The Yankees' New Curse: Mike Lowell
Mike Lowell is expected to resign with the Red Sox for 3 years, $37.5 million, a hometown discount.
Rightfully so, since Fenway is well suited for his hitting ability and he just won a World Series with the Red Sox. Lowell also won a ring with the Florida Marlins, who stole him from the Yankees.
Back in 1995, the Yankees drafted Lowell in the 20th round of the amateur draft. Even as Lowell rose through their system, the team did not have enough confidence in him to give him the full time job. In 1996, the Yankees won the World Series for the first time since 1978.
In 1997, the Yanks made the playoffs again, but lost in the American League Division Series to the Cleveland Indians. Brian Cashman replaced Bob Watson as GM. According to a December 13, 1997 New York Times article, Steinbrenner had a "newfound intransigence over trading away prospects like pitchers Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Jerzembeck, infielder Mike Lowell and outfielder Ricky Ledee."
Steinbrenner probably got those words from Cashman, who has repeated them in the present day.
To fill the hole at third base left by boozer Wade Boggs, the Yankees traded Kenny Rogers to the A's for Scott Brosius. Darryl Strawberry and Tim Raines were signed to bolster the outfield. The Yanks traded the Eric Milton Pu Pu platter for All-Star second baseman Chuck "no fielding problems yet" Knoblauch. Plus, they signed Orlando "El Duque—we don't know how old he is" Hernandez.
Wait, didn't they say they were going with youth? Why no confidence in Mike Lowell?
In June, the Yanks drafted Mark Prior and Drew Henson. Then in September they purchased the contract of Alfonso Soriano. Meanwhile, Mike Lowell showed his talents in AAA as he hit .304 with 34 doubles, 3 triples, 26 homers, 99 RBI, and 79 runs for the Columbus Clippers.
It came as no surprise when the Yankees demolished the competition in 1998, setting an AL record for victories in a season with 114, and then went on to win the World Series again. The team seemed to be set for future success—and they had plenty, winning two more rings in the next two seasons.
At the 1998 trading deadline, the Yankees had the opportunity to acquire Randy Johnson from Seattle for Mike Lowell and Hideki Irabu. This is the same Hideki Irabu who Steinbrenner called a "fat toad." No trade.
The team withstood this mistake, and were able to win the World Series each year from 1998 to 2000—but in 2001 their World Series foe was the Arizona Diamondbacks, led by Randy Johnson.
The Yankees still had not acquired him, and did not have Mike Lowell either, because they traded him away for minor league pitchers Ed Yarnall, Mark Johnson, and Todd Noel.
Have you ever heard of them? If only the Yankees had made that 1998 deal...
This was the beginning of the Yankees' end. The Yankees lost the World Series, and spiraled deeper and deeper into fiscal and strategic irresponsibility. They signed a juiced bad boy named Jason Giambi to a ludicrous deal. Steve Karsay also received a hefty contract. Melky Cabrera was signed as an amateur free agent, matching their one smart move from the previous year in signing Robinson Cano.
After the 2002 season, the Yankees resigned Roger Clemens, who was barely above average in his five seasons with the team. Hideki Matsui, Todd Zeile, Robin Ventura, John Lieber, and Jose Contreras. More fat contracts.
In 2003, the Yankees made it back to the World Series, only to lose to the Florida Marlins—who featured Mike Lowell at third base.
The sight of Mike Lowell on the Florida champs left more dark clouds looming over the Yankee empire. The next four seasons were progressively more chaotic and disappointing.
In 2007, the Red Sox, archnemesis of the Yankees, had a championship season behind the strong play of Josh Beckett, and the "deadweight contract" player they acquired in order to get Beckett: Mike Lowell. Lowell won World Series MVP honors and finished 5th in MVP voting for the season.
The one positive is that by refusing to overpay for Lowell, the Yankees could indeed be breaking the curse—or continuing the curse of Alex Rodriguez.
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