Saturday, November 28, 2009

Not Homegrown? Says Who?

Okay I want to get this out of the way up front, nobody is disputing that the New York Yankees spend a lot of money and have vast resources at their disposal.  However to say they have no farm system and that none of players from recent championship teams has been developed from within is a misnomer.  Heck the 1998 San Diego Padres had more former homegrown Yankees (Jim Leyritz, Sterling Hitchcock and Ruben Rivera) than homegrown Padres (Tony Gwynn and Joey Hamilton).

Looking at the 2009 World Series Champion Yankees, there were plenty of guys who came up through the system to help contribute.

Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Ramiro Pena, Francisco Cervelli, Shelley Duncan, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Phil Coke, David Robertson, Chien-Ming Wang, Mark Melancon, Mike Dunn, Ian Kennedy.  And if one wants to get technical, a few guys who were drafted by other teams but came up through the Yankees system or signed with the Yankees as free agents, Alfredo Aceves and Hideki Matsui.

So in essence those players regular contributions more or less make-up about a third of the roster.  Much more than a handful as some out there would lead or like one to believe. 

Let's take it a step further shall we and compare with another team that plays in the big market of New York with their own new stadium, televison network and large payroll, the Mets and see just how easy it is to win errr come in fourth place with all of those advantages.

Mets homegrown in 2009: Daniel Murphy, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Angel Pagan, Fernando Martinez, Nick Evans, Josh Thole, Mike Pelfrey, Bobby Parnell, Nelson Figueroa, Jon Niese, Tobi Stoner,

Not too many regulars in that bunch and if everyone were healthy, only Reyes, Wright and Pelfrey would have been major regular contributors. 

New Hires: Coaches and Scouts Around the League

In a sort of "where are they now" post, here's an offseason look at where some former Albany Colonie Yankees and others to have played/coached in Albany have landed.

As mentioned in an earlier post, former Albany Colonie and New York Yankees pitcher Dave Eiland is the pitching coach of the New York Yankees, while former Albany Colonie Yankees coach Rob Thomson is the New York Yankees third base coach.  In addition former Albany Colonie Yankees and San Francisco Giants outfielder Jalal Leach has been hired as a scout for the New York Yankees.

Former Albany Colonie Yankees pitcher and Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg has been hired as the pitching coach of the Houston Astros.

Former Albany Colonie Yankees catcher Bob Geren remains the skipper of the Oakland A's, while former Albany Colonie A's and New York Yankees infielder Mike Gallego remains the team's third base coach.

Former Albany Colonie and New York Yankees coach Brian Butterfield will stay on Cito Gaston's staff in Toronto as the third base coach.

Former Albany Colonie and New York Yankees third baseman Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens is the new hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants.  Meulens joins former Albany Colonie and New York Yankees center fielder Roberto Kelly, who serves as the team's first base coach.

Former Albany Colonie A's pitcher Tim Belcher is the new pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians.

Former Albany Colonie Yankees catcher Fredi Gonzalez remains manager of the Florida Marlins, while former Albany Colonie and New York Yankees infielder Andy Fox is no longer the team's first base coach.

Former Albany Colonie Yankees manager Dan Radison has been named the Washington Nationals first base coach.  Radison had previous coaching stints with the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres as well.

Former Albany Colonie Diamond Dogs short stop Rafael Belliard remains a coach on Jim Leyland's staff in Detroit.

The "Core Four" and More...

As we all know by now the New York Yankees "Core Four" of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada captured their fifth World Series Championship.  The most championships of any players to come through Albany (does Bernie Williams get another one from being with the team in Spring Training?).  Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland who pitched in Albany during the 1988 season and third base coach Rob Thomson who was a coach in Albany in 1992, also got their first rings in 2009. 

Meanwhile among other active former Albany Colonie Yankees, the 1991 battery of catcher Brad Ausmus and pitcher Russ Springer looks to be winding down in their respective careers.  Ausmus served as a catcher for Joe Torre's NL West Champion L.A. Dodgers in 2009, while Springer started the year in Oakland pitching under Bob Geren another former Albany Colonie Yankees catcher, before being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays to try and shore up their bullpen for a playoff push.

I would gather that if asked back Ausmus a future manager in the making will give it another go, while Springer appears ready to hang 'em up.

Yankees Once Played Here

For those of you not from or not familiar with the Albany area, Yankees once played here.  From 1985-1994 the Albany Colonie Yankees, a Double-A Eastern League minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees called Heritage Park home for ten years.

In fact nearly 100 or so players who made it to the major leagues honed their craft at the ballpark by the airport.  Including Yankees Captain and Shortstop Derek Jeter ('94), Catcher Jorge Posada ('93), Closer Mariano Rivera ('94) Starting Pitcher Andy Pettitte ('93-94) and recently retired Center fielder Bernie Williams (‘89-90).  Other players who contributed to their recent run of dynastic success who played at Albany are guys like Catcher Jim Leyritz (‘88-89), Second basemen Andy Fox (‘93-94) reliever Brian Boehringer ('94).

Amongst other notable names to have played here that made it to the bigs are Al Leiter, Gerald Williams, J.T. Snow, Roberto Kelly, Hal Morris, Doug Drabek, Pat Kelly, Randy Velarde, Andy Stankiewicz, Russ Davis, Sterling Hitchcock, Lyle Mouton, Jalal Leach, Mark Hutton, Kevin Maas, Mike DeJean, Bob Geren and even "Primetime" himself Deion Sanders.  Current players still in the majors along with those current Yankees are Brad Ausmus, Russ Springer.

While their parent club in New York was essentially sleepwalking through the better part of the late 1980's and early 1990's, Heritage Park was the place for exciting Yankee baseball on the way up to the big leagues.

Which would explain why in 1985 Albany smashed and set the Eastern League record for attendance with over 324,003.  In fact as the Oakland A's Double-A affiliate in 1983, Albany drew over 200,000 fans for a team that finished in last place.  Back to the Yankees though, from 1985-1987 Albany led the Eastern League in attendance and from 1985-1990 Albany was top 3 in attendance each year and if one wants to count the A's days (1983-1984) Albany finished in the top 3 in attendance from 1983-1990.  Of course attendance figures were skewed in the last remaining years (1991-1994) due in part to a fan base that was alienated by constant rumors and attempts by ownership to move the team.

Perhaps no more memorable moment happened than in 1986 when Yankees legend and current pitching coach Ron Guidry came to pitch in a rehab start for 3 innings in front of a packed beyond capacity crowd of 14,491.  Of course there would be other occasions where fans would see former players like Reggie Jackson or Willie Randolph around the park to help with the younger players.  Or scouts who came with radar guns by the dozen to watch former Yankee fire-balling lefty prospect Brien Taylor pitch in 1993, a year before he would ruin his arm in a bar-fight.  Even in 1994 during the strike Buck Showalter who managed the Albany Colonie Yankees to a championship in 1989, their second of three (1988, 1989, 1991) with many of the players who would contribute to World Series Championships in New York, was on hand to scout players who would also contribute to those championships with Gene "Stick" Michael and Billy Connors.

After the 1994 season the team left and along with it cheap quality minor league baseball.  Mostly because there was no local ownership and no local businesses willing to step up and keep the team in Albany.  Nobody wanted to put any money towards improvements of a ballpark that was unfortunately built before the Camden Yards era.  Failure also stemmed from the state level of government to local politicians in Albany County and the Town of Colonie, who years after the team left could never build a new stadium to secure another team.