It’s Christmas Eve, the day famous for kids going to bed so they can awake to presents delivered by Santa Claus.
Santa Claus is often called “Saint Nick” in reference to Saint Nicholas, a fourth century Greek bishop who was noted for giving gifts. Over the years that evolved into the tradition of the mythical figure of Santa bringing gifts to be opened on Christmas morning.
In a baseball sense, “delivering” can mean a variety of things, but one of them is coming up big in some sort of clutch situation. That could be coming up with a big RBI in a close game, striking someone out for the final out of the inning to leave the bases loaded, and many other scenarios.
So as we sit here on Christmas Eve, let’s figure something out: do the various Nicks from Yankees’ history “deliver us gifts”?
Probably the most well known Nick to play for the Yankees is Nick Swisher.
Swisher played four years in pinstripes from 2009 to 2012, and then had a brief stint in the minors in Yankees’ organization before retiring. He pretty quickly endeared himself to New York with his affable personality and his play in the ‘09 championship season.
In ‘09, he most certainly delivered. In plate appearances that came in scenarios that were “late and close,” he put up a 1.113 OPS, while in 116 “high leverage” PAs, he hit 1.032 with nine home runs. With runners on second and third, he had an impressive .652 OBP. With the exception of the 2011 season, pretty much every year Swisher put up good numbers in clutch situations. The verdict on this Nick is that he did deliver.
Another Nick from recent Yankee history is Nick Johnson.
After coming through the Yankees’ system, Johnson made his debut in 2001. He had a breakout season in 2003, but was then part of the first Javy Vazquez trade. He spent the next six seasons mostly with the Expos/Nationals, during which he became an on base machine. The Yankees then decided to bring him back for 2010. He still got on base at an impressive clip, but wasn’t really doing much else and lasted just 24 games in his second stint in New York.
His 2001 was a mixed bag in clutch situations, but he was impressive in big moments the following year. Five of his 15 home runs in 2002 came with two outs and runners in scoring position. He was solid in clutch moments in 2003, and his return in 2010 was a mixed bag. In high leverage moments in 2010, he had a .712 OPS, but arrived there in the strangest manner. He had just a .167 slugging percentage, but walked four of the 11 times he came up in those moments, accounting for a .545 OBP.
None of the rest of the Nicks to play for the Yankees did so in the recent past. The previous one before Johnson was Nick Etten, whose Yankee career ended in 1946. Etten made the 1945 All-Star team while a member of the team, and was pretty good across the board in clutch moments. The most impressive split of any that he put up that year was going 3-for-4 in the very particular scenario of bases loaded with one out. He drove in nine total runners in six plate appearances when he came up in that spot.
The last two are not only both Nicks, but actually shared a last name too. Two different people named Nick Cullop played for the Yankees over the years.
The later of the two was a hitter, who made just two at-bats with the team in 1926. He went 1-for-2 so based on that extremely small sample size, he was close to about as clutch as he possibly could’ve been.
The other Nick Cullop was a pitcher who was with the Yankees in 1916 and ‘17. In both seasons with the team, his numbers were best when he got 0-2 runs of support, so I guess that counts.
There is one bonus Nick as Mickey Witek’s first name was actually Nicholas. He got exactly one at-bat with the team, singled and never played again, so he goes in the same category of the hitter Nick Cullop.
In general, the Yankees’ Nicks over the years have been pretty decent in big moments, so thanks for the gifts of good baseball.