For a brief moment on Friday night, it sounded like the Yankees might acquire Josh Donaldson via trade from the Blue Jays. It would have been their second acquisition of a former MVP in as many days, and third this season.
The Yankees have a history of landing star players, who, despite accomplishing impressive individual achievements, lacked a World Series ring. It seems that GM Brian Cashman is continuing this tradition, both with his offseason trade for defending NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, and Thursday’s waiver trade-deadline deal that put Andrew McCutchen in pinstripes.
The ‘90s era dynasty was built on this principal. New York signed eight-time All-Star, perennial MVP candidate, and certain first-ballot Hall of Famer Wade Boggs after the 1992 season. Regarded as one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history, Boggs is credited with teaching a mostly young Yankees team how to be patient at the plate and work counts.
Who could forget his bases-loaded, pinch-hit walk that forced in the winning run during Game Four of the 1996 World Series in Atlanta? Or how about when Boggs knelt down to kiss home plate after the final out was made in Game Six, and then climbed atop a NYPD horse to take a victory lap as he dedicated his long-sought championship ring to his late mother?
When Boggs drew that 10th inning walk against Steve Avery to turn the tide in Atlanta, it was Tim Raines who scored the winning run. “Rock” had established himself as one of the greatest leadoff hitters of all time, while playing for mostly atrocious teams in Montreal and Chicago. Coming over from the White Sox via trade prior to the ‘96 season, the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer went on to produce a .383 on-base percentage for the Yankees that year. Raines only spent three years in pinstripes, but helped the Bombers win two championships.
Four-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens joined the fold before the 1999 season, helping the Bombers win four pennants and two titles in five years. Defending MVP Alex Rodriguez arrived via trade before the 2004 campaign, going on to help the Yankees win their 27th World Series in 2009. The ace of that staff was 2007 Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia, whom Cashman signed as a free agent before the season.
What do all these players have in common? Each achieved the highest individual successes imaginable, but remained starved for their first championship ring. This hunger brought them to the Bronx, where each contributed another chapter to the franchise’s storied history. And each man got what he came for in the process.
McCutchen is the latest in this procession of stars to arrive in New York, hoping to help the club reach the promised land, while also earning his first ring. The 2013 National League MVP led the NL with 194 hits in 2012, when he also blasted a career-high 31 home runs. That breakout campaign began a four-year stretch where McCutchen achieved a .400 plus on-base percentage, won the Silver Slugger Award, and finished in the top five in MVP Award voting during each of those seasons.
Although his production has fallen off from his career peak, McCutchen is only 31 years old, and could still provide plenty of pop for the Bombers as they head into the home stretch of the pennant chase. He provides the Yankees a veteran, top-of-the-lineup bat, during a year when 36-year-old Brett Gardner has struggled to handle those duties with consistency.
We got a glimpse of that promise during yesterday’s loss to the Athletics, when McCutchen showed precisely why the Yankees traded for him. He led off the game with a groundball single to right field against the shift, stole second easily, advanced to third when the catcher’s throw sailed into center field, and scored on a sacrifice fly. It was a textbook example of a manufactured run.
Relying entirely on home runs can be a fool’s errand, especially when facing top-shelf pitching. McCutchen brings a dimension to the offense that has been sorely missing this year. With the postseason looming, New York hopes to see more of the skillset that McCutchen displayed on Labor Day. Who knows, maybe he can even have a lasting influence on the Baby Bombers, just like Boggs did all those years ago.