Ghosts of left fielders past

Merry Christmas, Yankee fans. All I wanted for Christmas this year was a deep playoff run, and I got it in spades! Next year? A repeat would be nice.

The team that is currently scheduled to take the field in April projects to do very well. With any luck, Brian Cashman will either sign or trade for a real left fieder. Larry openly covets Matt Holliday. You know what, now that we’ve added a real 4th starter I do too. Let’s go for the kill, and secure another trip through the Canyon of Heroes in the process.

But, at a time when we’re supposed to remember all the gifts life has given us, I wanted to take a moment to remind Yankee fans everywhere that Brett Gardner may not be the ideal option in left field, but it has been worse…

Gerald Williams – Williams played 99 games in left for the 1996 team and gave the Yankees a robust 88 OPS+. Brett Gardner’s 2009 OPS+? 93.

Chad Curtis – Yankee fans were spoiled in 1997 with an excellent partial season from Tim Raines. Rock’s 124 OPS+ was way too good for us, so in 1998 we moved him to utility and let Curtis and his OPS+ of 90 take over in left. Curtis was the ’98 team’s only below average hitter to play in almost every game.

Ricky Ledee – Ledee gave the Yankees decent performance platooning in left in 1999, but Joe Torre never liked him and he was off the team midway through 2000.

Chuck Knoblauch – Fans and teammates alike never saw Knoblauch as a core member of the dynasty teams. His throwing errors didn’t help his cause, and landed him in left for 108 games of 82 OPS+ offense in 2001.

Rondell White – White put up strong numbers in 2001 with the Chicago White Sox. But his offensive production fell off a cliff with the Yankees. His OBP didn’t even crack .300. (Note from Larry: Disgraceful).

The Yankees didn’t lock left field down until 2003 when the team brought in Hideki Matsui. The Bombers never intended to replace him with Johnny Damon, but that’s what happened once injuries caught up with Godzilla.

Every championship team during the dynasty years had a left fielder whose offensive production was roughly on par with what the Yankees got last season from Brett Gardner. Do I still want a real left fielder? You bet I do. But we can and have done worse than Brett Gardner.

4 thoughts on “Ghosts of left fielders past

  1. One thing I take from this post is getting a guy like Matt Holliday or Jason Bay literally makes no financial sense at all. If you can win championships with LF's like Chad Curtis, Chuck Knoblauch, and platoon of Ricky Ledee than why spend $16-20 million on a position that means so little to a teams success. Also Gardner projects to be a much better defensive CF than Granderson so why not move Curtis to LF and have Gardner play CF…makes sense in both defensive and offensive categories.

  2. I've heard an argument for giving Gardner CF and playing Granderson in LF before and I feel it makes sense. I think the Yankees are better right now than they were at the start of 2009. If the team is going to splash money on a left fielder then Johnny Damon makes the most sense. He's not that expensive. I believe this team can win without him, though.