While the “Do You Remember” section is sometimes reserved for long-forgotten Yankee players from decades past, it also highlights players who just might have been forgotten, for whatever reason. With Raul Mondesi, he is the epitome of the latter description.
A highly-touted Dominican prospect, Mondesi had four tools: power, average, speed and arm strength. Even though he was signed in 1988, he made his debut in 1993 at the age of 22 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played in 42 games (probably not a Jackie Robinson tribute), hitting four homers and stealing four bases.
Mondesi would blossom in 1994. Even though the season was shortened by the infamous strike, the kid would post impressive numbers in his first full season, among them 27 doubles, 16 homers, and 11 swipes. What’s more was his fielding; he led baseball with 16 assists from right field and was named National League Rookie of the Year. In a way, Mondesi was an early form of Yasiel Puig, also a Dodgers’ right fielder.
He became even better next season, scoring 91 times in 139 games. He powered 26 longballs and stole 27 bases, a precedent he established for his future playing days. Once again, he ruined the spirits of sixteen baserunners. Fans and managers took notice, and Mondesi earned his first (and only) All Star selection, as well as a Gold Glove award. However, LA would lose to Cincinnati in the NLDS.
1996-1999 were the prime years of Mondesi. He would score more 95 runs three times, power/steal 30 homers/bases twice (the first person in LA to accomplish the feat), and strike fear in the hearts of baserunners, who eventually abated running on him. Despite the numbers, the Dodgers made the playoffs just once in that time period, and decided to rearrange pieces after the 1999 season. Mondesi was shipped up north to the Toronto Blue Jays for feared slugger Shawn Green and minor leaguer speedster Jorge Nunez.
Toronto was good to Mondesi (24 home runs), until an August ligament injury in his elbow ended his 2000. With his golden right arm in jeopardy, he rehabbed the elbow successfully. While he was a grizzled veteran, Mondesi was only 30 years old in 2001, and proved he had plenty of speed (30 SB) and arm strength (18 outfield assists).
Now for the Yankees. Midway through 2002, the Bronx Bombers had only missed 1 World Series since 1996, and had no intentions to watch baseball on their televisions in October. On July 1, the Yanks made a move to get Mondesi, giving the Blue Jays pitcher Scott Wiggins in return. At this point, Mondesi was not the same player he was five years ago, but he still provided some pop on a 103-win team, Mondesi’s first postseason appearance since 1996. Sadly, the Yanks’ dreams were cut short by the eventual champions, the Anaheim Angels.
The beginning of 2003 was statistically strong for our featured player. In just under 100 games, he hit 23 doubles and 16 homers. Nevertheless, the front office had other plans, and Mondesi was traded for the third time in four years, this time to the Diamondbacks (who still wore purple). Mondesi would finish 2003 with 24 home runs. If it seems like the word “home run” or some variation has appeared a lot, it’s because he mashed 24 homers or more in nine consecutive seasons, a feat only enjoyed by Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez in that time frame (1995-2003).
At this point, Mondesi’s performance began to decline, and he would only play 75 games in 2004 and 2005 for the Pirates, Angels, and Braves. He would finish his career with amazing statistics: 1,589 hits, 319 doubles, 271 homers, 229 stolen bases, and 112 outfield assists. However, he is most proud of his family dynasty; one son, Raul Jr., played minor league baseball in the Brewers system, while Raul Adalberto Mondesi is in the Royals system. Currently, Mondesi Sr. is the mayor of San Cristobal, and will always be a Yankee.