        • Y’s Guy

          much like the 90’s dynasty, George added f/a’s to a young roster and it won the WS. Then they tried to extend it with vets, much like the twenty-one aughts. And much like now, George tried to correct it, but in his case George, as was his style, went way overboard.

  • Y’s Guy

    “We had a set policy and we weren’t going to break it,” said Yankees vice president George Bradley to Chass. “It was an organizational decision. We were all in agreement. I think more than three years is a big risk with a pitcher. Three years is a risk, too …”

    …sound familiar? Righetti saved 24 for the Giants the next year and was replaced by Rod Beck and Jeff Brantley the following season. Righetti was a middle reliever from there on out.

    • Moncada’s Codpiece

      Yeah, but he totally would have given a 47-year contract to (insert player here).

  • Y’s Guy

    As a closer, Righetti was the original Houdini. His last 4 years on crappy Yankee teams, he saved 107 with an WHIP over 1.4 and a k/9 between 3.4-4.4! He just seemed to need a couple runners on to get in the groove!

  • Tom_hamsandwich

    Retro Yankee week brings us this headline on MSN “Wilson Betemit suspended 50 games for banned amphetamine”
    The final Yankee SS to play in the old Stadium.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Betemit and Jeff Marquez wasn’t bad for 4 reasonably priced years of Nick Swisher.

      • Mayan Brickann

        Arguably Cashman’s best trade as GM, though Abreu/Lidle for a $100 Outback Gift Card and the corpse of CJ Henry worked out pretty well too.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          You know it doesn’t look as one-sided if you consider that you could also use the Outback card at Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

          • Mayan Brickann

            The Phillies undoubtedly valued that flexibility.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Hey man, we all thought TJ Beam and Matt Smith were going to be the next Dynamic Duo.

      • The Great Gonzo

        Agreed. He has a habit of making trades that look pretty damned good in retrospect, albeit most of them of the ‘pure rental’ variety….

  • Yankenstein

    Righetti’s control problem as a closer use to drive me nuts.

    • Mayan Brickann

      Good point. He wasn’t Mitch Williams wild (how that dude parlayed a 7.1/9 BB rate into a reasonably successful MLB career is astounding), but his control was pretty iffy.

  • calripyankee

    Must be a slow MLB news day?? A history lesson in Rags??

    • pfoj

      It’s retro week, chief,

      • calripyankee

        Sorry, kinda new here chief.. Let me put it another way then.. Must be a slow MLB news period.. If we re relegated to a “retro week”??

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          If not now, then when?

          • The Great Gonzo

            In October, when Hal’s cheap penny pinching ways and Cashman’s penchant to failure force the Yankees into another winter of solitude, of course!

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              The middle of August, Gonzo. The middle of August.

    • Havok9120

      Retro Week, ahoy!

      Besides, not all of us have the baseball history credentials to remember, let alone have been alive for, most of this stuff.

  • Y’s Guy

    Baby-face and California cool lefty Cole Hamels reminds me of Rags, not in pitching style, but in demeanor and looks.

    • Y’s Guy

      Severino/Sanchez + Mateo for CH!

      • TheEvilUmpire

        That wouldn’t even be enough for Cole Hamels’ toenail clippings.

        • Y’s Guy

          Ridiculous. Thats #’s 1,3 &5 on BA’s top 10 NYY prospects. It might be a little light for Philly, though, but it’s definitely in the ballpark legit. I’m only willing to go that far because I think Sanchez’ value is about to start dropping. I want Hamels, that’s a very fair offer, but it probably is just a little light for Philly.

          • TheEvilUmpire

            I thought you were saying Severino OR Sanchez…. that’s not too far off, but yeah still a little light.

            • Y’s Guy

              ok. I want Hamels, but I’d drive a hard bargain or walk away…for now at least….

          • Havok9120

            Sanchez’s value has already pretty much cratered if the scouts McDaniel was talking to are any indication.

  • Chien Ming The Merciless

    Retro week is definitely interestingly. I’m too young to know alot about these guys but stories like this are definitely interesting and fun to compare how things are with the current Yanks.

  • Robert

    Ill never forget his 4th of July no Hitter against the Red Sox as he struck out Boggs to end the game.

  • blake

    Nice post

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I also have distinct memories of my dad killing George Frazier through his TV screen on more than one occasion.

  • whileaway

    I attended the 1981 ALCS game Rags pitched in Oakland. 6 shutout innings. He crapped his pants vs Fernando in the 81 WS.

    IMO Berra made a huge mistake converting Rags to a RP.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      His subsequent prolonged success makes this a bit of silly argument to make in 2015.

      He could have developed into a fine starter…..and the Yankees could have made better decisions in acquiring and developing pitching throughout that decade to make up for that. They didn’t.

      • whileaway

        I thought it back then when it was much discussed. I´m not turning it into a “silly argument“. He was already a fine SP circa 1981-1983.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          What you felt back, and what history may, or may not have, shown, are two different things.

          Perhaps his filling in when Guidry went down stopped the team from making silly deals to try to fortify the rotation. I don’t know…..I think they would have made silly deals regardless. I don’t think Righetti not going to the bullpen suddenly keeps Drabek, Tewksbury, etc., in pinstripes.

  • HoopDreams

    Damn I wanna see another Yankee perfect game, hell even a no no. It’s been quite awhile

    • pfoj

      We’ll always have Phil Hughes against Texas in his second career appearance.

      • http://riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Wasn’t Pettitte an inning or two away from a perfect game in Baltimore a few years ago? I think some random bench player made an error to end it before Pettitte allowed a hit.

        • HoopDreams

          CC was really close to a perfect game against Tampa in like 2011 I believe at the Trop, he took it into the 9th I believe

        • pfoj

          I didn’t remember it, but apparently so in late 2009. Hairston made the error to blow the perfect game then Markakis ended the no hitter the next at bat.

    • Moncada’s Codpiece

      Andy Hawkins and Johan Santana to combine for a 347 pitch no-hitter this July. Get it done, Cash.
      Though it’d be nice. I’ll say Nova does it eventually.

      • HoopDreams

        Nova eh? interesting.

        • Moncada’s Codpiece

          That’ll be my long-term bet, considering a number of no-hitters come from random sources.

    • lightSABR

      Damn I wanna see another Yankee game. It’s been quite awhile.

      FTFY. :)

  • John in Forest

    Seems to me that a factor in moving Righetti to the bullpen was his inconsistency as a starter (Betances I); he also missed a few starts right at the end of the 1983 season so there may have been concerns about his durability. I always thought that he was good but not great as a reliever. In the 1986 season, when he set the record of 46 saves, he had seven blown saves by early June. These days, that would have a closer pitching the 7th inning in no time. But the Yankees stayed with him and he got hot the rest of the year. In those pre-closer days (Dave was a reliever, not a closer), it was expected that a pitcher would come in during the 7th inning and finish the game. Lyle and Gossage had done that, Luis Arroyo had done that. Righetti had a maddening habit, especially on nights when I was able to pick up the radio broadcast (WHN?) in central Virginia, of not being able to get the final out. He’d get out of a jam in the 7th, breeze through the 8th, get an out or two in the 9th, and then ……. arrgh! The Yankees radio guy at the time (don’t know who he was, but he’d go two full innings without giving the score) would even yell “I don’t even want to see him until the 9th inning!” Dave certainly had more good days than bad, but he could drive you crazy at times.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Righetti was a far more developed pitcher at the time of switch than Betances was.

      You also have to wonder how different a lot of relievers’ histories would be if they pitched within a different reality (one inning versus multiple innings, and vice versa.)

      • John in Forest

        Oh, no argument there! But there was a belief that anything could happen when he took the mound, and the team was thought to be deep in starting pitching in 1984. The Yankees weren’t as committed to young starters then; they were perfectly happy to re-arrange the rotation to keep Tommy John (Mr. Four-man rotation) happy.

  • dkidd

    81 world series broke my twelve year-old heart
    steve f-ing yeager

  • RetroRob

    Rags had an excellent arm, but like many young power lefties he had some control issues at first, which he mastered pretty quickly. In his first three seasons he led the AL in FIP twice, including his last season as a starter, once in ERA+, once in hits allowed, and twice in K/9, won ROY, and tossed a no-hitter. All by the time he was 24. The Yankees made him a reliever, probably shortening his career and leaving a big void in the rotation, the first of many missteps they were to make during the 1980s.