No more Melk for youDecember 23, 2009
When I think back to 2004, in particular the ALCS, images of the most debilitating/humiliating loss flood my memory, and my throat fills with vomit. No Yankees fan will ever forget The Collapse, and entrenched in the center of that nightmare was Javier Vazquez.
Vazquez epitomized everything that was wrong with the Yankees in 2004 — notably overpaying for mediocre talent — and the last pitch we saw Vazquez throw closed the door on the Yankees 2004 season and solidified the biggest choke job in sports history. He was banished after that season — to the delight of Yankees fans — and spent five years in purgatory playing for Atlanta and Chicago.
Now he’s back in pinstripes.
General Manager Brian Cashman traded OF Melky Cabrera, along with lefty reliever Mike Dunn and a single-A prospect to Atlanta for Vazquez.
Now every non-Yankee fan is salivating over how good this deal is for the Yankees and how they only traded a fourth outfielder for a No. 4 starter.
OK, I get it.
But non-Yankees fans didn’t watch Melky come up through the system and play a MAJOR role in the Yankees 2009 championship. Melky was the beginning of a new strategy for the rebuilding of the Yankees — nurturing and developing home-grown talent.
The Yankees have converted — somewhat — to building their major league roster from the ground up, and have reaped above-average success with this formula. To name a few — Joba, Phil Hughes, Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, Dave Robertson and of course, the Core Four, all contributed to this year’s championship.
Melky was always one of my favorites. He played a good centerfield, had a cannon for an arm and didn’t sink under pressure. I remember his first game as a Yankee, when he misplayed a Trot Nixon fly ball into an inside the park homerun at Fenway Park. Or in 2008, when he played so poorly that he almost played himself off the team.
But in 2009, Melky grew to be something different. No, he wasn’t a 20-homerun guy or a reincarnated version of Mickey Mantle, but he was the perfect role player on a team of all stars. He learned that Yankee way of working at-bats, taking walks and passing the baton to the next hitter.
He had the first walk-off homerun in the new Yankee stadium. Several more game-tying or game-winning hits followed that season, and Yankees fan clamored to see Melky up in a big situation.
He got enough pies to start his own bakery.
No, Melky wasn’t a superstar, but he was a true Yankee. He rose from the ranks, battled for his position in centerfield and earned his spot on this team.
I will always root for Melky. Good luck Leche. You will be sorely missed.