George Steinbrenner was willing to trade Jorge Posada in an attempt to acquire either San Diego's Rickey Henderson or Boston's Mike Stanley. General manager Bob Watson refused to knuckle under to the Yankees owner that was once willing to trade a young Ron Guidry.
On July 31, 1997 the New York Yankees had the majors third-best record and were leading the wild-card race. Watson wasn't convinced that there was a need for either Henderson or Stanley.
The Boston Red Sox wanted 25-year-old Jorge Posada, 25-year-old Ramiro Mendoza and four highly touted prospects for Stanley. If it weren't for Watson, Mr. Steinbrenner would have pulled the trigger.
Watson tried to talk the Padres and the Red Sox into lowering their demands to no avail. During the time Watson was speaking to the Padres and Red Sox general managers, Mr. Steinbrenner continually interrupted him with incessant phone calls.
The blustery owner challenged Watson ''to prove himself'' with a significant trade. The fact that Watson helped the Yankees win the 1996 World Series was no longer relevant to Mr. Steinbrenner.
''I know he's trying and I hope he's successful,'' Steinbrenner said. ''All I've been doing for months is prodding him. I think we need to get someone. I've thought that for a long time.''
When asked if he would force Watson to make a deal, Mr. Steinbrenner gave reporters a typical Steinbrenner answer.
''If Bob doesn't feel he wants to give up that young talent, that's one thing. I haven't been as close to it and I don't want to be. I want Bob to prove himself to me.''
Of course, Watson was correct and Mr. Steinbrenner was wrong.
Posada went on the help the Yankees win four more world championships. He became one of the greatest of all catchers.
Mendoza was an integral part of five pennant winners and four world champions.
Thank goodness for Bob Watson.
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