Thursday, February 19, 2009

Countdown To Opening Day: #45

For much of the 90's the number 45 was penciled into the Yankees' DH slot.


Danilo Tartabull Mora originally came up as shortstop with the Royals. He only played 24 games in The Bigs at SS, and was quickly transitioned to a RF/DH. He had solid numbers with the Royals but nothing too impressive, especially for a corner OF/DH. Coming off a the best season of his career in 1991 (171OPS+), Tartabull became one of the five highest paid players in baseball when he signed a five year $25.5M deal with the Yankees.

He put up decent numbers when he was healthy, but Danny was plagued by injuries during his tenure, averaging only 122 games during the three full seasons he spent the Bronx before being traded to Oakland in 1995. He suffered from sprained wrists, pulled hamstrings, back spasms and bruised kidneys. Sound similar to another free agent acquisition to bear the #45? The Curse of Danny Tartabull(c) You heard it here first.

After he was traded to the A's for Ruben Sierra, Tartabull lashed out a George Steinbrenner for the comments The Boss has been making all season about him. Danny said:

If s a zoo there. No, I take that back; it's a joke. The sad part is that the only reason for that is the owner. He wants to be the center of attention so bad he just destroys that team. If s so hard for those guys to win because of that man. To win the division, you have to be twice as good as anyone else just to overcome all of the crap that goes on. The guys won't say it on the record, but they're just miserable there.
Some of that was probably warranted, but here's the kicker:

That team's going to be a disaster next year. You'll see. No one's going to want to play there.

See, you just change "disaster" to "dynasty" and "No one" to "Everyone" and that sentence makes perfect sense!

In one of the most fitting ends to a career possible, he retired seven games into the 1997 season after fouling a ball of his toe.

The Yanks acquired the ironically-named Cecil Fielder in 1996 by trading Ruben Sierra and Matt Drews to the Tigers. Fielder hit 13 HRs in 53 games to round out the regular season. On the way to the World Series, Big C hit .307 with 3HRs and 10RBIs. A portly chap, Fielder was almost exclusively a DH, appearing in only 17 games in the field in his two years with the Yankees, all at first base. Bill James once called Cecil, "a fat guy that hit a few home runs for a while."

In 1990 & 91, his first two full seasons as a pro, Fielder hit 51 then 44 HRs and finished second in the MVP voting to Rickey Henderson then Cal Ripken. His 1990 season was the first 50+HR in the American League since Mantle and Maris went at it in 1961. Big Daddy finished his career with 319 round-trippers and a line of .255/.345/.482.

Fielder left after the 1997 season and the Yankees acquired Charles Theodore "Chili" Davis to try and fill his shoes. Chili got his nickname from a bad haircut he cut when he was 12, growing up in Kingston, Jamaica. He injured his ankle in Spring Training in '98 and after playing in the first two games of the season, appeared in only 33 more coming down the stretch. He saw 27 ABs that postseason and drove in 7 runs.

He exclusively DH'ed during his time with the Yanks and wasn't particularly strong offensively, but is remembered fondly by most Yankee fans because his two years in the Bronx coincided with two World Series victories. When he retired, he had the third highest career HR total (350) as a switch hitter, behind only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray.


  1. One small point about Cecil - 90 & 91 weren't his first seasons as a pro. They were his first seasons as a full time Major Leaguer. He was drafted in the early 80s, spent parts of four seasons as a reserve with the Jays and then played a year in Japan before joining the Tigers in 1990.

    When he left the Blue Jays he wasn't nearly as big as he was with the Tigers. Must have filled up on a ton of sashimi and Kobe while overseas.

    BTW - his 50th homer in 1990 came against the Yankees, at the Stadium, against Steve Adkins and it was an absolute bomb to left field. Adkins was considered one of the Yankees better prospects at the time, but he never appeared in another Major League game after that.

  2. mmb - I said "In 1990 & 91, his first two full seasons as a pro". I was looking at games played, as opposed to time spent on the roster, so that might not be entirely accurate.

    I admittedly skimped on this one a little bit cause I'm busy today, so thanks for filling in the blanks.