It is time to talk about pitchers, and form the staff for the Yankees’ All-Supernova team. Before getting into specific hurlers, I wanted to touch on something about the current Yankees ballclub, and its relationship with this Supernova series.
Ultimately, we cannot change what happened in the past, and although every single candidate and those inducted into this squad could’ve had a longer career, for one reason or another, they didn’t. Their selections in this series are a way for us to acknowledge them and honor them, despite their abbreviated stints.
Looking at the present club, there are a few names that are starting to fit the mold of what we’re talking about. Players like Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, and Luis Severino have had tremendous seasons, but all three enter the 2022 season with something to prove, lacking a track record of consistent excellence. They haven’t been their peak selves recently, and need to get back on track.
There was never a consideration for any of them for this exercise, because the hope is that all of them find a way to regain form and be significant contributors to the Yankees in 2022 and beyond. A couple of decades into the future, when someone else is thinking about a list like this, hopefully no active Yankees enter the conversation as candidates, because they’ve gone on to long and consistent careers.
Our first pitcher won’t be a slam-dunk pick. Ron Guidry was in the conversation, but ultimately, he was just too great for this list. If we’re making a list of the greatest Yankees of all-time in the same mold as this one, he would’ve had a pretty strong case, and that shuts the door for the All-Supernova team.
Instead, the left-handed starter for the All-Supernova team is ‘90s stalwart Jimmy Key.
Career NYY stats: 48-23 record, 3.68 ERA, 604.1 IP, 1.26 WHIP, 123 ERA+
Jimmy Key was born in Huntsville, Alabama on April 22, 1961, and although he is most remembered as a celebrated Blue Jay, the southpaw had great moments with the Yankees. He wasn’t in New York long, but he made his time count.
It’s easy to look now and think that the Yankees owned the Braves during the late ‘90s, but things could’ve easily gone very differently. Before the Yankees’ World Series sweep of Atlanta in 1999, there was a challenging Fall Classic in 1996, in which the Braves went ahead 2-0 with a couple of wins in New York.
Do you remember who was on the mound in Game 6 of that World Series? A matchup between the Yankees’ old coveted target in Greg Maddux (who ultimately chose the Braves in free agency) and the man the Yankees got instead — the backup plan if you will — left-hander Jimmy Key.
By all accounts, anyone who follows baseball would want Maddux in that scenario, but Key didn’t care about that. He went on to outduel the four-time Cy Young winner with 5.1 innings of one-run ball in the World Series clincher, it’s one that would start one of the most successful runs in Yankees history.
That was the last game that Key ever pitched for the Yankees. His four-year deal was coming to an end, and the southpaw decided to finish his career with the Orioles. However, he didn’t leave before winning that championship.
Working backward in our story, Key joined the Yankees ahead of the 1993 season. Although he wasn’t Maddux (or teammate David Cone, who was also pursued in free agency at that time), aspiring to truly match the future Hall of Famer would have been a tall task. And yet, the Toronto fan favorite gave New York exactly what it needed: an ace.
Key finished fourth and second respectively in 1993 and 1994 in AL Cy Young voting. In ‘93 in particular, he posted one of the top 10 seasons among all southpaws in franchise history, accruing 6.3 rWAR — a total that ranks up there with terrific years from the likes of Guidry, Andy Pettitte, and Whitey Ford. Not the ace that the Yankees originally wanted, but still one they needed, Key didn’t have gaudy strikeout numbers even for that period, but he prevented runs and was very reliable until a rotator cuff injury in ‘95. If the Wild Card had existed in ‘93 and the season had been completed in ‘94, Key would’ve been the Game 1 starter for two playoff rotations.
When thinking about those Yankees of the 90’s, be sure to remember Jimmy Key. While he wasn’t around for the bulk of the dynasty, it began with him on October 26, 1996. He is quietly an integral part of Yankee history.