The virtual 1985-1989 New York Yankees (Part 2)

Last time, we identified a long sequence of transactions executed by the New York Yankees from late 1981 through mid-1989, each of which fell into at least one of the two following categories: (1) it was a deal of questionable merit in the first place, and/or (2) it was a deal that wouldn’t logically have been made, had its predecessors not been made.

Now we’re ready to find out how our alternative-scenario Yankees would likely have fared with those deals undone.

1982-83-84

Our version of the Bronx Bombers would be improved in these seasons. The arrival of young Willie McGee to take over as the primary center fielder, and the retention of multi-talented Jerry Mumphrey (in place of uni-talented Omar Moreno) to add further depth and flexibility in the outfield, would distinctly help.

But those would be the only changes yet manifesting themselves on the Yankee roster, and thus the improvement wouldn’t be enough to bring the Yankees any championships they didn’t actually capture. Our 1982 Yanks would remain, as their real-life counterparts, far behind the pace of the AL East-winning Milwaukee Brewers. And in both of the following seasons, our Yankees would be strong enough to finish in second place, instead of their actual third, but the division flags would remain in the hands of the Orioles (1983) and runaway Tigers (’84).

But then our pinstriped club would step forward with authority.

1985

These Yankees would dazzle opponents right from the get-go. Newly acquired leadoff man Rickey Henderson would deliver a magnificent all-around performance, while No. 2 hitter Willie Randolph was also highly reliable at getting on base, and the slashing line drives of McGee would have him moving up in the order to be a high-action third-slot hitter for the balance of the season. Henderson and McGee would combine for more than 130 stolen bases at a success rate of well over 80 percent.

And that would just be setting the table for the big boys. Don Mattingly would be sensational as the cleanup hitter, with veterans Dave Winfield and Don Baylor supporting him with ample additional power.

It would add up to a tremendous offensive force. Their 900 runs would be the most tallied by any American League team since 1950.

 Pos  Player           Age     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  OPS+
  1B  D. Mattingly*    24    159  652  119  211   48    3   35  148   56   41  .324  .371  .567  .939   156
  2B  W. Randolph      30    143  497   89  137   21    2    5   44   85   39  .276  .382  .356  .738   106
  SS  B. Meacham#      24    140  385   55   85   13    2    1   38   43   82  .221  .295  .273  .568    59
  3B  M. Pagliarulo*   25    124  321   46   79   14    2   16   61   38   69  .246  .332  .452  .783   115
  RF  D. Winfield      33    155  633  100  174   34    6   26  121   52   96  .275  .328  .471  .799   118
  CF  W. McGee#        26    152  612  114  212   30   14   15   89   38   88  .346  .386  .515  .900   147
  LF  R. Henderson     26    143  547  149  172   28    5   24   75   99   65  .314  .419  .516  .934   157
  C   B. Wynegar#      29    102  309   31   69   15    0    5   35   64   43  .223  .356  .320  .676    89
  DH  D. Baylor        36    142  477   73  110   24    1   23   93   52   90  .231  .330  .430  .760   109

  C   R. Hassey*       32     92  267   31   79   16    1   13   47   28   21  .296  .369  .509  .878   140
  3B  T. Harrah        36     63  132   21   34    5    0    3   18   34   23  .258  .413  .364  .776   118
  OF  J. Mumphrey#     32     65  148   18   37    7    1    4   21   11   20  .250  .305  .392  .697    92
LF-RF K. Griffey*      35     64  146   18   37    8    1    3   24   13   18  .253  .321  .384  .705    95
 INF  A. Robertson     27     50  125   19   41    5    0    2   19    6   24  .328  .358  .416  .774   114
 INF  D. Berra         28     48  109    9   25    5    1    1   10    7   20  .229  .276  .321  .597    65

      Others                      106    8   20    2    2    1    8    4   16  .189  .219  .274  .493    36

      Total                      5466  900 1522  275   41  177  851  630  755  .278  .358  .441  .799   120

      * Bats left
      # Bats both

      Pitcher          Age     G   GS   CG    W    L   SV   IP    H    R   ER    HR    BB    SO   ERA  ERA+
      R. Guidry*       34     34   33   11   23    5    0  259  243  104   94    28    42   143  3.27   123
      P. Niekro        46     33   33    7   17   11    0  220  203  110  100    29   120   149  4.09    99
      J. Cowley        26     30   26    1   13    5    0  160  132   75   70    29    85    97  3.95   102
      E. Whitson       30     30   30    2   11    7    0  159  201  100   86    19    43    89  4.88    83
      D. Rasmussen*    26     29   23    2    4    7    0  147  148   86   69    11    71    93  4.22    95

      D. Righetti*     26     74    0    0   13    6   29  107   96   36   33     5    45    92  2.78   146
      B. Shirley*      31     44    9    2    5    5    2   98   93   31   29     5    23    50  2.66   151
      T. Burke         26     62    0    0    9    1    6   96   70   29   29     8    40    68  2.72   148
      B. Fisher        23     44    0    0    3    3   12   78   60   24   19     3    23    70  2.19   184
      R. Bordi         26     41    3    0    5    5    2   78   74   32   27     4    23    52  3.12   129

      Others                        4    0    2    1    1   38   41   27   26     9    15    21  6.16    65

      Total                       161   25  105   56   52 1440 1361  654  582   150   530   924  3.64   111

      * Throws left

The pitching wouldn’t quite match the standard of the hitting, but it would be outstanding in its own right. Behind marvelous ace Ron Guidry, the starting staff would be only so-so, but the bullpen, with rookie Tim Burke settling in behind superb fireman Dave Righetti, would be a stupendous five-deep unit.

The bottom line is that there would be a whole lot of ways this ball club could beat you, and it would do so 105 times in the regular season, waltzing with ease to the division title. In fact the team would rack up the best record of any Yankee edition since the legendary Mantle & Maris Boys of 1961. No franchise has a higher historical standard than the Yankees, but nonetheless the ’85 club would be recognized as one of the finest ever to grace Yankee Stadium.

1986

This year the Yankees would encounter some setbacks. Mattingly was as great as ever, but Henderson wasn’t getting on base at his normal rate, and McGee suffered a huge letdown season. Mumphrey and rookie Dan Pasqua would provide excellent support off the bench, but overall the offense was merely among the best in the league, and not the dominant juggernaut of the previous year.

 Pos  Player           Age     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  OPS+
  1B  D. Mattingly*    25    162  677  116  238   53    2   31  116   53   35  .352  .394  .573  .967   161
  2B  W. Randolph      31    141  492   76  136   15    2    5   50   94   49  .276  .393  .346  .738   105
  SS  W. Tolleson#     30     60  215   21   61    9    2    0   14   14   33  .284  .332  .344  .676    86
  3B  M. Pagliarulo*   26    134  422   60  104   19    3   27   67   48   93  .246  .328  .498  .825   122
  RF  D. Winfield      34    141  528   81  138   29    5   23   99   73   98  .261  .354  .466  .820   123
  CF  W. McGee#        27    124  497   63  125   22    5    9   49   39   84  .252  .310  .370  .680    86
LF-CF R. Henderson     27    153  608  128  160   31    5   28   74   89   81  .263  .358  .469  .827   125
  C   B. Wynegar#      30     61  194   18   40    4    1    7   29   30   21  .206  .310  .345  .655    79
  DH  M. Easler*       35    117  327   41   99   17    1    9   54   33   58  .303  .368  .443  .811   121

  OF  J. Mumphrey#     33    100  278   33   81    9    2    5   29   24   42  .291  .350  .392  .742   103
DH-LF D. Pasqua*       24     92  252   40   74   15    0   14   43   42   70  .294  .400  .520  .920   150
  C   R. Hassey*       33     64  191   23   57   14    0    6   29   24   16  .298  .381  .466  .847   131
  SS  B. Meacham#      25     56  161   18   36    7    1    0   10   17   39  .224  .309  .280  .589    63
  C   J. Skinner       25     54  166    6   43    4    0    1   17    7   40  .259  .287  .301  .589    62
  SS  M. Fischlin      30     71  102    8   21    2    0    0    3    8   29  .206  .261  .225  .487    35
RF-LF K. Griffey*      36     39   99   16   28    3    0    4   13    7   12  .283  .342  .434  .777   111
  3B  T. Harrah        37     34   69   10   14    5    1    1    9   16   12  .203  .352  .348  .700    93
  OF  C. Washington*   31     36   68    7   15    2    0    3    8    3   18  .221  .264  .382  .646    75
  DH  R. Kittle        28     24   64    6   15    2    0    3   10    6   18  .234  .311  .406  .717    95

      Others                      175   15   28    6    0    1   11   12   31  .160  .212  .211  .424    17

      Total                      5585  786 1513  268   30  177  734  639  879  .271  .349  .425  .773   111

      * Bats left
      # Bats both

      Pitcher          Age     G   GS   CG    W    L   SV   IP    H    R   ER    HR    BB    SO   ERA  ERA+
      D. Rasmussen*    27     31   31    3   17    6    0  202  160   91   87    28    74   131  3.88   106
      R. Guidry*       35     30   30    5    8   12    0  192  202   94   85    28    38   140  3.98   103
      J. Deshaies*     26     26   26    1   11    6    0  144  134   65   59    19    63   123  3.69   111
      D. Drabek        23     27   21    0    6    8    0  132  126   64   60    13    50    76  4.10   100
      B. Tewksbury     25     23   20    2    8    5    0  130  144   58   48     8    31    49  3.31   124
      T. John*         43     13   10    1    5    3    0   71   73   27   23     8    15    28  2.93   141

      D. Righetti*     27     74    0    0    8    8   46  107   88   31   29     4    35    83  2.45   168
      T. Burke         27     68    2    0    9    7    6  101  108   40   36     8    48    80  3.21   128
      B. Fisher        24     34    9    0    7    5    2   87  100   58   50    14    33    59  5.17    79
      R. Bordi         27     47    1    0    4    3    2   80   75   39   36     9    31    63  4.05   101
      B. Shirley*      32     20    3    0    0    2    2   53   54   30   30     7    20    32  5.09    80
      T. Stoddard      33     24    0    0    3    1    0   49   41   23   21     6    23    34  3.83   108
      E. Whitson       31     14    4    0    4    3    0   37   54   37   31     5    23    27  7.54    55

      Others                        5    1    2    1    0   60   69   30   26    12    18    28  3.90   105

      Total                       162   13   92   70   58 1445 1428  687  621   169   502   953  3.87   106

      * Throws left

At age 35 Guidry was unable to sustain his bellwether status, and the starting rotation would become a bit of a scramble. Fortunately, journeyman Dennis Rasmussen and rookies Jim Deshaies, Doug Drabek and Bob Tewksbury would all step up and provide solid service. In the bullpen, the depth of of 1985 was no longer in evidence, as Righetti and Burke were still strong, but the support behind them would be spotty.

But it would be a measure of the quality of this roster that even though it sprung its share of leaks, the magnitude of its stars and the diversity of its supporting cast ensured that this was still a very good team. They would engage in a season-long battle with their arch-rival Boston Red Sox for the division flag.

In actuality, those Red Sox outperformed their Pythagorean projection by five games to emerge with 95 wins. If we assume they didn’t, then our Yankees would repeat as champs. That said, a five-game variance from Pythag isn’t all that unusual. We can err on the side of conservatism and say that the Red Sox would still win this division race (to prevail in a wild League Championship Series over the Angels, and be ill-fated in their confrontation with the Mets in the World Series), but if so, it wouldn’t be as easy for them to get there as it was. If these Yankees died, they would die very hard.

1987

A serious problem would loom this season, as lineup catalyst Henderson would miss nearly half the year with a hamstring injury. But these Yankees would be blessed with a terrific fill-in performance from Mumphrey. This team’s depth would be further demonstrated when Pasqua slumped and would be sent back to the minors, and his replacement, rookie Fred McGriff, would provide exceptional power in a utility role.

 Pos  Player           Age     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  OPS+
  1B  D. Mattingly*    26    141  569  100  186   38    2   30  119   51   38  .327  .378  .559  .937   146
  2B  W. Randolph      32    120  449   99  137   24    2    7   67   82   25  .305  .411  .414  .825   121
  SS  W. Tolleson#     31    121  349   43   77    4    0    1   23   43   72  .221  .306  .241  .547    49
  3B  M. Pagliarulo*   27    150  522   72  122   26    3   32   94   53  111  .234  .305  .479  .784   105
  RF  D. Winfield      35    146  535   79  148   21    1   26   94   72   89  .277  .363  .465  .829   119
  CF  W. McGee#        28    153  620   91  171   37    8   14   90   26   93  .276  .310  .429  .739    94
  LF  R. Henderson     28     95  358   81  104   17    3   17   39   80   52  .291  .423  .497  .920   145
  C   R. Cerone        33    113  284   29   69   12    1    4   24   30   46  .243  .320  .335  .654    75
  DH  R. Kittle        29     59  159   21   44    5    0   12   30   10   36  .277  .318  .535  .853   122

  OF  J. Mumphrey#     34    118  309   52  100   17    2   14   51   36   48  .324  .394  .528  .921   143
SS-2B B. Meacham#      26     77  203   28   55   11    1    5   21   19   33  .271  .349  .409  .758   102
  OF  C. Washington*   32     82  208   28   57   11    0    6   30   17   36  .274  .329  .413  .742    97
DH-1B F. McGriff*      23     64  177   30   44   10    0   12   34   36   62  .249  .379  .508  .887   134
DH-LF D. Pasqua*       25     60  169   23   34    3    0    8   24   32   61  .201  .333  .361  .694    86
  C   J. Skinner       26     64  139    9   19    4    0    3   14    8   46  .137  .187  .230  .417    11
  C   P. Lombardi      24     50  113   12   25    5    0    2   13   16   20  .221  .331  .319  .649    75

      Others                      336   36   83   12    1    5   25   23   61  .247  .295  .333  .628    67

      Total                      5499  833 1475  257   24  198  792  634  929  .268  .347  .432  .778   106

      * Bats left
      # Bats both

      Pitcher          Age     G   GS   CG    W    L   SV   IP    H    R   ER    HR    BB    SO   ERA  ERA+
      T. John*         44     33   33    3   14    7    0  188  212   95   84    12    47    63  4.02   110
      D. Drabek        24     37   24    1   11   12    0  176  165   86   76    22    50   122  3.89   114
      B. Fisher        25     37   22    5   10    9    0  167  168   94   88    26    68   106  4.74    94
      C. Hudson        28     35   16    6   11    7    0  155  137   63   62    19    57   100  3.61   123
      D. Rasmussen*    28     33   22    2    9    7    0  146  140   75   74    29    57    92  4.56    97
      D. Deshaies*     27     36   17    1   10    6    0  137  134   75   72    19    56   102  4.73    94
      R. Guidry*       36     26   15    2    6    8    0  118  108   48   46    13    39    98  3.51   127
      B. Gullickson    28      8    8    1    4    2    0   48   46   29   26     7    11    28  4.88    91

      D. Righetti*     28     60    0    0    8    6   30   95   95   45   37     9    44    77  3.51   127
      T. Burke         28     55    0    0    7    0   17   91   66   19   13     3    18    57  1.29   345
      T. Stoddard      34     51    0    0    4    2    4   84   74   34   32    12    27    74  3.43   130

      Others                        5    0    1    1    0   44   47   31   30     6    27    28  6.14    72

      Total                       162   21   95   67   51 1449 1392  694  640   177   501   947  3.98   112

      * Throws left

Once again the pitching staff lacked an ace, but presented ample depth. Burke’s tremendous performance would highlight a first-rate bullpen.

All in all it would be another well-rounded, excellent ball club. That year’s actual American League East featured a memorable down-to-the-wire race between Detroit and Toronto, and the Tigers winning it with a final-weekend showdown series sweep. Given that in our scenario the Blue Jays are without the significant contribution of McGriff, we can assume it would instead be our Yankees battling the Tigers for the title.

The actual Tigers finished 98-64, two games over their Pythagorean record of 96-66. Our Yankees would achieve a Pythag mark of 95-67, as indicated above. If we allow that to guide us, it would be Detroit by an eyelash. On the other hand, the actual Yankees outpaced their Pythag by five wins (89-73 against 84-78), so if we assume that these Yankees might have deviated from the model in a similar manner, then we could conclude that the 1987 division pennant would be hoisted above Yankee Stadium. The one thing we can say with certainty is that our Yankees would be engaged in a mightily close and exciting race for that flag.

1988

At the age of 33, Randolph suffered a serious down year. Third baseman Mike Pagliarulo also slumped, and the veteran Mumphrey suddenly and emphatically hit the proverbial wall. Even Mattingly, while still excellent, saw his production drop somewhat.

But these offensive problems were offset by several positives. Henderson was generally healthy. Winfield, at 36, delivered one of the best seasons of his long career. Free agent acquisition Jack Clark injected serious power and on-base production, while the remarkable young slugger McGriff would muscle his way into the lineup wherever he could.

 Pos  Player           Age    G    AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  OPS+
  1B  D. Mattingly*    27    144  599   94  186   37    0   18   91   41   29  .311  .353  .462  .816   128
  2B  W. Randolph      33    110  404   43   93   20    1    2   35   55   39  .230  .322  .300  .621    77
  SS  R. Santana       30    148  480   50  115   12    1    4   39   33   61  .240  .289  .294  .583    65
  3B  M. Pagliarulo*   28    125  444   46   96   20    1   15   68   37  104  .216  .276  .367  .643    80
  RF  D. Winfield      36    149  559   96  180   37    2   25  110   69   88  .322  .398  .530  .927   159
  CF  W. McGee#        29    137  506   70  147   22    5    3   53   31   76  .291  .333  .372  .704    99
LF-CF R. Henderson     29    140  554  119  169   30    2    6   52   82   54  .305  .394  .399  .793   124
  C   D. Slaught       29     97  322   33   91   25    1    9   45   24   54  .283  .334  .450  .785   119
  DH  J. Clark         32    150  496   81  120   14    0   27   96  113  141  .242  .381  .433  .815   130

LF-1B F. McGriff*      24    103  268   46   73   17    2   17   49   38   77  .272  .369  .541  .910   153
  C   J. Skinner       27     88  251   23   57   15    0    4   23   14   72  .227  .267  .335  .602    69
  OF  C. Washington*   33     63  152   21   44    7    1    3   22    7   27  .289  .327  .408  .735   106
  3B  L. Aguayo        29     50  140   12   35    4    0    3    8    7   33  .250  .289  .343  .631    77
  MI  B. Meacham#      27     47  115   18   25    9    0    0    7   14   22  .217  .308  .296  .604    71
  2B  R. Velarde       25     48  115   18   20    6    0    5   12    8   24  .174  .240  .357  .597    66
  LF  J. Mumphrey#     35     32   66    4   11    2    0    0    8    8   15  .167  .257  .197  .454    30

      Others                      145   17   33    5    0    2   13   15   36  .228  .301  .303  .605    71

      Total                      5616  791 1495  282   16  143  731  596  952  .266  .340  .399  .739   108

      * Bats left
      # Bats both

      Pitcher          Age     G   GS   CG    W    L   SV   IP    H    R   ER    HR    BB    SO   ERA  ERA+
      D. Drabek        25     33   32    3   15    7    0  219  214   98   89    24    55   122  3.66   110
      J. Deshaies*     28     31   31    3   12   13    0  207  184   92   83    25    77   122  3.61   111
      T. John*         45     35   32    0    9    8    0  176  221   96   88    11    46    81  4.49    89
      J. Candelaria*   34     39   17    4   14    6    1  157  147   67   57    17    23   124  3.27   123
      B. Fisher        26     33   11    0    8    8    1  125  138   70   67    13    53    56  4.82    83
      R. Dotson        29     25   19    3    8    6    0  114  117   67   61    17    48    51  4.82    83
      R. Guidry*       37     12   10    0    2    3    0   56   57   28   26     7    15    32  4.18    96

      C. Hudson        29     44    4    0    7    5    2  106   88   49   49     7    38    63  4.16    96
      D. Righetti*     29     60    0    0    5    4   25   87   86   35   34     5    37    70  3.52   114
      T. Burke         29     61    0    0    4    4   17   82   90   39   34     8    27    40  3.73   107
      L. Guetterman*   29     24    0    0    1    2    0   41   47   20   20     2    14    16  4.39    91

      Others                        6    0    5    6    2   90   88   51   46    11    45    64  4.60    87

      Total                       162   13   90   72   48 1460 1477  712  654   147   478   841  4.03    99

      * Throws left

The pitching would avert disaster through the emergence of both Drabek and Deshaies as rotation anchors. Along with a surprisingly strong performance from veteran John Candelaria in a swingman role, they would render what might have been a weak staff into a league-average unit.

The resulting ball club would be far from the best the Yankees had shown, but still quite a good one. And in this year’s AL East, it might well have been good enough to win, as in actuality it was a remarkably tightly bunched division with five teams between 85 and 89 wins, and none with as many as 90.

We might assume that the actual champions, the Red Sox, would also emerge on top in our scenario, since their 89 victories were four short of their 93-69 Pythagorean mark. But if we allowed the BoSox to benefit from their positive Pythag deviation back in 1986, it’s only fair to require them to suffer the consequences of this season’s negative variance. If that’s the case, then it’s our Yankees winning this dogfight.

1989

The major challenge this year was a doozy: Winfield’s season-long absence due to a bad back. Nearly as problematic would be an injury-plagued season for McGee, limiting him to 58 games of sub-par performance. But again, the depth of this roster would come to the rescue, as McGriff would step in and take over Winfield’s job in right field (where his assuredly poor defense would be more than balanced by his terrific offense, leading the league in home runs, OPS and OPS+), and rookie Roberto Kelly would more than ably fill in for McGee in center.

Free agent Steve Sax was a superb replacement for Randolph at second base. With Henderson, Mattingly and Clark continuing to excel, the offense would be the best in the league.

 Pos  Player           Age     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  OPS+
  1B  D. Mattingly*    28    158  631   94  191   37    2   23  108   51   30  .303  .351  .477  .828   133
  2B  S. Sax           29    158  651   93  205   26    3    5   67   52   44  .315  .364  .387  .751   113
  SS  A. Espinoza      27    146  503   48  142   23    1    0   43   14   60  .282  .301  .332  .633    80
  3B  M. Pagliarulo*   29     74  223   19   44   10    0    4   17   19   43  .197  .266  .296  .562    60
RF-DH F. McGriff*      25    161  523   85  140   26    3   37  102  111  128  .268  .401  .541  .942   165
CF-RF R. Kelly         24     91  265   39   78   11    2    5   33   24   64  .294  .356  .408  .763   116
  LF  R. Henderson     30    150  541  115  150   26    3   12   58  126   68  .277  .417  .403  .820   134
  C   D. Slaught       30    117  350   32   88   21    3    5   40   30   57  .251  .315  .371  .687    94
  DH  J. Clark         33    142  455   89  108   19    1   27  102  134  148  .237  .413  .462  .875   148

  C   B. Geren         27     65  205   23   59    5    1    9   28   12   44  .288  .329  .454  .782   120
  CF  W. McGee#        30     58  199   23   46   10    2    3   19   10   34  .231  .274  .347  .620    75
  3B  T. Brookens      35     66  168   14   38    6    0    4   15   11   27  .226  .272  .333  .606    71
 INF  W. Tolleson#     33     80  140   16   23    5    2    1   10   16   23  .164  .255  .250  .505    44
RF-LF M. Hall*         28     57  120   16   30    3    0    5   20    6   14  .250  .295  .400  .695    96
  3B  R. Velarde       26     33  100   13   34    4    2    2   12    7   14  .340  .389  .480  .869   146

      Others                      275   27   64    8    0    5   28   20   66  .233  .287  .316  .604    71

      Total                      5349  746 1440  240   25  147  702  643  864  .269  .350  .406  .755   114

      * Bats left
      # Bats both

      Pitcher          Age     G   GS   CG    W    L   SV   IP    H    R   ER    HR    BB    SO   ERA  ERA+
      D. Drabek        26     35   34    8   15   11    0  244  230   94   86    24    74   113  3.17   121
      J. Deshaies*     29     34   34    6   16    9    0  226  194   91   83    18    84   143  3.31   116
      A. Hawkins       29     34   34    5   16   14    0  208  238  127  111    23    76    98  4.80    81
      C. Parker        26     22   17    2    5    5    0  120  123   53   49    12    31    53  3.68   105
      C. Cary*         29     18    7    1    3    3    0   75   58   32   27    10    23    61  3.26   119
      D. LaPoint*      29     10   10    0    4    4    0   61   67   36   36     9    29    30  5.31    72
      W. Terrell       31      9    9    1    4    3    0   55   68   35   32     6    18    20  5.24    74
      J. Candelaria*   35     10    6    1    3    3    0   49   49   28   28     8    12    37  5.14    76

      L. Guetterman*   30     63    0    0    6    3    6   93   86   27   24     5    23    47  2.32   166
      T. Burke         30     68    0    0    9    3   22   85   72   26   26     7    23    53  2.75   140
      D. Righetti*     30     55    0    0    2    6   19   69   73   32   23     3    26    51  3.00   129
      D. Mohorcic      33     26    0    0    2    1    1   46   52   33   26     6    14    19  5.09    76

      Others                       11    1    4    8    2   91  112   69   64    10    47    42  6.33    61

      Total                       162   25   89   73   50 1422 1422  683  615   141   480   767  3.89    99

      * Throws left

That would be fortunate, because the pitching was once again uneven. Drabek and Deshaies were even better than in the previous year, but the rotation behind them was kind of a mess. However, the bullpen would be excellent, with journeyman Lee Guetterman coming out of nowhere to join Burke and Righetti.

It would be another good-but-not-great Yankee team. But once again the American League East Division lacked a standout, as this time the Blue Jays captured the title with just 89 wins. Given that their best player was McGriff, and now he’s ours, we can say with confidence that in our scenario it would be the Yankees winning the ’89 AL East.

Thus over the five-season span from 1985 through ’89, our version of the Yankees would claim two division championships for certain (’85 and ’89), with each of the other three being too close to call. At worst they’d have two flags and three second-place finishes, with a not-implausible possibility of five straight titles.

Into the 1990s

In real life the 1989 Yankees were a pretty bad team (74-87, fifth place), and that was just the first of four consecutive losing years. Eventually in the mid-1990s, the Yankees would come up with the exceptionally talented home-grown core (Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte) that would serve as the foundation of the franchise’s tremendous run that’s essentially still going.

It’s doubtful that our version would sail through the troublesome 1990-92 period the same breezy way they handled 1985-89. But still, our version would include significant assets the real team didn’t—most obviously The Crime Dog—and moreover don’t forget that our version didn’t trade away Jay Buhner or Al Leiter either. At the very least, our Yankees would be poised to remain middle-of-the-pack competitive through the early years of the 1990s.

And certainly, in our scenario the late 1980s wouldn’t be remembered as one of the rare down cycles of this most fortune-kissed franchise, but would stand as yet another reason to loathe the Damn Yankees.

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Comments

  1. vinnie said...

    But how would these finishes have effected their drafting jeter? Petitte and Posada both went far enough back in the 90 draft that we can guess that a change in the standings wouldn’t have kept the Yanks from picking them. But, would Jeter still have been available late in the first round? And how would that effect things going forward?
    Might be an interesting thought experiment for another series? What would have happened IF..so and so wasn’t part of that team?

  2. Gilbert said...

    1985:  If the pen is dominant and rotation less than average for a contender and one of your relievers, even your closer, is a former successful starter…Righetti just goes into the rotation like Smoltz, Burke gets late inning duties, and Whitson is mopup/swingman.

    1989:  If McGriff is as bad an OF as another Big Mac (McCovey…although once I saw McGwire in RF in a preseason game) then he plays 1B, Clark plays RF, and Mattingly rests his back at DH.

  3. Big Fan said...

    As a Yankee fan since 1971, I LOE this kind of stuff…but then the what ifs don’t stop. As aleady mentioned they don’t get Jeter. Maybe their late 80s success allows them not to make the Oneil/Key/Boggs moves.  Maybe they don’t feel the need to trade for Tino/Nelson and they keep Mattingly around. So maybe they trade the 1996-2000 success for 1985-1989 success.

    And theoretically, one can probably create one of these for every team and make everybody a winner. (Except the Royals. They stink.)

  4. Northern Rebel said...

    I still miss the years when the Yankees missed the playoffs. It was a wonderful time for the sport of baseball. The years discussed, are the longest stretch of futility for the Bronx bummers, since 1921, and nothing made me happier, except when the Lakers lost!

  5. Paul said...

    Very cool.

    Drafts tend to be crapshoots, so it is really hard to predict what would have happened to Jeter in the draft.  He went as the #6 overall pick in 1992, but that was after Phil Nevin, Paul Shuey, B.J. Wallace, Jeffrey Hammonds, and Chad Mottola, all of which combined were less valuable than Jeter by himself, so you never know how other teams would have valued him.  If anyone has any information about other teams interest in him at the time, I’d love to see it.

    Of course, if they do not get Jeter, who do they take?  It is possible they could have grabbed someone like Jason Kendell (#23), Johnny Damon (#35), Todd Helton (#55), or Jason Giambi (#58), but more likely they would have gotten not much of anything.  There are a few guys in the first couple of rounds that had decent careers – Nevin, Shannon Stewart, Charles Johnson, Rick Helling, Jon Lieber, Jose Vidro – but it is mostly career minor leaguers, marginal talents, and role players.  I’m not sure you could make an all-star team out of this draft, at least from the first 10 rounds, and win anything.  There are entire rounds with almost nothing – the 8th round had only 3 major leaguers, none of consequence.

  6. Steve Treder said...

    “And theoretically, one can probably create one of these for every team and make everybody a winner. (Except the Royals. They stink.)”

    No, you really can’t.  The fact is that the great majority of player transactions are either (a) pretty fair in outcome, in that what’s bought is roughly equal to what’s spent in both directions, and/or (b) (and this is most typical) of very little lasting consequence.

    I’ve been thoroughly researching trades for quite a few years now, and I’m quite confident in concluding that there are typically only about one or two franchises per decade in which you can come up with a reasonably plausible scenario such as those presented in this series.

  7. Chris DeRosa said...

    Loved it, Steve.  I was really into these teams.  It killed me when they traded Drabek and Tewksbury.

    I think if you play McGriff in 1988 full time, you can put that Jack Clark money to some better use.

  8. Paul said...

    Per the part 1 thread, would reversing the Roy Smalley trade make a significant difference?  The result would be losing Drabek but keeping Greg Gagne as the starting shortstop.

  9. Steve Treder said...

    “Per the part 1 thread, would reversing the Roy Smalley trade make a significant difference?  The result would be losing Drabek but keeping Greg Gagne as the starting shortstop.”

    This question was discussed in last week’s comments … my take on it is that (a) Drabek was a distinctly more impactful player than Gagne, and (b) in any case, the Smalley acquisition was a sensible and fair deal for the Yankees to make in the first place.

  10. James said...

    Also, in 1985, we might have seen a subway series.  The Mets finished in second to the Cardinals, who now don’t have McGee in center for his best season.

  11. John C said...

    Just one problem with your writing off the Blue Jays in the 1987 and 1989 pennant races because McGriff never went there. Toronto also had another outstanding young first baseman, who they didn’t have room for because of McGriff. If they didn’t have McGriff, they simply would have played Cecil Fielder there, with enormous implications for Fielder’s career. Based on his performance in limited playing time from 1985-88, you have to conclude he was able to play in the majors throughout that time. He never would have had to play in Japan in ’89, and he never would have played for the Tigers.

    The Blue Jays would have lost little or nothing during those years sans McGriff, due to the presence of a very valuable asset that they had no way of using.

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