It's been about a week since Ichiro Suzuki signed with the Miami Marlins, thus offering unceremonious closure to his time with the Yankees organization. Looking back, it's almost hard to believe he spent nearly two and a half seasons in the Bronx. He wasn't marred by injuries and his production wasn't terrible, even if it was far from what it was in his prime years. The Yankees are no strangers to having players who were once perennial all-stars come aboard during the back-end of their careers, but it's not as common for them to have them assume the diminished role of a fringe third/fourth outfielder. Ichiro was never a disappointment, nor was he a savior. He was an afterthought (we learned yesterday that this was not something he was crazy about).
When all is said and done, Ichiro was a pioneer for Japanese position-players, an electrifying talent, and a shoe-in for Cooperstown. However, when his career highlights are shown you probably won't see much of him in a Yankee uniform. Well, except for this play...
This got me thinking about all the players in recent memory that had built up significant resumes elsewhere, only to come to the Yankees for brief, fairly insignificant stretches. The kind of guys who, when you look at their Baseball Reference page years down the road, have you doing a double take when you see that "NYY" listed next to one of their later seasons. The guys we know and love as baseball fans, but didn't get enough of a chance to develop a connection with as Yankee fans. Here are a few of my favorite "Oh yeah, they had a stint with the Yankees" Yankees from the last fifteen years:
Lance Berkman (2010)
Acquired in a deadline deal with Houston in exchange for Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes, the Yankees hoped a change of environment would lead to the Big Puma rediscovering his stroke. Unfortunately, aside from the ALDS homer above, Lance was unable to inject any power into the lineup. He went on to bounce back the next year with the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals before ending his career back in Texas, this time with the Rangers.
Ivan Rodriguez (2008)
Another product of a deadline trade, the Yanks brought in Pudge from Detroit after Jorge was sidelined for the season due to shoulder surgery. Despite being 36 at the time, Rodriguez was still one of the best two-way catchers in the game and a more than serviceable replacement. He saw a drastic dip in offensive production in New York, and wound up platooning behind the plate with Jose Molina. The Yankees missed the playoffs, and Pudge would leave in free agency for the Astros.
Kenny Lofton (2004)
Between 2002 and 2007, Lofton played for nine different teams. One of his stops on his six-season tour de Major League Baseball was in the Bronx. Like Ichiro, he performed okay, but guys who rely on their legs tend to lose effectiveness in their late 30's, and Lofton only had seven stolen bases for the year. Lofton was sent to Philadelphia after the season in exchange for reliever Felix Rodriguez.
John Olerud (2004)
Batting champion, Gold Glove winner, and All-Star first baseman John Olerud was another midseason injury replacement whose tenure with the Yanks lasted under 50 games. The 35 year-old Olerud gave the Yanks all they could have asked for, playing superb defense while hitting to the tune of .280/.367/.396.
Jose Canseco (2000)
If you're going to associate Canseco with a team, it's got to be the "Bash Brother" Oakland A's teams of the late 80's and early 90's, though lately Canseco's reputation is closer to that of a reality star. Canseco hit 462 juice-fueled home runs over the course of his career, with six of those coming during his brief stint in the Bronx.
Those are the players that I still find odd to see in pinstripes from time to time. Who are your's?