How The Yankees Fell From Grace Part One: Letting Tino Martinez Go After 2001
It has been eight long years since the Yankees won a World Series. The last time they reached the fall classic was 2003, and every year since then they have been sent home early.
Granted, it's not the kind of championship drought the Cubs and their fans are experiencing (it's been 100 years for them), or the twenty-two years the Mets have endured, but eight years is starting to feel like an eternity.
Over a seven year span (1996-2003), the Yankees went to the World Series six times, and won four times. For the past five years, the Yankees and their fans have been watching other teams play in the World Series. How is that even possible? With all the resources and talent running through New York, why are they not playing like the powerhouse they are supposed to be?
There are several theories as to how the Yankees went from having such stellar success to virtually none at all. Part one will examine how not resigning Tino Martinez was the beginning of the end.
After the '95 season, Don Mattingly decided to retire despite never winning a championship. After years of battling back injuries, the Yankee captain called it quits and the team was in need of a first baseman.
The Yankees were looking to trade for a first baseman, and Tino Martinez was high on their list. Martinez helped the Mariners defeat the Yankees in the '95 ALDS so they had gotten a good look at him. It also didn't hurt that his skipper, Lou Piniella, had the ear of George Steinbrenner, and told him he was worth trading for.
The trade for Martinez (and Jeff Nelson, who was a big part of several Yankee championships) was complete on December 7, 1995. At the time, no one could've ever imagined just how well that trade would work out, especially after Tino's auspicious beginning.
Tino was replacing an icon, and fans aren't always so warm to a replacement...at least not right away. Mattingly was a force of nature for Yankee fans. He was the bright spot for the 12 years when the Yankees were bottom-dwellers of the AL East, and he was the captain. How could anyone fill those shoes?
Like most people who want to succeed, Tino ended up pressing and failing time and time again. Yankee fans booed him and wondered why their owner would trade for someone like him to replace Donnie Baseball.
Eventually, Tino got on track and started displaying just why the Yankees traded for him. Not only was he getting it done on the field, but he became an important figure in the clubhouse. Every day he came to work hard and every day he expected to win. Tino didn't try to be Don Mattingly; he did his job and played his game which produced amazing results.
One of his most notable feats was his grand slam in the '98 World Series, giving the Yankees the lead. There was also his game-tying home run off Arizona's closer Byung-Hyun Kim, keeping the Yankees alive in the 2001 World Series.
And then after the 2001 season, Tino became a free agent, and the Yankees let him go. They decided to go after a free agent by the name of Jason Giambi. Giambi had won the AL MVP in 2000 with the Athletics, and had a great season in 2001, batting .342 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs.
Giambi signed with the Yankees, and Tino ended up signing with St. Louis. Yankee fans were sad to see Tino go, but they were excited to get a big home run hitter like Giambi despite it being no secret Giambi had some problems throwing the ball. The Yankees thought they had solidified their dynasty by adding Giambi to the team.
Boy were they ever wrong...
Stay tuned for Part Two: The Signing of Jason Giambi
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