The Yankees are the heavy favorites to win their division and have already been linked with a World Series run. The Red Sox, Indians, Brewers, Astros and Rockies all look like darkhorse contenders for October as well. All of these teams have significant roster changes that will likely make them even more competitive next year than they were in 2019.
Highlights of the article:
- Brian Cashman, the general manager of the New York Yankees, likened the team’s recent Josh Donaldson purchase to that of Roger Clemens in 1999.
- Both trades included players with a history of bad blood with the Bronx Bombers.
- Although there are considerable variations between Clemens and Donaldson’s pre-existing Yankees beefs, the analogy is noteworthy.
It nearly sounds like a poor joke’s punchline. What do Josh Donaldson of the New York Yankees and Roger Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, have in common?
No, the explanation isn’t that they’re both previous MVP Award winners in the American League.
At first look, there don’t seem to be many connections between a 35-year-old third baseman and one of baseball’s all-time great pitchers. However, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who was instrumental in bringing both players to the Bronx, would strongly disagree.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman likened the Josh Donaldson deal to Roger Clemens’ debut in 1999.
Josh Donaldson (L) and Roger Clemens have a lot in common, according to New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman | Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images; Tony Ranze/AFP via Getty Images
Cashman startled the baseball world by moving former All-Star catcher Gary Sanchez and fan favorite infielder Gio Urshela to the Minnesota Twins for a package that included Donaldson, a three-time All-Star with 251 career home runs.
Donaldson’s prior connection with the Yankees, notably ace pitcher Gerrit Cole, made the transfers all the more surprising. Last season, the veteran third baseman made headlines when he claimed that pitchers’ spin rates plummeted when the league banned the use of sticky chemicals.
Cole faced Donaldson a few days later and won, striking out nine batters, including Donaldson twice. He also stared the third baseman down in the opening inning.
Fans who were too young to recall the dynasty years may not be aware that Clemens, who played for the Yankees twice, had his own problems with the team. In September 1998, while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays, he hit Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius in the back and blamed it on a wounded right hand. That didn’t stop Hideki Irabu of the Yankees from hitting Blue Jays outfielder Shannon Stewart in the elbow an inning later.
At Yankee Stadium, the benches were emptied, and then-Yankees outfielder Darryl Strawberry was suspended for three games for throwing a punch.
What does Donaldson have to do with any of this? Cashman, who has been the Yankees’ general manager since 1998, gave up major assets to acquire Clemens over 25 years ago, and he is certain that history will repeat itself in more ways than one.
According to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, Cashman remarked, “When the dust cleared, [Clemens] became one of the most impact Yankees I’ve ever had.”
Although there are considerable variations between Clemens and Donaldson’s pre-existing Yankees beefs, the analogy is noteworthy.
Cashman’s analogy is certainly fascinating, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s also worth mentioning that the Yankees’ longstanding general manager has never shied away from bringing in former opponents, such as former Boston Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon, if it meant helping the club win a World Series.
On that one, we’ll let the one title in 20 years speak for itself.
There are two notable distinctions between Clemens and Donaldson, one of which is straightforward. Donaldson’s dispute with the Yankees included just one player, albeit the team’s highest-paid and supposedly most sensitive athlete. In an era when players actually threw fists, the Clemens incident sparked a melee.
The rosters at the time are the other difference. The 1999 Yankees were coming off a 125-win season and their second World Series triumph in three years the year before. Despite having one of the largest payrolls in the league for most of the twenty-first century, the Yankees have only made one Fall Classic participation since the start of the 2004 season.
The Yankees won the following two World Series after Clemens came to upgrade an already outstanding squad, which was mostly made up of battle-tested veterans and homegrown prospects. Donaldson is the latest experienced acquisition attempting to assist a club filled with high-paid players who may or may not be ideal fits (see Cole, Gerrit) eventually break through and win a pennant for the first time since 2009.
The 2022 Yankees may find themselves in desperate need of Donaldson to fill a vacuum in the locker room. Those 1999 Yankees, on the other hand, already had that core, which is one of the reasons the Clemens deal worked.
At the very least, Cole and Donaldson look willing to move on from the 2021 dispute.
Cole and Donaldson, to their credit, said the right things after the deal. On Monday, March 14, Hoch stated that following the third baseman’s arrival in Tampa, Florida, the two players met in manager Aaron Boone’s office and shook hands.
Cole, who is scheduled to start for the Yankees on Opening Day for the third consecutive season, claimed Cashman informed him of the deal the night before.
Cole told reporters, “It’s really not all that unusual for [Cashman] to get me up on anything before it reaches the wire.” “There’s definitely a special reason he reached out last night.” But, look, if you’re serious about winning a championship, none of this matters.”
Donaldson said that he believes both players “feel extremely pleased” about how their conversation concluded.
“At the end of the day,” Donaldson added, “we’re here to play baseball.” “I believe those guys in that clubhouse know that I want to win baseball games because they’ve seen me compete.” I believe they are aware of this.”
If Cole and Donaldson lead the Yankees to their 28th World Series championship this autumn, we have a feeling the fans will be eager to forget about last year’s snafu.
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