Having finished the 1991 campaign with one of the worst records in baseball for the third consecutive year, the Yankee front office showed a considerable amount of restraint during the subsequent off-season. With general manager Gene Michael making most of the important decisions in George Steinbrenner’s absence, the organization chose not to panic. Rather than trading away several of the club’s top prospects in an effort to provide a quick-fix, Michael elected to continue leading the team on a youth movement. Depending heavily on the maturation of talented youngsters such as Roberto Kelly, Bernie Williams, Gerald Williams, and Pat Kelly, Michael made only minimal revisions to the team’s major league roster heading into 1992. Although the Yankees made several other minor moves, they made just two deals that figured to impact the team greatly in the upcoming season.
New York tapped the free-agent market on January 6, signing Royals right-fielder/DH Danny Tartabull to a multi-year deal. The right-handed hitting Tartabull established himself as one of the American League’s top sluggers during his time in Kansas City, surpassing 100 RBIs in three of his five years there. He hit 31 home runs, knocked in 100 runs, batted .316, and led the league with a .593 slugging percentage in his final year with the Royals.
Just four days later, the Yankees traded second baseman Steve Sax to the Chicago White Sox for a package of three players that included promising 26-year-old right-hander Melido Perez. With Sax gone, the team expected Pat Kelly to assume the starting job at second base.
New York also decided to inject some youth into the team’s on-field leadership by replacing Stump Merrill as manager with 35-year-old Buck Showalter. A former player in the Yankees’ minor league system, Showalter never quite made it to the majors. However, after retiring as an active player, he spent five years managing for the club at the minor-league level, before being promoted to Merrill’s coaching staff in 1990. A no-nonsense type of manager, Showalter believed in organization, discipline, dedication, and commitment.
Under Showalter’s leadership, the Yankees began to show signs of improvement in 1992. Although they finished well out of contention in the A.L. East, their 76-86 record represented their best mark in four years. The Yankees finished tied for fourth in the division, 20 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.
New York’s pitching continued to be a source of concern. The Yankees placed 12th in the league with a team ERA of 4.21. Only Melido Perez and Steve Farr pitched effectively much of the time. Perez finished the year with a record of only 13-16. Nevertheless, he led the team in wins, ERA (2.87), complete games (10), and innings pitched (248). Farr saved 30 games and compiled a 1.56 ERA.
The Yankees made their greatest improvement on offense, jumping from 12th in the league in runs scored the previous season to seventh in the junior circuit. Mel Hall hit 15 homers, drove in 81 runs, and batted .280. Danny Tartabull led the team with 25 home runs and a .409 on-base percentage, and he also knocked in 85 runs. Playing through pain much of the time, Don Mattingly hit 14 home runs and led the team with 86 runs batted in, 89 runs scored, a .288 batting average, 184 hits, and 40 doubles. He also won his seventh Gold Glove. Meanwhile, Roberto Kelly was the only Yankee player to earn All-Star honors. In addition to playing an outstanding center field, Kelly drove in 66 runs, scored 81 others, batted .272, and stole 28 bases.
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- Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Buck Showalter, Danny Tartabull, Don Mattingly, Fay Vincent, Gene Michael, George Steinbrenner, Gerald Williams, Mel Hall, Melido Perez, Pat Kelly, Roberto Kelly, Steve Farr, Stump Merrill