Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy Trails, Shelley Duncan

(Forearm bash to The Sports Hernia for the picture)

Shelley Duncan elected to become a free agent a while back and he signed a deal with the Indians yesterday, according to Chad Jennings. Jennings also wrote a great feature on him over the summer when he was still working for the Scranton Times-Tribune that you should check out. This is our send-off post to a guy who might have been over-appreciated by Yankee fans, but deserved it.

Shelley Duncan waited a long time to make his Major League debut. Six years and three days after being signed, to be exact. We wasn't much of a prospect of that point, but his big, looping swing produced some huge home runs (and some embarrassing strikeouts) for the big league club and his infectious enthusiasm endeared him to any Yankee fan who was paying attention.

Duncan came up on July 20th, 2007 and did his best Shane Spencer impression, emerging from the AAA and surprising people with bombs into the left field seats. He hit 5 HRs in his first 8 games as a Yankee. Those included two blasts in a 21-4 blowout of the Devil Rays and a pinch hit shot in a 16-3 victory over the White Sox in which seven Yankees went yard but A-Rod, who was stuck on #499, did not. It's not that he put the Yankees on his back by any stretch of the imagination. He just happened to be there when things started going right.

The Bombers were sitting at 49-46 when Duncan made his debut and they promptly began a six game winning streak one game later. Although none of his 5 home runs were game-changing and the league caught up to him after his hot start, he served as a sort of mascot for the revitalization of the Yankees that summer on their way to a Wild Card berth. He showed up at the right time, forearm bashing his way through the dugout with reckless abandon.

Maybe that's why Shelly Duncan attained such a cult following among Yankees fans. Because there isn't any other rational explanation why a fanbase would adore a guy who is pretty much the definition of replacement level.

It's not as unusual for a high school draft pick to spend six years in the minors, but if a college player is going to make it to the Majors, it usually occurs faster than that. Duncan might be the definition of the fabled "AAAA player" - a guy who can mash International League pitching but struggles as MLB learn his tendencies. He might be the perfect example of Yankees fans overrating their prospects. But if you were watching that team in 2007, he surely left an impression on you, and that's not an easy thing for an unheralded minor leaguer to do while wearing pinstripes.

As Jennings explained last night, the only two left fielders on the Indians' depth chart above Duncan have combined for 34 home runs in their minor league careers while Duncan hit 3o last year alone. Progressive Jacobs Field seems like it would be a good home park for Shelley as well, with a tall (19') but fairly close (325'-375') left field wall that might find itself in front of a few of his high fly balls.

Even with the semi-vacancy in left field the Yankees have at the moment, he still wasn't going factor into the equation, despite winning the International League MVP last season. Hopefully he'll get the shot he's earned with the Tribe.

The Indians visit the Bronx for a four game set starting May 28th. Hope to see you there, Shelley.


  1. Shelley will always live on in the annals of great modern-day one-hit-wonder Yankees like Kevin Maas, Shane Spencer, and Aaron Small (just to throw a pitcher in there for variety). His enthusiasm (but not his bat or glove) will be missed.

  2. He'll always be remembered as the greatest Yankee named Shelly.

  3. Another reason to be a Shelly fan- his ability to jump into a scrum and throw haymakers with the best of the MLB... Remember Posada v. Carlson? Shelly punchisized Carlson's face.

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