After having his suspension lifted by Major League Baseball, George Steinbrenner returned to the Yankees in 1993 a bit more willing to listen to his advisors. General Manager Gene Michael, in particular, seemed to have The Boss’ ear, convincing New York’s owner not to part with most of the team’s top young talent. Instead, Michael stressed to Steinbrenner the importance of building the club from within, and through free agency.
Heeding his general manager’s advice, Steinbrenner entrusted his team to Michael, giving him control over trying to restore the Yankees to prominence in the A.L. East. To accomplish that task, though, Michael had to first rebuild the team’s feeble pitching staff. He also needed to acquire players with the mental toughness that made them capable of altering the losing mindset that became far too prevalent in the New York clubhouse the previous few seasons.
The Yankees took their first step towards reshaping their roster by working out a deal with the Cincinnati Reds on November 3 in which they traded centerfielder Roberto Kelly for right-fielder Paul O’Neill. In addition to acquiring the solid left-handed bat of O’Neill, the move enabled the Yankees to turn over the starting centerfield job to Bernie Williams.
The Yankees then began to address their pitching needs on December 6, when they traded three minor leaguers to the California Angels for left-hander Jim Abbott. The 25-year-old Abbott, who was born without a right hand, had his best year for the Angels in 1991, when he finished 18-11 with a 2.89 ERA. Although his record slipped to just 7-15 the following year, he still posted an impressive 2.77 ERA.
The Yankees acquired another front-line starter just four days later when they signed Jimmy Key to a free-agent contract. One of the American League’s most consistent pitchers, Key won at least 12 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in each of the previous eight seasons, surpassing 16 victories on two separate occasions.
The Yankees picked up what they hoped was the last piece to the puzzle a few days later when they acquired the services of five-time A.L. batting champion Wade Boggs through free agency.
Entering the 1993 campaign with a very different look, New York displayed a great deal of grit and determination in improving its record to 88-74 under manager Buck Showalter. The Yankees finished second in the A.L. East, seven games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.
New York’s pitching remained inconsistent, with only Jimmy Key establishing himself as a reliable starter. The left-hander finished 18-6 with a 3.00 ERA, en route to earning a spot on the A.L. All-Star Team. Working as both a starter and as a reliever, Bob Wickman placed second on the staff with 14 victories. Jim Abbott finished a disappointing 11-14. Nevertheless, he provided Yankee fans with perhaps their greatest thrill of the season by throwing a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians on September 4.
On the other hand, with the additions of O’Neill and Boggs, New York’s offense improved dramatically. Considered to be primarily a platoon player before he arrived in New York, O’Neill demonstrated the ability to hit left-handed pitching as well. He finished the year with 20 home runs, 75 runs batted in, and a .311 batting average. Boggs earned a spot on the A.L. All-Star Team by batting .302 and scoring 83 runs. Playing his first full season in centerfield, Bernie Williams batted .268 and drove in 68 runs. Outfielder Dion James excelled in a part-time role, leading the team with a .332 batting average. Assuming the starting catching duties after being acquired from Texas one year earlier, Mike Stanley hit 26 homers, knocked in 84 runs, and batted .305. Although Danny Tartabull batted only .250, he led the team with 31 homers, 102 runs batted in, and 87 runs scored. Back problems limited Don Mattingly to 134 games. Nevertheless, he hit 17 home runs, batted .291, and finished second on the team with 86 runs batted in.
Although still a player or two away from being a serious contender, the Yankees appeared to be headed in the right direction for the first time in several years.By Bob_Cohen
- Bob Wickman, Buck Showalter, Danny Tartabull, Dion James, Don Mattingly, Gene Michael, George Steinbrenner, Jim Abbott, Jimmy Key, Mike Stanley, Roberto Kelly, Wade Boggs