Although the Yankees finished the 1990 campaign with their worst record in 77 years, they made only minimal changes during the off-season. The front office decided to retain the services of Stump Merrill as manager. In fact, Merrill ended up becoming the first Yankee manager to last an entire season since Lou Piniella did so in 1987. With George Steinbrenner suspended from running the team by baseball commissioner Fay Vincent for the Yankee owner’s unsavory dealings with known gambler Howie Spira, the front office also showed greater patience with the organization’s young talent. Instead of trading away promising young players such as Roberto Kelly, Bernie Williams, and Pat Kelly for older veterans, the organization elected to give all three men an opportunity to help improve the fortunes of the team.
The most extensive changes the Yankees made to their roster during the off-season were made through free agency. On November 26, they signed 34-year-old Kansas City reliever Steve Farr to serve as Dave Righetti’s set-up man in the bullpen. Working mostly in middle relief, Farr finished 13-7 with a 1.98 ERA for the Royals the previous season. However, the front office had to alter its plans a week later when Righetti signed a free-agent contract with the San Francisco Giants. With no one else to assume the role of closer, Farr became the team’s late-inning reliever.
The Yankees made their only other significant move on December 31, when they purchased Scott Sanderson from Oakland. Although the 34-year-old right-hander acquired a reputation over the years as being essentially a five or six-inning pitcher, he nonetheless finished 17-11 with a 3.88 ERA for the A’s in 1990.
The signings of Farr and Sanderson proved to be wise moves by New York’s front office. Farr pitched well in relief, posting a 2.19 ERA, saving 23 games, and winning five others. Sanderson led the staff with 16 victories and 208 innings pitched. He ended up being New York’s lone representative on the A.L. All-Star Team. However, the efforts of the two men weren’t nearly enough to significantly improve the team’s placement in the standings. The Yankees finished the year with a record of only 71-91, in fifth place in the A.L. East, 20 games behind the division-winning Toronto Blue Jays.
New York stumbled both on the mound and at the bat throughout the season. The Yankees finished 10th in the American League with a team ERA of 4.42. Other than Sanderson, no one else on the pitching staff won more than eight games. Meanwhile, New York finished 12th in the junior circuit with 674 runs scored. After showing great promise as a rookie, Kevin Maas struggled in his sophomore campaign. Although he hit 23 home runs, he drove in just 63 runs and batted only .220. Jesse Barfield found himself benched by season’s end, after posting just a .225 batting average as the team’s starting right-fielder. Don Mattingly continued to be plagued by back problems. Although he managed to appear in virtually all of the team’s games, Mattingly had to consign himself to the role of DH from time to time. He finished the year with only nine home runs, 68 runs batted in, and a .288 batting average.
Matt Nokes, Mel Hall, and Steve Sax were the club’s most productive offensive players. Acquired from Detroit one year earlier, catcher Nokes knocked in 77 runs and led the team with 24 home runs. Hall hit 19 homers, batted .285, and finished first on the club with 80 runs batted in. Sax stole 31 bases and led the team with 85 runs scored and a .304 batting average.By Bob_Cohen
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- Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Dave Righetti, Don Mattingly, George Steinbrenner, Jesse Barfield, Kevin Maas, Matt Nokes, Mel Hall, Pat Kelly, Roberto Kelly, Scott Sanderson, Steve Farr, Steve Sax, Stump Merrill