Next Up in Pinstripes: Sidd Finch? Ricky Vaughn?

Friday, April 29 2005 @ 12:01 AM EDT

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Back in 1993, the New York Yankees ended a very un-Bronx-like skein of four straight losing seasons to burst back onto the scene of baseball's winning franchises with an 88-74 mark, good for second place just seven games behind the eventual World Champion Blue Jays.

It had also been 12 years since a playoff appearance for the pinstriped crew, but that year the torch was passed from Toronto and after a cruising to a division-best 70-43 mark in the strike-shortened 1994 season, the Yanks have been in the playoffs each season since, capturing six pennants and four titles.

And of course, with apologies to Derek, Bernie and the rest (hey, sing THAT, Terry Cashman!), the run of success has been almost entirely thanks to the team's pitching. Maybe it's the Kevin Brown-inspired Hall of Names feature the other day that has me thinking about this, or maybe it's seeing Randy Johnson finally pitch more or less like he's supposed to, or maybe down here in Texas, it's seeing Andy Pettitte (1-1, 3.55) and the amazing Roger Clemens (1-0, 0.32) putting it together for the Astros, but you have to admit the question is valid ... has there ever, in the history of the sport, been an era in which one team featured so many great and near-great pitchers, if in some cases, only for a short time?

The 1992 team that preceded this latest decade-plus of Yankee success put together a 76-86 record behind a starting rotation whose front four included Melido Perez, Scott Sanderson, Scott Kamienicki and Tim Leary (whose combined career win total of 372 trails Christy Mathewson alone by just one!); the closer was the immortal Steve Farr, set up by luminaries including John Habyan, Rich Monteleone and Greg Cadaret.

Then, things changed. As shown by the below wholly and totally unscientific listing, consider that since 1993, the Yankees starting rotation has featured the following "name" pitchers, listed in order of their career won/loss record through the end of the 2004 season:

R Roger Clemens (328-164)
L Randy Johnson (246-128)
L Frank Tanana (240-236)
L David Wells (212-136)
R Mike Mussina (211-119)
R Kevin Brown (207-137)
R Dwight Gooden (194-112)
R David Cone (194-126)
L Jimmy Key (186-117)
L Kenny Rogers (176-123)
L Andy Pettitte (155-82)
R Jack McDowell (127-87)
R Denny Neagle (124-92)

I admit, I'm too lazy to add up the Cy Young Awards or All-Star appearances, but you're looking at 13 guys who headed into this season had racked up exactly 2,600 major league wins combined. That's easy math -- it comes to 200 wins, on average, per pitcher.

And we're not including two other groups of starting pitchers who had varying degrees of success in the Bronx -- foreign imports including Hideki Irabu, Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras, each of whom was considered at one time to be one of the best non-MLB pitchers in the world; and former or future All-Stars, some of those still active who may at least one day reaech the Key-Cone-Gooden rung of the list above: Jeff Weaver, Ted Lilly, Jon Lieber, Javier Vazquez, Jim Abbott, Terry Mulholland, Esteban Loaiza, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Jake Westbrook, Neal Heaton (yes, he was TOO an All-Star) and Mike Witt.

And you want to talk about bullpens? Since 1993, the Yankees have employed twenty different pitchers who had at least a dozen saves in a season at some point in their careers. But that's really underslling the case ... you know about Mo Rivera, the only man so far to record more than one 50-save season. But men who once wore pinstripes have also accounted for 18 of the 61 40-save seasons in MLB history ... albeit not all with the Yankees, of course!

Seven other 30-save guys, including the aforementioned Farr who did it with the Yankees, also donned Yankee unis. Take a look at this list of closers who have appeared with the Yankees including a parenthetical note of each individual's personal single-season high in saves:

Mariano Rivera (53)
Armando Benitez (47)
Lee Smith (47)
Tom Gordon (46)
John Wetteleand (43 three times)
Jeff Reardon (42)
Mark Wohlers (39)
Bob Wickman (37)
Joe Borowski (33)
Jesse Orosco (31)
Steve Farr (30)
Juan Acevedo (28)
Mike Stanton (27)
Darren Holmes (25)
Dan Miceli (21)
Greg A. Harris (20)
Steve Karsay (20)
Steve Howe (18)
Paul Assenmacher (15)
Rick Honeycutt (12)

So again, the question bears asking ... has there ever, in the history of the Great Game, been an era in which one team featured so many great and near-great pitchers, if in some cases, only for a short time?