Of all the questionable moves (and non-moves) made by the Yankees during the last 10 years, arguably the most damaging was letting Andy Pettitte go after the 2003 season.
The Yankees’ 2003 rotation was one of the team’s best of the decade, featuring Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, David Wells and Jose Contreras/Jeff Weaver. Though they couldn’t have predicted it at the time, only two of those six pitchers would be with the team in 2004.
The Yankees knew Clemens was leaning toward “retirement” after the season; they seemed ready to part ways with Wells after he bailed on the Yankees in his only start of the 2003 World Series; and Weaver had just completed another disappointing year in pinstripes. Additionally, the free agent class for starting pitching that offseason was pretty thin, making the team’s half-assed attempt to resign Pettitte even more vexing.
The Yankees’ primary focus that winter was on obtaining Javier Vazquez – which, at the time, seemed like the right move, as Vazquez had established himself as one of the top young pitchers in baseball (ERA+ and K/9 of 139 (!) and 9.4 in 2003) – and they did just that, trading Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate to get him. The Yankees also had designs on acquiring Randy Johnson during much of the 2004 season but couldn’t land the Big Unit until January 2005.
Unfortunately for the Yanks, not only was Johnson mostly a disappointment in pinstripes, but the Red Sox were working on a trade of their own in the ’04 offseason in which they essentially stole Curt Schilling from the Diamondbacks. Schilling, of course, wound up playing a huge role in bringing the World Series trophy back to Boston that year. Now I have no idea if the idea of trading for Schilling was even on the Yanks’ radar, and even if it was, chances are Arizona would’ve asked for the moon given its testy relationship with New York, but it’s still interesting how vastly differently these two trades worked out for their respective clubs.
After landing Vazquez, the Yankees flipped the underachieving Weaver to the Dodgers for Kevin Brown. This at the time also seemed like the right move, given Weaver’s penchant for sucking. Though Brown wasn’t the Kevin Brown of old, it was hoped that he would at least be able to provide league-average innings for the team. Curiously enough, as much as I had it in my head that Brown was an absolute disaster during his Yankee tenure (moronically breaking his fist from punching a wall in anger after a rough start and Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS will do that to you) he was actually reasonably effective for the team in 2004, with a 110 ERA+ and an FIP of 4.03. Only El Duque had a better ERA+, but he also did it in 47 fewer innings. The Yankees filled the remaining hole in the rotation with Jon Lieber, who’d spent all of 2003 rehabbing on the Yankees’ dime, and rewarded the team by posting what was probably the best performance of any Yankee starter that year, exceeding almost everyone’s expectations.
Let’s take a quick look at how the 2004 rotation stacked up against the 2003 incarnation:
|2003 ERA+||2003 FIP|
|2004 ERA+||2004 FIP|
Looking back on the 2004 starting rotation, it’s actually rather astonishing that the Yankees won the AL East that season, especially given how strong the Red Sox were. In fact, it seems highly unlikely the Yankees would have held on to the AL East crown without the superhuman achievements of Mariano River (231 ERA+ (!)) and Tom Gordon (204 ERA+) that year.
Unfortunately the lack of dept
h in the starting rotation was finally exposed in the ALCS. While much will always be made of the Yankees’ supposed epic collapse after leading that series 3-0, the mere fact that they were even one win away from the World Series given the patchwork rotation they were trotting out at that point is pretty amazing. Also, another item that seems to get lost in the discussion is that fact that the 2004 Red Sox were awesome, leading the American League in OPS by a pretty wide margin (.832 to the Yankees’ .811) and boasting a rotation headed by Pedro Martinez (125 ERA+; 3.58 FIP) and Schilling (150 ERA+; 3.11 FIP), both of whom were way better than anyone else on the Yankee staff that year.
The Yankees certainly had their chances to close things out in both Games 4 and 5, but once the Sox sent the series back to the Stadium, where a finally-running-out-of-luck Lieber and a giant question mark were pitching Games 6 and 7, I think most Yankee fans realized it was over.
Still, you’d have to think that the Yankees probably would’ve had a pretty good chance of winning one of those four games if Andy Pettitte was in the rotation.
LIKE TYA ON FACEBOOK
- TYA To Merge With It’s About The Money, Stupid
- What about Kevin Youkilis?
- Teix Now Front And Center On The “Needs To Produce” Radar
- Cashman: Heathcott A Dark Horse Candidate
- A Dog Chasing Cars
- Outfield Trade Targets
- The Problem With Brett Gardner
- A Look At Relief Prospect Branden Pinder
- The Yankees Should Be Realistic, Put Team on Short Leash in 2013
- Briefly discussing the internal options to replace Curtis Granderson
- related web site on The Great Subway Race
- get your lover back on Contact Us
- Dorothy Silvan on Pineda’s Torn Labrum, or Does the lemon law apply to baseball?
- tao of badass on Open Thread | Game 3 | Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees | Sunday, April 3, 2011
- tube launch review on Why Has Attendance Fallen Year-To-Year?
- Evon Znidarsic on Teixeira MRI Update, Babe Ruth Pitching In Pinstripes, And Jeter’s Gift Baskets
- Sacramento PC Repair on Yanks finally sign non-Yankee free agent in Russell Martin
- Multitech-Info.Com.pl on Open Thread | Game 3 | Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees | Sunday, April 3, 2011
- adult toys for women glass on Ladies and Gents, we now have a formula for winning in October
- monster beats tour on Midseason Prospect Rankings
TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees