As pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training 2009, Marc Hulet of The Baseball Analysts is looking back at how the baseball landscape has changed over the last ten years. Here is his capsule on the Yankees:
The Yankees had eight players making $5 million or more in 1999, with the highest paid player being outfielder Bernie Williams at $9.8 million, followed by pitcher David Cone at $9.5. Derek Jeter batted .349 and drove in 100+ runs for the only time in his career. Rookie Ricky Ledee was given an opportunity to seize an everyday role, but he failed to impress and was shipped off to Cleveland in 2000. Joe Girardi spent his final season in pinstripes as a player while backing up Jorge Posada behind the dish. Two young Dominican infielders – who were oozing with talent – made their MLB debuts in 1999: D’Angelo Jimenez, 21, and Alfonso Soriano, 23. Jimenez was considered by some to be a more promising prospect than Soriano. Mariano Rivera led the club with 45 saves (surprise, surprise), while both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte had down years with ERAs of 4.60 and 4.70, respectively. They combined for just 28 wins (a low total for those two), but they still did better than every New Yorker’s favorite player Hideki Irabu, who posted a 4.84 ERA.
10 years ago, the Yankees had a large number of their players making exorbitant sums, and Mariano Rivera was a pitching god. It does not seem like that much has changed. It is interesting to note the disparity between the careers of Jimenez and Soriano. They were considered similar prospects, and Jimenez flashed some skills in his brief opportunities with the Yankees. In the 1999 offseason, he suffered a broken neck in a car accident and was never the same. The Yankees traded him in 2001 for Jay Witasick. Soriano, on the other hand, flourished, and was later traded for Alex Rodriguez. The vagaries of life hits athletes just as they do the rest of us. As we enter spring training, I look at this team and ask: who is this year’s Soriano, and who will suffer a fate such as Jimenez did?
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