It's a Thrill Every Minute With Sax at Third Base by Michael Martinez of the New York Times dated May 24, 1991 did just that with me. The New York Yankees of the early 1990′s were a horrible bunch and the 1991 Yankees were no exception finishing the season with a 71-91 record. A couple of things in this article stood out to me.
First is the list of players that played the hot corner for the Yankees after they traded Graig Nettles in 1984. Looking at the list to the right, in eight seasons, they had 29 different players at third base, including Dave Winfield. What the hell was Lou Piniella thinking putting Dave Winfield at third for two games in 1986. Even I, as a lifelong Yankees have no idea who Mike O'Berry, Jeff Moronko and Leo Hernandez are, let alone when they played third for the Yankees. But I digress.
The list shows how truly valuable a player the caliber of Graig Nettles was to the Yankees from the mid 1970′s to 1984. It also makes you wonder why Graig Nettles isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He was arguably the best defensive third baseman since Brooks Robinson and though he wasn’t the kind of hitter that Mike Schmidt and George Brett were, he wasn’t too shabby either. I guess people can point to his .248 batting average as to a reason why he wasn’t inducted to the Hall but I challenge anyone to point to a better third baseman than Nettles after Robinson, Schmidt and Brett. And if you say Buddy Bell, I’d take a one armed Nettles over Bell anyday.
The second thing that I noted was the subject of the article: Steve Sax. Even today, I wonder what the hell happened to Steve Sax. That guy was money with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sax was the 1982 NL Rookie of the Year and played in 150 games or more in five out of his eight seasons with L.A. He was durable as well for the Yankees. In his three seasons with the Yankees, he only missed 15 games in three seasons. But for whatever reasons, he just seemed to stop being able to field the ball at second base.
While not a Gold Glove winner for the Dodgers, thanks to Ryan Sandberg who owned all the N.L. Gold Glove awards from 1983-1991, Sax was a solid second baseman. Solid enough that the Yankees let long time Yankee Willie Randolph leave via free agency. Ironically, Randolph would replace his replacement on the Yankees in Los Angeles. Offensively he was everything the Yankees expected to get, but Sax just seemed to forget how to play second base. I wouldn't quite say he had the "yips" but he had so many troubles that the Yankees brought up Pat Kelly from AAA in 1991 to play second and moved Sax to third.
Sax would be sent to the Chicago White Sox in the offseason for Domingo Jean, Melido Perez and Bob Wickman. He would never regain his stride having retired after the strike season of 1994.
I know New York is a tough place to play, especially while wearing the Yankees pinstripes. But here is an example of how one player could overcome the madness in the Bronx to arguably become a Hall of Famer and a player who showed tons of potential upon his arrival to the Bronx, just became a shell of the player we was.
Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
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