With Buck Showalter in place to manage the team for the third consecutive year, the Yankees attained a level of stability heading into the 1994 campaign foreign to them since George Steinbrenner first purchased the ball club some two decades earlier. The Yankees progressed steadily in Showalter’s first two seasons as skipper, improving their record from 76-86 in 1992 to 88-74 in 1993. New York even remained in the divisional race for much of the previous season, before finally settling into second place, seven games behind the eventual world champion Toronto Blue Jays.
New York’s strong showing in 1993 prompted the front office to make few changes to the team’s roster during the subsequent off-season. Instead, the Yankee brain-trust elected to allow the club’s young players to continue to develop under the leadership of Showalter and the team’s core group of veterans, headed by captain Don Mattingly and future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
Management’s decision proved to be a wise one, since the Yankees posted the American League’s best record over the season’s first four months. New York stood in first place in the A.L. East in early August, with a record of 70-43, 6 ½ games ahead of their closest competitors. With improved pitching and one of the junior circuit’s most well-balanced lineups, the Yankees appeared to be well on their way to advancing to the postseason for the first time in 13 years when a players’ strike brought the season to a premature end on August 12. The play stoppage lasted into the first few weeks of the 1995 campaign, destroying the momentum the Yankees had created and putting on hold for another year Don Mattingly’s quest to reach the playoffs.
Nevertheless, the Yankees came away from the 1994 campaign feeling pretty good about themselves. Not only did they compile the league’s best record, but they also featured two of the circuit’s top performers. Jimmy Key finished the year with a record of 17-4 and an ERA of 3.27, en route to earning A.L. All-Star honors and recognition as The Sporting News A.L. Pitcher of the Year. He also placed sixth in the league MVP voting. Meanwhile, Paul O’Neill had a sensational year at the plate, leading the team with 21 home runs, 83 runs batted in, a .460 on-base percentage, and a .603 slugging percentage, and topping the circuit with a .359 batting average. O’Neill joined Key on the A.L. All-Star Team and finished fifth in the league MVP balloting.
Key and O’Neill had an excellent supporting cast in New York over the course of the abbreviated campaign. Replacing Steve Farr as the team’s closer, Steve Howe finished 3-0, with a 1.80 ERA and 15 saves. Catcher/first baseman Jim Leyritz hit 17 homers and knocked in 58 runs, in only 259 official at-bats. Danny Tartabull finished second on the team with 19 home runs and 67 runs batted in. Bernie Williams batted .289, stole 16 bases, and led the club with 80 runs scored. Mike Stanley hit 17 homers, drove in 57 runs, and batted an even .300. Wade Boggs finished fifth in the league with a .342 batting average, en route to earning a spot on the A.L. All-Star Team. He also won the first Gold Glove of his career. Although Don Mattingly’s bad back continued to rob him of his home-run power, he managed to scored 62 runs, bat .304, and compile a .397 on-base percentage. The Yankee captain also won the ninth and final Gold Glove of his career.By Bob_Cohen
- Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Buck Showalter, Danny Tartabull, Don Mattingly, George Steinbrenner, Jim Abbott, Jim Leyritz, Jimmy Key, Mike Stanley, Steve Howe, Wade Boggs