Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. With the offseason well underway, the Pinstripe Alley team has decided to continue the revived program in its new format. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!
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This Day in Yankees History (December 17)
17 Years Ago
The Yankees came to terms with Gary Sheffield on a three-year deal worth $39 million. This stands out to me nearly two decades later for a couple reasons. For one, with player salaries having more than doubled in the interim, the 35-year-old Sheffield signed for a total that’s similar to about $90 million today. It’s very hard to imagine any MLB team these days guaranteeing nearly nine figures across three years to a fairly one-dimensional player in his mid-30’s.
Moreover, Sheffield stands out for how his game represented where much of baseball was headed; he was a hard-swinging slugger who could take a walk and often looked like he was trying to hit a ball to the moon. While many decry how uninteresting that style of play is to watch now, watching Sheffield do it was so much fun. His exaggerated bat waggle, the enormous leg kick, and the feeling that anything could happen once he uncorked his violent swing, whether it was a mammoth home run, a whiff, or a laser that threatened the life of the third-base coach:
13 Years Ago
The Yankees wrapped up an offseason that can be most aptly described as “running it back,” by re-signing Mariano Rivera to a three-year deal worth $45 million. Prior to bringing back Mo, the team had also re-signed Andy Pettitte on a one-year contract, Jorge Posada on a four-year deal, and Alex Rodriguez on a record-setting, $275 million contract.
This feels especially notable in the context of this offseason, in which the Yankees would seemingly be well-served to at least run it back by re-signing DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka, and perhaps Brett Gardner, but appear hesitant to do so. Their 2007 team ran a roughly $250-million payroll, and the 2008 club held an approximately $240-million payroll. Adjusting simply for inflation — not even for the enormous revenue increases MLB has seen far beyond inflation — $240 million in 2008 is equivalent to $301 million in 2020. It feels almost like a different lifetime that the Yankees were willing to spend the equivalent of $300 million just to keep the core of a contender around. It didn’t work in 2008, but with extra support from the likes of CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira in 2009, the aforementioned core sure as hell put it all together for that championship year.
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It’s the 33rd birthday of former Yankee farmhand Donovan Solano, who has shockingly posted a 121 OPS+ over his last two seasons with the Giants. It’s also the 63rd birthday of left-handed pitcher Bob Ojeda, who only pitched for the Yankees in his final season, allowing eight runs in three innings in 1994. Prior to that, Ojeda had compiled a great career, winning 115 games with a 105 ERA+, though he’s most well-known for his pivotal role on the legendary 1986 Mets and for surviving a terrifying boat accident in 1993 that claimed the lives of Cleveland teammates Steve Olin and Tim Crews.
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We thank Baseball Reference and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.