Syd Thrift and the suddenly thrifty George Steinbrenner were an odd fit in 1989

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Monday Night Open Thread
(Getty)
(Getty)

The 1980s were not the best years in Yankees history. Even though New York won more games (854) than any other team during the decade — the Tigers were next with 839 wins, so it wasn’t a small gap between first and second — the club did not go to the postseason from 1982-89 and only three times did they finish higher than third place in the AL East. That came after four pennants and two World Series titles from 1976-1981.

The Yankees went 85-76 in 1988, only the the second time they finished with a sub-.530 winning percentage since 1975. They won 97 games in 1985, 90 games in 1986, 89 games in 1987, and then those 85 games in 1988. It was not a good trend and George Steinbrenner wasn’t happy. The team underwent a bit of a facelift that offseason as Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph were cut loose, Jack Clark and Rick Rhoden were traded away, and Steve Sax and Andy Hawkins were signed as free agents. The club also tried and failed to trade for Dale Murphy and Lenny Dykstra.

Steinbrenner’s most notable move came in the middle of Spring Training in 1989, when he named Syd Thrift the new vice president of baseball operations. Thrift had been the GM of the Pirates from 1985-88, inheriting a team that won 57 games in 1985 and building them into an 85-win contender by 1988. Although he wasn’t around to see it, Thrift laid the foundation for the Pittsburgh clubs that went to three straight NLCSes from 1990-92. Steinbrenner wanted him to work the same sort of magic for the Yankees.

The Yankees started the 1989 season 1-7 and were 11-12 when Thrift made his first major move, trading young left-hander Al Leiter to the Blue Jays on April 30th for Jesse Barfield. Barfield was an impending free agent who was three years removed from his career 40-homer year. The team had refused to trade Leiter all offseason. ”Leiter has a great future, but when you can trade a young unproven pitcher for an everyday player, you do it every time,” said Thrift to Murray Chass.

New York went 11-15 in their next 26 games and were all but out of the race by June 1st. In early-July, in advance of the trade deadline, Steinbrenner decided to cut costs. He didn’t allow Thrift to travel to scout players. “We’re cutting back on expenses,” said the Boss to the New York Daily News. “We’re trying to run this thing like a business. Nobody ever pointed a finger at George Steinbrenner and said he’s cheap. But we have a budget, like any business, and we have to stick to it.”

The Yankees had a $20M payroll at the time, highest in the AL, plus they were spending a healthy amount on scouting and player development. “That’s almost $7.3M for player development and scouting alone,” added Steinbrenner. “I don’t think any other team has that high a budget. And that doesn’t include an $800,000 payroll for scouts, $435,000 in travel and expenses for scouts, the cost of computer hardware. It’s just too much, and we’re going to have to cut back.”

Thrift. (AP)
Thrift. (AP)

It was an odd move, to say the least. One source told the Daily News that Steinbrenner “has the biggest private television contract in the history of professional sports and he’s saving money by keeping Thrift in his office … To keep him in New York is definitely self-defeating.” Another said “Syd’s main strength is that he is an evaluator of talent. He has to see what’s going on. George has even stopped him from going to Columbus overnight to see the farm system. Why did the man even hire him?”

So, while stuck in his office, Thrift helped engineer trades that sent Rickey Henderson back to the Athletics — Henderson reported to Spring Training late and was an impending free agent who had been a malcontent for much of the summer — and Mike Pagliarulo to the Padres prior to the trade deadline. Henderson brought back Luis Polonia and two relievers (Eric Plunk and Greg Cadaret), Pags the forgettable right-hander Walt Terrell.

The Yankees went 10-19 from the date of the Henderson trade through August 19th, when Steinbrenner fired manager Dallas Green. Green, like Thrift, wanted to rebuild the team through player development. Thrift refused to publicly support the managerial change, and, less than two weeks later on August 30th, he resigned as senior vice president. He was only five months into his five-year contract.

“He talked to me for a long time earlier today and said that his reasons for leaving the Yankees were personal and as far as I am concerned, they will remain personal,” said Steinbrenner to reporters. The Yankees went on to finish the season at 74-87, their worst record since going 72-90 in 1967.

From the start, Thrift and Steinbrenner were an odd fit. Thrift had the resume and was an old school baseball man who, despite trading Leiter (Leiter almost immediately blew out his shoulder in Toronto), wanted to build the team from within, as he had done with the Pirates. He and Green were on the same page.

Steinbrenner, however, was an instant gratification guy who wanted immediate results. Both he and Thrift also had outsized personalities that clashed and clashed often. Cutting back on the scouting budget was as much about making Thrift’s life miserable as it was cutting costs. It was a relationship that was doomed to fail from the start.

End of an Icon: How the Yankees replaced Don Mattingly before he decided to retire
Monday Night Open Thread
  • Drew

    I am pretty sure this is the first time Syd Thrift’s name was ever used on RAB.

    • Havok9120

      Seems likely.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Kinda cuts through more than one narrative, doesn’t it?

    • The Great Gonzo

      I think we will have to coin the term ‘Sons of Syd Thrift’ in some meaningful context.

  • http://shhhorsie.com Cheval Anonyme

    Sidd Finch, on the other hand…

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    This may be the ultimate middle finger towards every single “Fire in the Belly” and “Hal iz the cheap bastard!!!” comment I’ve ever seen from you, Mike. I’m proud, impressed, and happy.

    I remember the Thrift cameo, but was just too young to care about the politics behind it. Thanks for filling in the blanks, person-still-younger-than-me.

    • Farewell Mo and Jeet

      All that matters is that George would have signed Moncada.

    • Scott

      Wait, I thought George was the second coming? Didn’t he buy all the FA (BTW, if he was still alive today, he would have bought the entire island of Cuba and made it a Yankee farm team. He had so much fire in his belly).
      Two articles in one day that disparage the great GSIII. Mike will be visited by the ghost of Christmas future tonight, and it won’t be pretty (it will look like GSIII rolling in the grave – so much rolling).

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I would LOVE to see more late 80’s and early 90’s stuff, for this reason. I want something on Andy Hawkins’s no-hitter, Tim Leary losing 19 games, and “staff ace” Lee Guetterman.

        I want to hear about looking forward to Chuck Cary starts.

        • Moncada’s Codpiece

          LOL Lee Guetterman.
          Alvaro Espinoza! Hensley Meulens! Matt Nokes! Steve Balboni! Mustard gas! Zeppelins! All for a retro look back at some of those painful times.

          • Farewell Mo and Jeet

            YS was a graveyard for Yankees prospects like the new M&M boys, Meulens and Maas as well as guys like Dan Pasqua who all flamed out rather quickly.

          • Looser Trader FotD™

            Eric Soderholm would like a seat at the table.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              Eric Solderholm is one of my earliest Yankee memories, simply because I was old enough to read his name on the TV screen by that time.

          • Deep Thoughts

            Bam Bam and Didi: What is it with those Curaçaoans and their reduplicative nicknames?

        • Scott

          My goodness, all these names being thrown around are really taking me back: Guetterman, Steve Cary, Trout, I LOVE IT.

          I was born in the 70s and didn’t start following baseball until my uncle took me to my first Yanks game in the early 80’s. First game I ever saw was the Brewers vs. Yanks. Fernando Valenzuela pitched for the Brewers, but the Yanks lost. I was crushed. My second game was the yanks vs. the California Angels and Jack Clark hit a HR. They still lost.
          I loved hearing the Voice of God say “Now batting for the Yankees Alvaro Espinosa” rolled off his tongue like butter.

          • TopChuckie

            Valenzuela for the Brewers?

            • Scott

              Scott Victor

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            I have an affinity for this era, and I think it’s because it keeps me grounded as a fan. So many names you’ll never hear again.

            Jeff Johnson was in our rotation for two years. Jeff Johnson never really pitched anywhere else in the majors, in any role, other than in our rotation for two years. That’s kind of awesome.

        • http://batman-news.com nyyankfan7

          We need more Don Slaught

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            I want more Joel Skinner.

            And Bob Geren.

      • Moncada’s Codpiece

        Cuba would also be renamed “South Bronx South” or “SoBroSo,” by compulsive real estate agents.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I am loving every minute of this.

        • Farewell Mo and Jeet

          The narrative that George made only good moves was total BS revisionist history however that being said, though he was often misguided, he had a singular goal of winning at pretty much any cost and at least learned to listen to his baseball people by the early 90s. It is also pretty amazing what the Yankees as an organization had become at the time of his death compared to the wreck that he bought from CBS.

          • Moncada’s Codpiece

            Definitely so. There was good and bad.

            • Scott

              Moncaday, you are right there is good and bad. And I don’t dislike George, because he really liked to win, I just find it very funny some of the revisionist history as Farewell Mo and Jeet says, making George out to be the greatest owner of all time that would stop at nothing to win the WS. Some people that post at RAB never remember situations like these, and other dumb moves he made so they make him sound like a saint with a golden touch that made WS teams out thin air and a fat check book.

              • Moncada’s Codpiece

                I’m a George fan, though I’d probably be less so if I had to live through all of the ’80s and those associated distractions. But you’re totally right, the truth is in the middle. Overall, I think he was a positive over the course of his entire tenure, but he would definitely not be some golden checkbook. It’s easy to forget that the Yankees had taken backseats to folks like Peter Angelos when it came to handing out mega contracts in the ’90s.

          • TopChuckie

            The revisionist history is implying that anyone actually thinks George only made good moves. I really have never seen anyone argue that. Everyone wanted the chance to be Frank Costanza and ask him what the hell he was thinking trading Buhner for Phelps.

            The “rolling in his grave stuff” and “this wouldn’t be happening if George was still alive” is referring to the fact George would do whatever he thought it took to win, right or wrong, and fortunately he was willing to spend enough money to compensate for when he was wrong. He would never let anyone take the shiny new toy from him and as a fan, that was fun, as greedy as it is. Darvish, Chapman, Puig would all be Yankees if George was still in charge, probably so would Viciedo, Hechavarria, and Kyuji Fujikawa, but those bums would have been worth it, just like Irabu and Maeda were worth it for Matsui and El Duque.

            You knew he cared more about winning than the money, or at least that he knew winning was the best way to make money, so winning was the #1 priority, and fans appreciated that, quit trying to argue they shouldn’t.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              Read above.

              • TopChuckie

                Nothing above contradicts what I’m saying. George could also let his emotions get in the way and he could be spiteful and manipulative, but I have no doubt he thought he was doing what was best for the team. I don’t think any cuts he was making were to save money, they had other motivations, perhaps to drive a guy he realized he had just mistakenly given a five year contract to resign after five months so he wouldn’t have to pay him that contract.

                • Farewell Mo and Jeet

                  I agree, those cuts were meant to put the screws to Thrift, as crazy as that might have been just a few months into his regime rather than not being committed to winning.

    • Too Many Idiots

      Pete is currently scouring through infowars to find ammo to combat this narrative.

    • vicki

      it’s not meant as a defense of him, but this story is completely in character for the boss. hiring a veteran executive, then quickly ditching the plan is little different from the steve trout story. or his history with managers. george was all id.

    • Mandy Stankiewicz

      I don’t know, I mean, if only Hal had the will to win like his dad. And maybe a little more allowance from the old man, things would be different around here.

      • Scott

        He has long pockets and short arms. His dad just printed money to give to all the FAs.

      • http://riveraveblues.com/ Mick

        The Hal Era is only beginning.
        It cannot be evaluated yet.
        It seems like a logical approach but Yankee fans will judge him by the Rings.

      • Mandy Stankiewicz

        (sarcasm) also ROLLING!

  • Farewell Mo and Jeet

    How the heck do you trade a 30 year old Rickey Henderson and all you get back is Polonia, Plunk and Caderet? Also makes no sense to trade Leiter for Barfield which was a win now move and then dump Henderson a month later. Moves seem contradictory.

    • pfoj

      What the hell did they trade Jay Buhner for?

      • Farewell Mo and Jeet

        Those 80s teams were always 1 player away in their minds who usually turned out to be some past his prime former star who ended up doing shit for the Yanks.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Steve Trout holds the keys to the kingdom.

          • Moncada’s Codpiece

            LaPoint was going to carry them back to Jerusalem.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              Just wait until Hawkins puts on the pinstripes. Instant All-Star.

              • Moncada’s Codpiece

                Nobody can get a hit off him.

          • Farewell Mo and Jeet

            I’ve never understood the expectations for Trout. I remember him as being a mediocre pitcher most of his career who the Yanks traded for after he was on a hot streak. No one could have expected him to he as awful as he was but I don’t remember thinking they just bought a ticket to the WS with that move

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              It was the three straight shutouts he threw right before the trade. That’s it.

              • vicki

                right. and the story lives on because nine starts, and tewksbury went on the have a decent career.

            • vicki

              he had a monster half-season before the trade.

              • Farewell Mo and Jeet

                3.00 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 32 Ks and 27 walks in 75 innings?
                Doesn’t seem all that spectacular to me.

                • vicki

                  it doesn’t, when you see it spelled out like that; but i’ve heard it repeated so many times i accepted it as truth. that’s a pitiful K/9, but then he wasn’t a strikeout pitcher.

                  • Farewell Mo and Jeet

                    We were so ignorant back then without sabermetrics and fangraphs/baseball reference. Almost like cavemen and women watching baseball :)

                    • vicki

                      holy cats. check bref, though. how did those peripherals rate a 142 era+ ?

                    • Farewell Mo and Jeet

                      He was a little lucky with a BABIP of .282 before the trade compared to .303 after which was his career average.

          • Looser Trader FotD™

            Ed Whitson in the pole position (though he was a FA signing of course).

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Both weren’t great trades, although you could say that the franchise wouldn’t have had the patience to develop Leiter anyway.

      At the very least, Plunk and Cadaret were there to take a quite a few bullets in the name of getting us to much better days.

      • Farewell Mo and Jeet

        About the only decent starter they had from those days was Melido Perez for a year or 2.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I’m not kidding when I say I looked forward to watching Chuck Cary pitch for about half a season.

          • Farewell Mo and Jeet

            It really hurt when they traded Leiter who was supposed to be our answer to Dwight Gooden.

            • FriarFlyer

              Jose Rijo was the systems answer to Gooden

    • ÅndyInSunnyDB

      Life is a Caderet

  • pfoj

    Pretty excited to have been born right around this time so I could skip all the dark years and become a conscious human being right as the dynasty was beginning.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      It built character, man. It built fucking character.

      • http://riveraveblues.com/ Mick

        mock away…

        • Havok9120

          He’s….not mocking?

    • vicki

      there is no spring without winter.

      • ropeadope1

        Winter is coming.

        • Farewell Mo and Jeet

          …and the white walkers are gonna kick some major ass!

          • pfoj

            That show needs to get to the fireworks factory already.

            • The Great Gonzo

              Or go back to the gratuitous sex scenes. Either way, really

              • pfoj

                It’s honestly amazing how little some of the plot lines have progressed. Daenerys has been walking around the desert aimlessly since like 2012 now.

                • Farewell Mo and Jeet

                  Gotta be patient while her dragons grow up.

                • Farewell Mo and Jeet

                  There are so many different story lines going on at the same time sometimes it seems hers gets neglected IMO.

                • DeutschlandVolkNY

                  Just wait until Jon Snow is revealed to be the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen and probably rides a dragon.

                  • http://shhhorsie.com Cheval Anonyme

                    Not everyone needed to hear that.

                    • DeutschlandVolkNY

                      Sorry,for the spoilers. Just deleted.

              • Looser Trader FotD™

                Have they gone away? Had to stop watching for family reasons owed to that.

                • Farewell Mo and Jeet

                  With a pair of 11 year olds’ in my house, the remote better be in hand when that show is on.

  • Paul Canales

    2nd sentence in the 2nd paragraph confused me. “They won 97 games in 1985”
    Then you said they won 57 games in 1985 a paragraph later. Typo?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      They definitely did not win 57 games in ’85. :)

      • Moncada’s Codpiece

        They won 57 games. And 40 more.

    • Moncada’s Codpiece

      The Pirates won 57 games in ’85.

      • vicki

        that’s nuts. just a few years after We Are Family. tony pena has seen fire, and he’s seen rain.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      The Yankees won 97 games in 1985. The Pirates (Thrift’s old team) won 57 in 1985.

      • Paul Canales

        Ahh okay thanks

      • YankeeB

        Reading comprehension issue.

  • The Great Gonzo

    Micheal Axisa, you son of a bitch… I implore you to CEASE the disparagement of the name of the Great George Michael Steinbrenner III Post Haste… POST HASTE I SAY!

    • ScottinSJ

      I’d like to add another poke in the eye at George: Hal is a much nicer-looking man than his old man.

  • http://riveraveblues.com/ Mick

    Talk about off topic. George blasphemy out of nowhere?
    I guess anything to avoid the topic of the day, dumb football.

    • Havok9120

      ‘Tis Retro Week, my friend! Embrace it in the long, dark days between now and ST.

  • Yankenstein

    Makes me shiver remembering the Bad George days.

  • Farewell Mo and Jeet

    Say what you want about George, he would have never thrown a pass at the 1 yard line on 2nd and goal with Beastmode in the backfield.

    • Scott

      He would have called time out and bought four more lineman and inserted them in the game to block. Of course all of those lineman would have been pushing 40 and well beyond their former HOF careers, but it doesn’t matter. GSIII had the will to win.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      You’re right.

      He’d have run it with LaDanian Tomlinson in the backfield.

      • vicki

        he’d have run it with paul allen’s grandmother back there. and it still would’ve been the right call.

        • Farewell Mo and Jeet

          LOL.
          Duck taping the ball to the corpse of Steve Jobs and throwing it over the goal line would have been better.

      • Farewell Mo and Jeet

        George was an old HS halfback and an alum of Ohio State in the Woody Hayes “three yards and a cloud of dust” days. He would have fed the ball the beast mode 3 more times if necessary in that situation, no doubt.

        • http://riveraveblues.com/ Mick

          Anyone other than Carroll, the iconoclast, would have.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          And he’d have emerged on a giant tiger at halftime as well.

          • Farewell Mo and Jeet

            It’s doubtful he could have sounded any worse than Katy Perry though.

    • Moncada’s Codpiece

      Even spinning his grave would have been a better on-field decision.

  • Deep Thoughts

    Thank you for the reality check Mike! You’ve been slaughtering sacred cows sabermetrically for years; I love
    the anecdotal method as well. The most impressive part is how you
    manage to write thoughtful posts like this while churning out a ton of articles almost every day.
    Compare that to pundits and radio hosts who take the lazy or
    “Conventional Wisdom” way out every day with a side-helping of false
    outrage. It’s very much appreciated.

    • TopChuckie

      Carson Cistulli recently called him Mikey Baseball on his podcast, I like it.

  • DeutschlandVolkNY

    Wait a second, does this mean is Cashman’s fault?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Cashman was off failing somewhere, I’m sure.

      • pfoj

        Well he would have been 22 in 1989. Either failing with the coeds or failing at job fairs I’d imagine.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Cashman was sitting in front of his Turbografx 16, failing at World Class Baseball.

          • pfoj

            I don’t know what any of that means, old man.

      • DeutschlandVolkNY

        The BGT of Twitter: @yankeessaddays

      • TheEvilUmpire

        Failing all over his bedspread. Alone. In his dorm room. On a Saturday night. Crying bitter tears of regret.

  • RetroRob

    No question about it. George was great for the Yankees, but the 1980s were just crazy.

    He threatened to end the dental insurance for off-the-field employees at one point. I don’t think he followed through.

    • vicki

      how moneyball.

      billy likes to keep the money on the field.

      • RetroRob

        Pay for your own sodas!

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I think that, at least on here, we wind up fighting against so many of these narratives about him, and about his sons, that we wind up making the argument against him.

      He certainly revitalized the franchise and, after his time away, came back a changed owner who channeled his passion the right way. That’s the good GS3, and I’d certainly never deny that. The bad GS3 was an almost-cartoonish figure that was part of a very different NYC culture that loved its larger than life figures. As a young fan, at that time, I was embarrassed by him, but many did like his shtick. His 80’s template was no way to run a franchise, and I’m not surprised it all landed in one big thud at the end.

      • Farewell Mo and Jeet

        Having such early success I think might have worked against George the same way it looks like it worked against Jerry Jones. It took a long period of failure before they learned to rely on their personnel experts and go against their impulse to be impatient and always go for the quick fix.

      • Y’s Guy

        Well put! One thing I would quibble with is that the way he handled Mattingly leaving showed that post his (2nd) suspension, he did not immediately change his ways. But he sure did rescue the Yankees from CBS!

      • RetroRob

        I can argue all sides of George, as many of us can. If someone claims he was the greatest thing since sliced bread (and what was the greatest thing before sliced bread?), then I can point out why he wasn’t. On the other side, those who want to argue how horrible he was, or how if he wasn’t banished the dynasty teams never would have happened, I can argue against that, too.

        Bottom line is the bottom line. He took a once-great, but then moribund franchise and turned it around, barely putting in more than $100,000 of his own money. Unlike most owners, he became a billionaire not from his family business, which eventually fell into disrepair as the shipping business changed, but he made his fortune and Forbes’ list of wealthiest Americans as owner of the NY Yankees, which then became (and remains) the family business. He was a good businessman, who understood marketing and continually reinvesting back into his product. He even on a personal level made some smart baseball decisions that his baseball people were against, such as signing Reggie Jackson.

        He was bombastic and impetuous, and those are the kind words. He was an embarrassment as the 80s progressed. Yet he did learn, and it wasn’t just from the banishment. He was still over the top on his return, but dialed back about ten notches. He would have outright fired Buck Showalter five times in the 70s and 80s after the ’95 loss. Instead, he wanted to keep him but fire his coaches. Buck, an equally stubborn man, decided to leave. I believe both regretted that decision. George basically did from day one and tried to get Buck back. It all turned out fine as is. The 2004 loss to the Red Sox? I’m not sure Yankee Stadium would have been left standing if that happened in the 70s or the 80s.
        George was great for the Yankees, but the ride was uneven.

        • Moncada’s Codpiece

          The greatest thing before sliced bread was torn bread. Made for really shitty sandwiches, though.

          • IVoted4Kodos

            But it’s great for dipping!

          • vicki

            i. love. torn bread.

        • Pete22

          George failed with Hal though, as he did not transfer his passion for winning. Hal will learn the lesson soon enough when fans stop showing up to see mediocrity. George learned from his mistakes, so too will Hal.

          • The Great Gonzo

            So since he is not jumping up and down like a caged orangutan, or making an ass of himself in the public eye a la daddy, he has no passion for winning?

            Seems like a reach.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              It’s Pete. He’s oblivious.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            One of these things is not like the other…

          • TheEvilUmpire

            Hal was always his mother’s son.

        • Deep Thoughts

          (and what was the greatest thing before sliced bread?)

          The Coney Island Cyclone. :-) Just watch the first two minutes.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FWKRHiYIuU

      • Moncada’s Codpiece

        Kind of like all those folks that still get off on Donald Trump. Drama for drama’s sake, almost. That ban, though, I think mellowed his rougher edges some. Maybe he just needed some time away. Maybe it was age.

        • Farewell Mo and Jeet

          I agree about George after the ban though I find it hard to believe he was completely “hands off” during that period. It would have been impossible to enforce.

          • Moncada’s Codpiece

            I doubt he was. But it’s still easier to do things without the boss looking over your shoulder all the time.

            • Farewell Mo and Jeet

              Yeah, even if he was involved, he wouldn’t have been able to do anything rash like firing the GM or manager since it would have been obvious he was pulling the strings.

        • The Great Gonzo

          Ironically, what made him a basketcase owner likely made him the success he was in (non-baseball) business. Yeah, he came from money, but he became a pretty big deal in the shipping industry before becoming ‘The Boss’

    • Pete22

      Those were the collusion years, 1986-1988 that cost Geroge and the rest of the owners 280 million. In 1989 the handwriting was on the wall that they would lose the arbitration case against the MLBPA, and George was socking some money away for the payout

  • Y’s Guy

    Thanks Mike, these were really good pieces, much appreciated.

  • RetroRob

    I wonder how many times the 1980s Yankees (post ’81) would have made the playoffs if MLB had a Wild Card or two? Hard to predict, since there were less teams and two divisions, so it might have only been one WC in those days most likely. It also would have greatly impacted how organizations built their teams, just as we see that happening now.

    • Moncada’s Codpiece

      It would have had to be two wild-cards to balance out, unless there was some kind of ridiculous “play-in” game or series between numbers 2 and 3. Once there, who knows. Might have been Yankees over Cards (or someone else) in ’85.

      • RetroRob

        Right. They probably would have had one WC from each division. Eventually, they’re probably going to expand in MLB and they’ll add yet another WC team. More mediocrity.

        • Farewell Mo and Jeet

          Right now it’s 10 of 30 teams making the playoffs. That seems reasonable to me. Even if they expanded by 2 teams and made it 12/32 like the NFL that wouldn’t be bad either. The NBA on the other hand with 16/30 is too many IMO.

          • The Great Gonzo

            Nothing the NBA does is right (outside of All Star Weekend, ironically). I have no idea how they remain as popular as they do

            • Wicomico Pinstripes

              They promote their stars pretty well IMO. That definitely helps them stay relevant.

        • The Great Gonzo

          But no more dead balls!

    • Pete22

      Only 3 years did they hit 90 or more, and one of those they finished 3rd in the division, so maybe 2 playoff chances with an expanded format.

      More teams that make the playoffs, the less wins a team can target, and spend less money to field a competitive team with the lowering of the bar to making the playoffs

  • Y’s Guy

    …and the year after they traded Henderson back to Oakland, Rickey went all 190 wRC+ plus 65 steals a 10.2 WAR and LaRussa and the A’s were on their way to the World Series!

    • Y’s Guy

      And Rickey got his MVP.

      • Y’s Guy

        also, Willie Randolph went back to the WS with those ’90 A’s.

    • RetroRob

      A hobbled Rickey, as he was at the point when the Yankees traded him, was still incredibly valuable.

      Can you imagine acquiring a player or Rickey’s abilities when he was only about to turn 26 as the Yankees did then? I was amazed when it happened, but it would be more crazy even today since teams have become better at the valuation of players.

      • Y’s Guy

        Rickey was the most amazing player I ever saw play when he was with the Yankees. He went 20-80 (hr/sb)! You couldn’t take your eyes off him from the stands!
        *24/80 actually*

    • Farewell Mo and Jeet

      and Plunk had a -0.1 career WAR for the Yanks in 2.5 years, Caderet 3.1 WAR in 3.5 years and Polonia in about a year.

      • IVoted4Kodos

        The best part about Luis was that he used a comically oversized glove. I think it was a 15 inch…I have one that I use when I play outfield in softball and the thing absolutely dwarfs a baseball. I can’t even imagine trying to find the ball in there to make a throw.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I seem to remember a desperation attempt to convert Cadaret to a starter, as they did with anyone who looked good for more than two outings at a time.

  • Drew

    The Yankees lost Washington, Clark, Guidry, Candelaria, Rhoden, good Tommy John, and full years of Winfield, Henderson, Pagliarulo, and Espinoza, or in other words downgraded in the entire OF, the left side of the infield, the DH, and 4/5ths of their rotation for ’89, so a loss of eleven wins (85 in ’88 to 74 in ’89) was not surprising.

    Fun/ny fact: ’89 Ken Phelps was on pace to post 21 HR and 87 RBI based on 7 HR and 29 RBI in 215 PA. SMH at him being a lefthanded power hitter with the chance to hit in up to 81 games at the old Yankee Stadium but hitting only three doubles and ten extra basehits out of 46 hits – did he even hit a double at Yankee Stadium? Yikes!

    I always laugh at how overblown the Phelps for Buhner trade was as a bad trade when Buhner was blocked by Dave Winfield in RF and Jack Clark at DH plain and simple – see 87-88 Winfield-Clark. Remember Winfield was signed and expected to produce big through ’90 for then big money (just under $2M a year 1988-90) and possibly beyond if re-signed and I doubt the Yanks planned to trade Clark after ’88/just one season when they signed him through ’89 or big money off his great ’87. The Yanks envisioned these two together for 88-89 and possibly longer. The Yanks were blindsided by Clark requesting a trade after just one season with only one to go and Winfield’s near career ending injury which cost him the entire ’89 season. The Yanks had these two together for just one year. ‘Say they kept Buhner/never trade for Phelps, Winfield still misses all of ’89, Clark is still traded after ’88, and Balboni isn’t signed the primary DH for 89. I don’t think the Yanks would’ve handed RF or DH to a farm kid (Buhner.) Also remember Balboni hit 23 HR in ’88 so he was a surer bet to be productive than Buhner. As bad as Balboni was in 89 he was better than 89. Barfield reeled off three solid seasons 85-87 before a down year in 88. Thrift thought Barfield would have a bounceback 89 and he was right: Barf went from 18 HR to 23 and .302 OBP to .345 OBP including .360 OBP for the 89 Yankees. And Barf had a better ’90 (25 HR, 78 RBI, .359 OBP.) Buhner had no place on the 88-90 Yankees. Leiter didn’t put it together until 95 only to sign with the Marlins. So stop with Buhner for Phelps, Leiter for Barfield, and even Lowell for whoever (98-01 Brosius who has three World Series rings to Lowell’s two plus an AL pennant for double the pennants.)

    Hindsight is 20/20. Btw how come there are no articles about how stupid the Dodgers, Orioles, and Tigers were to trade Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, and John Smoltz respectively? Martinez and Smoltz won four Cy Young Awards between them (Pedro was a Cy runner up twice and a CYA second through fourth place finisher four times) and a World Series each (Smoltz won three pennants 91-92, 99, Pedro one in 09) and both are in the Hall Of Fame, Schilling had a solid career, won a pair of World Series rings with a team who last won the WS in 1918 before that, and is a borderline Hall Of Famer. Martinez and Schilling even won NL pennants with the Phillies and how rare is that? LOL. Only the Yankees make stupid trades to writers and bloggers.

    Would the Yanks start a rookie or second year farm kid at DH now? Possibly. I mean say Beltran has a bounceback ’15 but tears his ACL on August 31 and is out for all of ’16 and the rest of his Yankee career, A-Rod is so bad he doesn’t make it to September as the primary/full-time DH, and Greg Bird has such a tremendous ’15 he’s called up to be the September DH then pulls a ’98 Shane Spencer. I think Bird is given the chance to win DH in ’16 spring training and say he wins it, too. He’s losing the job if he flops as early as mid-May. If Buhner had the ’89 he had with Seattle for the ’89 Yanks, no way he makes it to June or even May. And since when do the Yankees give kids the DH?

    Buhner for Phelps was awful in a vacuum only. Again 87-88 Winfield-Clark, Clark was signed for 88-89, Winfield 81-90 for then big money, 88 Balboni hit 23 HR, and the Yanks owner was a win/produce now nut who wasn’t giving a kid barely out of AAA RF or DH, he just wasn’t. And again, hindsight is 20/20. People lament about Drabek for Rhoden and smirk about Rijo for Henderson uhhhh Rhoden was good and needed in 87-88 and actually had one of the lowest ERAs for a starting pitcher for the ’89 Yankees (Clay Parker had the best), Henderson great 84-89 (well 84-88 and ok in 89 but whatevs.) The Core Four…yeah, The Haley’s Comet of MLB, right. Who knows what Drabek would’ve done as a Yankee 87 on.
    I know that he’d want big money after his next to last season under contract if he had the 90-91 he had with the Pirates with the 90-91 Yankees. And how much better does he make those teams? .500? Not even. Those teams would’ve still been crap with him, just bettter crap.

    Which is what makes Cashman’s reluctance to trade his top prospects for Strasburg so laughable. He actually thinks he’s trading the next Pedro, Curt, or John if he trades Severino, the next Mo if he trades Betances in a package for Strasburg who is not Rick Rhoden. And he thinks Gregorius, Severino, Betancez, Sanchez, and Judge are the next Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera, Posada, and Williams. Hahaha leave those kids alone and let them do their thing.

    Sign Shields and trade for Fister.

    • Drew

      * 21 HR 87 RBI if Phelps tripled his PA (215 to 645.)

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Loved having Barfield on those teams. Barf was a perfect description for what the average fan wanted to do at a late 80s/early 90s Yankees game.

    • bringbackthebullpencar

      Excellent!! Very well written observation!!

  • Bpdelia

    It’s a shame they just ran into some GREAT teams in the best years of this era. The 83-87 trans were good to great teams. They were just never able to move guidry down to the #3 he clearly was at his age. Could never come away with an ace. Though moving rags was their own stupidity.

    Dallas green incidentally was a hilariously bad hire. It’s quite possible that no other manager could be less compatible with steinbrenner.

    Fun fact. I sell memorabilia and got into touch with Green years ago. I have all his Phillies uniforms and all of his release and firing letters. Many are quite rude. He was a man who knew how to wear out a welcome.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Dude, we’d love to see pictures of those letters sometime. It would be fascinating to peel back the vale and gaze inside the mind of a MLB GM/Owner in this type of situation.

      • Bpdelia

        I absolutely will although you’ll be rather disappointed. It’s so 1960s corporate is depressing. “ATTN: Mr. Green,
        The Phillies have decided not to renew your contract for the upcoming season. Following is an accounting of wages and benefits accrued during time of employment. We thank you for your service to our organization. Any further questions can be directed to the human resources department.”. Green had a CRAP load of ” shit in fired again ” letters.

        Have a couple of great letters from hal newhouser when he was a scout for the tigers that are more interesting.

        My niche has been documents political and sports related. I have a letter from Hubert Humphrey discussing a possible stadium project in St. paul as well.

      • Bpdelia

        I absolutely will although you’ll be rather disappointed. It’s so 1960s corporate is depressing. “ATTN: Mr. Green,
        The Phillies have decided not to renew your contract for the upcoming season. Following is an accounting of wages and benefits accrued during time of employment. We thank you for your service to our organization. Any further questions can be directed to the human resources department.”. Green had a CRAP load of ” shit in fired again ” letters.

        Have a couple of great letters from hal newhouser when he was a scout for the tigers that are more interesting.

        My niche has been documents political and sports related. I have a letter from Hubert Humphrey discussing a possible stadium project in St. paul as well.

  • YankeeB

    Remember this era well. He never could come to grips with the ups and downs of a 162 game schedule. The best thing to happen to the franchise was his absence after the Howie Spira fiasco. By the time he came back, the wheels were in motion for an extended period of excellence that was tempered only by some of the impatient moves he made after 2001. All that being said, we can always thank George Steinbrenner from rescuing the Yanks from the benign neglect of the CBS era. There’s no way you ever want to see that again.

  • TheEvilUmpire

    Did Darrell Hammond ever portray George on SNL?

  • Bambino3

    My entire childhood (6-13) was taken up by this era of garbage (’82-’89)

    • Bpdelia

      82-89 featured some excellent and super entertaining teams man. They didn’t win but they were a very fun team. In fact 83-87 was a fantastic team. Just ran up against slightly better and one all time greatest team in the tigers.

      • Bambino3

        Yeah, I know but to a young kid in Staten Island in the 80s, all I ever heard about were the Mets. It was like I was the only Yankee fan around, and it largely revolved around the team’s lack of post-season success.

    • Bpdelia

      82-89 featured some excellent and super entertaining teams man. They didn’t win but they were a very fun team. In fact 83-87 was a fantastic team. Just ran up against slightly better and one all time greatest team in the tigers.