Snakebitten

(Schilling photo by The AP; Johnson photo by Harry How/Allsport; IPK photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty; Haren photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty)

In the aftermath of the Arizona Diamondbacks non-tendering Joe Saunders — the mediocre left-handed pitcher who was the only Major Leaguer in the package sent by the Angels to the Snakes for Dan Haren in July 2010 — last month, it occurred to me that despite the fact that the franchise has only been in existence for 14 seasons, there’s a strong possibility that the Diamondbacks have been the greatest off-the-field thorn in the Yankees’ side of any team in Major League Baseball in recent history*.

* Though it’s not as if they’ve been pleasant to deal with between the lines either, given that they were responsible for perhaps the most heartbreaking loss an entire generation of Yankee fans have ever experienced in the form of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.

Anecdotally, we’ve heard stories detailing a mutual dislike on the part of former Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo and George Steinbrenner, both known for their hard-nosed ownership styles, and as best I can tell the problem initially stemmed from a now-famous meal shared by Steinbrenner and David Wells in January 2002, in which the Boss re-signed Wells four days after the burly lefty reached a handshake agreement with the D-Backs.

This incident no doubt left Colangelo steaming, and it would come back to bite the Yankees in the 2003-2004 offseason, as the team desperately needed to upgrade a rotation that was losing three-fifths of its members. The Yankees were very interested in Curt Schilling, but the talks didn’t go anywhere as Arizona’s asking price — which appeared to include both Nick Johnson (coming off a 2.1 fWAR season) and Alfonso Soriano (5.0 fWAR), at the very least — was rightly deemed excessive. It’s unclear who Cash may have been willing to part with, and whether talks ever progressed between the two teams, but before they even had a chance to Theo Epstein and Boston swooped in, joined the Schillings at their Thanksgiving table, and somehow convinced the Diamondbacks to trade Schilling, coming off thee seasons in which he racked up 7.6, 9.7 and 5.9 fWAR, respectively, for a package headlined by Casey Fossum and rounded out by Brandon Lyon and minor leaguers Jorge De La Rosa and Michael Goss.

In a vacuum I suppose that’s a fair amount of talent for Boston to have surrendered, but in hindsight it turned out to be an absolute steal for the Red Sox, as Fossum was basically never an effective pitcher again following the deal; Lyon’s carved out a career as a pretty good middle reliever, the most fungible asset in all of baseball; De La Rosa’s been a #3-ish starter at best in the National League and Goss never made it to the Majors; while Schilling accumulated 17.8 fWAR in four seasons with the Sox while helping lead the franchise to its first World Championship in 86 years and another three seasons later.

While you could drive yourself crazy playing the what-if game, it’s probably fairly safe to say things would’ve unfolded quite a bit differently had the Yankees acquired Schilling that offseason instead of the Red Sox.

Of course, the Yankees finally did get a Diamondback ace of their own the following offseason, in Steinbrenner’s long-coveted Randy Johnson. The Big Unit had a strong debut season in pinstripes in 2005, but was pretty mediocre in 2006, and famously flubbed both of his postseason appearances. Fortunately the Yankees likely didn’t regret the cost to acquire Johnson — Javier Vazquez, coming off an execrable first season in pinstripes, along with Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro — especially considering that prior to the deal being executed Robinson Cano had been a long-rumored chip in a potential Johnson trade, but in hindsight I think this can still be considered another low point in the Yankees’ and Diamondbacks’ mutual history.

Following his disappointing 2006, the Yanks decided they’d had enough of Johnson — who, as it so happens, expressed a desire to return to Phoenix — and shipped him back to the Diamondbacks for nothing special in Alberto Gonzalez, Steven Jackson, Ross Ohlendorf and Luis Vizcaino. I suppose receiving four warm bodies for a pitcher who appeared to be well past his glory days is somewhat commendable, though Johnson still went on to put up two more decent (if injury-plagued) years out in the desert, while the 2007 and 2008 Yankee pitching staffs weren’t exactly anything to write home about.

The Yankees and Diamondbacks hooked up again in December of 2009, in the three-way trade that brought Curtis Granderson to New York and shipped Ian Kennedy to Arizona, a deal that also saw Detroit send Edwin Jackson to the D-Backs but also gain Austin Jackson and Phil Coke from the Yankees and heist Max Scherzer from the Snakes. Two years later this would appear to be the rare three-way trade in which all involved parties appeared to benefit. I’d do this deal all day every day, although it somehow figures that Arizona would wind up turning Ian Kennedy — who I maintain would never have become a 5.0 fWAR player in the Bronx — into a frontline starter.

This brings us back to the Saunders-Haren trade of July 2010. Granted, the Angels also sent Tyler Skaggs — currently ranked by Baseball Americas as Arizona’s 3rd-best prospect — Patrick Corbin (10th in the system) and Rafael Rodriguez to the desert in the deal, so it’s not quite as cut-and-dry as just “Saunders-for-Haren,” but given that Saunders wasn’t even retained by the D-Backs a mere year-and-a-half after being acquired, while Dan Haren has been a top 10 pitcher in baseball the last two seasons, it’s difficult not to wonder how things might have played out had the Yankees and Diamondbacks managed to consummate a deal.

It’s difficult to say given that all we really know is that Joba Chamberlain‘s name was the primary one bandied about during the trade talks of July 2010. If we were to try to build a comparable package to the one Arizona received, the Yankees’ #3 prospect at the time (per our own Mike Axisa) was Manny Banuelos, while #10 was Jose Ramirez. At the time, would you have been willing to trade a package of Joba Chamberlain, Manny Banuelos, Jose Ramirez and some low-level filler for a 29-year-old Dan Haren? Pretty sure I’d have been willing to pull the trigger on that one.

Again, we have no idea whether something like that was ever offered and/or whether it would have been an acceptable haul for Arizona, but on paper it seems like a pretty fair swap, especially when you consider that Saunders has been worth 2.7 fWAR in two full seasons of starting while Joba has been worth 1.8 fWAR in a season-and-a-half of relieving during that same time period. You have to figure Arizona almost certainly would’ve given Joba the chance to start that the Yankees never will, and the Yankees would’ve had a right-handed ace to complement CC Sabathia.

Of course, at the end of the day the majority of this is hearsay and conjecture, and there’s no way of really knowing whether Arizona has had it in for the Yankees over the years. However, as I’ve illustrated above, the two teams’ transaction history — and it certain cases, lack thereof — would make me considerably wary of doing business with Arizona in the future.

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As Mick Jagger once said…

Possibly the only documented instance of Randy Johnson smiling while with the Yankees. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Yankees always almost wanted Randy Johnson. They nearly wanted him in 1994 when the Mariners first seemed willing to trade him. They wanted him again in 1997 and 1998 when the Mariners were definitely going to trade him. They kinda, sorta wanted him after 1998 when he hit free agency, and they lusted after him in the wake of the Diamondbacks’ trade of Curt Schilling to the Red Sox.

By the time the Yankees finally landed Johnson, the Big Unit was on the wrong side of 40 and on the wrong end of his career. In 2005, he had a good-for-anyone-else but good-for-him first season in New York, going 17-8 with a 3.79 ERA over 225.2 innings with an 8.4 K/9 IP. In 2006, he had a terrible year. He managed to win 17 games but lost 11 with an ERA of 5.00. He struck out just 172 in 205 innings, and his 7.6 K/9 IP was his lowest mark since his age 25 season. Once the October scourge for the Yanks, he suffered through two, allowing 10 runs in 13 innings over two forgettable Yankees ALDS losses, and today, the Big Unit Era is a dark time for the Yankees and their fans.

I refuse to draw parallels between Randy Johnson and Cliff Lee although they clearly exist. The Yankees tried to land Lee at the deadline and failed, as they did with Randy Johnson, and the Yankees will now try to sign Lee as a free agent, as they may or may not have done with Randy Johnson in 1998. But Lee is a good nine years younger than the Unit was when he finally came to New York, and while Cliff Lee has been very good of late, Randy Johnson 1992-2002 was one of the best pitchers in baseball history. We’ll have our fun with the Randy Johnson saga anyway.

The first time the Yanks and Randy Johnson are linked in a serious rumor, it is 1994, and little do either the Mariners or the Yankees realize what awaits them at the end of the following season. As the Daily News reports a year later, the Mariners tried to rade Randy Johnson to the Yankees for Sterling Hitchcock, Domingo Jean, Mark Hutton and Russ Davis, but the Yankees said no. They had no desire to move Hitchcock — who would eventually go the Mariners with Davis in the Tino Martinez/Jeff Nelson deal.

In 1995, though, the Yanks had a team payroll that year of $58 million, but it was a high enough figure to lead all of baseball. (The Orioles were second at $47 million.) Had the Mariners even been willing to trade Johnson, money, said the Boss, was an obstacle. “Randy Johnson is one of the great pitchers in the game,” Steinbrenner said in April, before that season began. “It would take some very creative stuff to be able to add him, because I’m right at the level that I want to be.”

In 1997, two years after Randy Johnson and the Mariners had stunned the Yanks in the playoffs, Seattle needed to ship out the Big Unit. He was a season away from free agency, and the Mariners wanted to realize his value before they lost him. The winter before the Yanks’ historic run in 1998 featured numerous Johnson rumors. Peter Botte offered up a delectable one: The Braves would send Mark Wohlers and two others to Seattle while the Mariners would ship Randy Johnson to New York and the Yankees would send Bernie Williams to Atlanta. The Cubs could have become involved as well, but Bob Watson shot that one down. “I’ll tell you what, if we can pull those kinds of moves off, we need to go over and negotiate the settlements in Iraq,” the Yanks’ then-GM said. “There’s no truth to it.”

Instead, the more likely rumor had the Mariners asking for Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. The Yanks had offered up only Rivera for Johnson, and when the Mariners countered by requested Pettitte as well, the Yanks put the kibosh on that deal. The Yankees had no desire to make such a move, even for Randy Johnson, and the Unit himself told the Yanks through the media to wait for him to hit free agency. He wanted the pinstripes; the pinstripes wanted — or at least seem to want — him.

As the 1998 season wore on, so too did the rumors. After the season began, the Mariners came back with a new proposal: Ricky Ledee and Andy Pettitte for Randy Johnson. The Yankees said no, and it looked as though the Dodgers would land Randy in exchange for Hideo Nomo. That deal fell apart too, and talks continued through the trade deadline.

Again on July 31, 1998, the Yankees had their chance. The Mariners asked for Hideki Irabu, Class A pitcher Ryan Bradley and Mike Lowell, but the Yankees did not want to part with Lowell. (That they would do so a few months later and get nothing good in return remains one of Cashman’s worst trades of all time.) The Yankees were left empty-handed at the deadline and went on to win 114 regular season games and the World Series.

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to free agency. The Yanks seemingly grew disinterested in Randy Johnson, and it appears to be over the matter of money. In 1998, the Yanks’ payroll sat at $73 million, but the team knew it would have to re-up with a few key players. Bernie Williams and David Cone were both free agents, and Derek Jeter was set for a significant raise in arbitration. While negotiations with Bernie nearly resulted in the premature end of the Williams Era, the Yankees wanted Randy Johnson in early November but were sidetracked by the Williams negotiations. A few days later, the Diamondbacks nabbed Johnson for four years and $50 million, and the Unit responded by winning the Cy Young in each of those seasons.

If the Yanks felt slighted, they never said so. Johnson cited a desire to play close to home, and the Yankees had to get their own house in order first. They recovered from missing out on Randy Johnson by trading David Wells, Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush to the Blue Jays for Roger Clemens, won two more World Series and were stymied by Johnson and the Diamondbacks in 2001. They always wanted Randy Johnson, but at least during the late 1990s, they got what they needed instead.

Remembering Randy

The Big Unit

Over 21 years ago, a tall and lanky lefthander from Northern California with a University of Southern California education made his Major League debut as a member of the now defunct Montreal Expos, throwing five innings of two run ball against the Pirates to earn his first Major League win. The next season he made 28 starts and walked 96 batters in 160.2 innings, getting traded to Seattle in the process. He would go on to lead the big leagues in walks in 1990 (120 BB), 1991 (152), and 1992 (140), and it wasn’t until his age-29 season that he broke through and established himself as an elite starting pitcher.

That pitcher walked away from the game yesterday, having led the league in strikeouts nine times and being named the Cy Young Award winner five times. He would finish in the top three of the voting on four other occasions. Randy Johnson hangs ‘em up as one of the game’s very best, though his time in New York is largely remembered as a disappointment.

George Steinbrenner had long desired to bring The Big Unit to the Bronx, and he made no secret of it. “God, who wouldn’t love to have Randy Johnson?” Steinbrenner told ESPN Radio in 2004. “He’s a dominator and we’d love to have him. Anybody would love to have him.” The Boss’ wish came true following the ’04 season, when he masterminded a deal that sent Javy Vazquez plus two prospects and cash to Arizona for Johnson. Before he even had a chance to put on his jersey during the introductory press conference, the team gave Johnson a two-year contract extension worth $32M, and he responded by roughing up a CBS cameraman on a midtown sidewalk.

Expectations were high heading into 2005, after all Johnson was coming off a season in which he struck out 290 and allowed just 221 baserunners in 245.2 innings. Unfortunately, Randy was rather ordinary out of the gate. After allowing one run in six innings to earn the win against the Red Sox on Opening Day, Johnson posted a 4.39 ERA and a .751 OPS against in his next 16 starts. His record stood at 6-6 on July 1st, and he had lost a full mile an hour off his fastball from the year before.

Johnson settled in and was very good down the stretch, pitching to a 3.32 ERA with a .648 OPS against in his final 17 starts. The Yankees won five of his six starts against Boston, which proved to be the difference in the AL East race. The two clubs finished with identical 95-67 records, but the Yanks were crowned division champs because they had won the season series 10-9.

Lined up to start Game Three of the ALDS against the Angels, Johnson lasted just three innings and allowed five runs as the Yanks got creamed on their own turf. By the time he came out of the bullpen in relief of Mike Mussina in Game Five, the Yankees’ fate was all but sealed. RJ had been the team’s best starter by a considerable margin all season, however the blame for their early playoff exit was hoisted squarely onto his shoulders.

Heading into the 2006 season, many expected big things out of The Big Unit since he had a season to acclimate himself to New York under his belt. “I think it will be more comfortable for him,” said manager Joe Torre. “I think that’s been from Spring Training all the way through. It’s been less hectic than last year.”

Johnson dominated the A’s on Opening Day, though his ERA stood at 5.25 on July 1st. He lost even more giddy-up off his fastball and battled lower back soreness the rest of the season, though it wasn’t until the end of the year that he decided to get it checked out. It was revealed that Johnson had a herniated disc in his back, and he needed an epidural before being cleared to take the mound in the ALDS. Against the Tigers, Johnson tossed another postseason dud in pinstripes, allowing five runs in just over five innings in Game Three as the Yanks were again sent home prematurely.

At 43-years-old and with a bad back, GM Brian Cashman traded Johnson back to the Diamondbacks for a reliever and three prospects after the 2006 campaign. In two years with the Yankees, Randy had a more than respectable 34-19 record with a 4.39 ERA, though his 6.92 ERA in three postseason appearances remain his Yankee legacy. His time in pinstripes had no effect on his status as a future first ballot Hall of Famer, though he’s viewed as just another mercenary – a grumpy mercenary, nonetheless – that failed to do the job he was brought in to do. He failed not because he was soft or because he didn’t care, but because he was unable to maintain his historical dominance into his 40’s.

Unfortunately for Yankee fans, Johnson will perhaps be better remembered for the damage he did against the Yanks than he did for them. He allowed just five hits in ten innings against the Bombers during the 1995 ALDS, winning Game Three before coming out of the bullpen to win the deciding Game Five. During the 2001 World Series, he beat the Yanks in Games Two, Six, and Seven, clinching the World Championship in relief after throwing seven innings the night before.

Randy Johnson announced his retirement from baseball last night, and it closed the book on perhaps the most dominant starting pitching career we’ll ever see. He retired with 739 more strikeouts than any other lefthanded pitcher in the history of baseball, and his career mark of 10.61 strikeouts per nine innings is the best by any pitcher ever. He’s the oldest pitcher in history to throw a perfect game (40), and this past season he joined the exclusive 300 win club.

The Big Unit may have been a big disappointment in New York because of his failure to deliver a World Championship, but the game said goodbye to one of it’s all-time greats yesterday.

Photo Credit: Tony Gutierrez, AP

Link Roundup: Former Yankees in the news

Damon a fit in Atlanta?

Want to read 1000 words on how and why Johnny Damon would be a great fit for the Braves’ lineup? Well, then point your browsers to this David O’Brien blog post and prepare for a lengthy analysis. O’Brien says Atlanta has around $7-$8 million per season for two years to offer to Damon, and since Scott Boras has yet to field a better offer, Damon just might accept.

Now, if that salary figure sounds familiar, that’s because it is reportedly what the Yankees were willing to pay Damon for at least 2010 and maybe 2011. Would Damon then accept a lesser salary with another team than he would with his former employers? Joe tackled just that question in his closing arguments, and it’s worth noting that some people are more comfortable taking lesser money from a new team than they are with taking a paycut to stick with their old one. In the end, Damon will produce no matter the salary, but he could have a better early-season outlook in Atlanta than with the Yankees.

If the Braves opt against pursuing Damon, I’m not sure where or for how much Damon ends up. The Braves — and of course the Yankees — are simply the two best and last real remaining options for Johnny. Unless the Cardinals lose out on Matt Holliday, Damon will have few choices for a player coming off a great year. He really is this year’s Bobby Abreu.

Yanks, 14 others ask about Wang

Yesterday, we learned that Chien-Ming Wang would throw off a mound in mid-to-late Feburary. Today, we hear of interest in the rehabbing right-hander. Alan Nero, Wang’s agent, told Andrew Marchand that 15 teams have inquired into the status of the former 19-game winner and erstwhile ace. The Yankees, but not the Mets, were among those teams, and I still would not be surprised if Wang returned to the Bronx on an incentive-laden deal this year.

Matsui: I want to play the outfield

Hideki Matsui‘s insistence that he will play some games in the outfield in Anaheim continues to amuse me. Last week, the World Series MVP returned home to Japan and held a press conference at which he reiterated his belief that he will see some time in left field in 2010. “I’d like to prove I can play defense at spring training,” Matsui said during a news conference. “It will be difficult to play defense every day like in the past, but I’d like to reach the point where I’m able to play defense once every few games.”

Matsui, never a great defender, last played the field on June 15, 2008 — coincidentally the same day Chien-Ming Wang suffered his career-derailing Lisfranc injury. Since then, he has undergone at least one knee surgery and a few procedures to drain fluids from his knees, but if the Angels want to risk, so be it.

The story behind Fred McGriff and Tom Emanski

How, you may ask, does Fred McGriff end up on a link dump of news concerning former Yankees? Well, New York drafted McGriff in the ninth round of the 1981 amateur draft, and then the team traded him with Dave Collins and Mike Morgan on December 9, 1982 to the Blue Jays for Tom Dodd and Dale Murray. It wasn’t a good trade. Anyway, while McGriff made a name for himself with the bat, he is in one of the longest running baseball video commercials of all time, and today, Tyler Kepner gets the story behind the Emanski endorsement. His teams did win back to back to back A.A.U. National Championships, after all.

Randy Johnson will announce his retirement tomorrow

The Big Unit spent two productive years in pinstripes, and his Hall of Fame career appears to have ended: Bob Nightengale says RJ will announce his retirement tomorrow morning. He went 34-19 with a 4.37 ERA in pinstripes, though he really made his mark with the Diamondbacks. When Arizona signed Johnson to a four year, $53M contract in 1999, they were rewarded with four Cy Youngs and a 2.52 FIP with 1,417 strikeouts in 1030 innings. Wow.

Two ex-Yankees on their times in the Bronx

If the Yankees manage to snap out of their World Series-less funk and return to their smart team-building ways of the late 1990s, Jason Giambi and Randy Johnson will forever live as the two biggest symbols of Aught-Aught decadence. The Yankees spent a whopping amount of dollars on both of those players and additional prospects on Randy Johnson. When Johnson left after 2006 and Giambi left this winter, their departures were quick and rather forgettable.

Over the weekend, the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea checked in with the Big Unit and the Giambino as they settle in to their new digs and their new old digs, respectively. The two former Yankees had widely divergent views on playing in the Bronx.

Neither Randy Johnson nor Jason Giambi won a World Series with the Yankees, which is why neither is viewed in that Paul O’Neill-Scott Brosius “True Yankee” sort of way, whatever the heck that is. Johnson’s and Giambi’s sin was playing on teams that fell short of winning it all, the Yankees’ only goal.

“If you don’t win the World Series, it’s considered a failing year,” said Johnson, who’s working near his Livermore roots after signing a one-year, $8 million contract with the Giants. “Those are extremely high expectations. It’s not that easy, though. I don’t think you should be measured on whether you won a World Series or not because the best team doesn’t always win the World Series.”

[snip]

“I loved having that pressure on you,” said Giambi, who returned to the A’s for a $5.25 million guarantee. “If you’re an athlete and really love the game, it’s pretty incredible. The expectation level from the media to the fans, it’s awesome, an incredible environment to play in. I know some people don’t thrive in it, but I enjoyed it.”

For some reason, Shea’s main goal seems to be taking jabs at the Yankees. He openly mocks the “True Yankee” moniker that some players have earned, and he notes in the omitted section the Yanks’ winter spending spree. In a way, though, he misses the point.

For Giambi, his time in New York was about excelling on the big stage, and he seemed to do that just fine. While his contract and tenure here will be forever marked by steroids, the Yanks got their money’s worth out of Jason, and it wasn’t his fault the Yanks’ pitching fell apart.

Between Randy Johnson and the Yanks, though, there is no love lost. Even in Johnson’s words — “I don’t think you should be measured on whether you won a World Series or not because the best team doesn’t always win the World Series” — are hints of excuses. He’s still trying to defend himself as the man who couldn’t put away the Angels in 2005 and couldn’t deal with the Tigers in 2006. He is every bit the insecure pitcher Joe Torre describes him to be in his book and nothing like the bulldog the Yankees thought he was.

When all is said and done, neither Randy nor Jason will go down in the annals of Yankee history as representative of a good time. This decade has seen the team try to find a way to return to World Series glory with no luck. For one of them, it certainly wasn’t from a lack of trying, and from the other, it will always just be sour grapes.

Setting the Randy Johnson trade record set

A sentence in a recent Tom Verducci mailbag set a few Yankees a-twitter this week. “Remember,” wrote Verducci, “the Yankees preferred Ross Ohlendorf over Owings in the Big Unit trade, otherwise he’d be their No. 3 starter and DH these days!”

Now while Ross Ohlendorf clearly has a bright future as a Major League reliever ahead of him — his stuff and his recent 6 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K line are testaments to that — Micah Owings is a desirable starter with excellent stuff. Yankee fans would have every right to be a little dismayed if the team truly favored Ohlendorf over Owings. But the problem with Verducci’s claim is that it’s simply not true.

A few weeks earlier, Verducci’s Sports Illustrated colleague and fellow columnist Jon Heyman wrote about Micah Owings’ role in the Randy Johnson trade talk as well. His take, however, was completely different from that of Verducci’s: “The Yankees tried hard for Owings in Randy Johnson trade talks after the 2006 season, even offering to send Arizona a few million more if they’d include him. No go.”

What Heyman wrote jibes with press reports from the time of the trade in December 2006 and January 2007. At the time, New York reporters offered up differing takes. Some said that the Yankees maybe could have landed Owings if they were prepared to shell out more money for the D-Backs and accept fewer players in return. Others said that Owings was considered to be an “untouchable” in Arizona’s farm system.

While Verducci’s analysis seems off the mark, what Heyman offers seems most realistic. The Yanks wanted Owings as any team would, and the Diamondbacks opted to hold on to their prized prospect. With Ohlendorf on the team, a compensation pick from Vizcaino on the way and the Big Unit’s health issues lately, I’d say the Yankees did just fine for themselves in that trade.

What If: Re-imagining the Yankee Dynasty

Before I begin this exercise in What If? baseball history, let’s just remember that hindsight is always 20/20. When we look back in time and try to evaluate trades that weren’t made, it’s easy to do it sitting here in 2008. The trick is to put our selves in the shoes of those involved in the decision. In this case, that means hoping in a time machine and journeying to July 31, 1998.

It is July 31, 1998, and the Yankees are on a once-in-a-lifetime roll. The Yankees are 76-27 with a 15-game lead over the Red Sox. Since a 1-3 start, the team was a blistering 75-24. That just doesn’t happen.

But despite being prohibitive World Series favorites, the Yankees were always searching for ways to get better, and leading the charge was a rookie. General Manager Brian Cashman was in his first year as Yankee GM, and a series of moves and non-moves, beginning on that fateful night in July — the trade deadline — would impact the Yankees Dynasty up through the present day.

As site commenter Phil reminded us today, the Yankees were in the hunt for Randy Johnson. I had completely forgotten about these behind-the-scenes moves. But as RAB favorite and one-time Yankee beatwriter Buster Olney relates, the Yankees didn’t pull the trigger:

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