Do You Remember: Mike Pagliarulo?


Former Yankees’ third baseman Mike Pagliarulo. Mandatory Credit: NY Daily News Sports.

If you watched the Yankees during the 1980’s, then there’s a good chance the nickname “Pags” means something to you. The Yankees’ third baseman for the better part of the decade, Mike Pagliarulo was known for his power. He was drafted by the Yanks in the 6th round of the 1981 draft from the University of Miami, and proceeded to crush minor league pitchers, hitting 50 homers before his call up in 1984. In 67 games, he would have seven homers in his first tenure.

The next season, he wound up starting as a 25-year-old, playing in 138 games. Given the extended playing time, he hit 19 home runs with 62 RBI,  good enough for fourth and fifth on the team, respectively. Frustratingly, the Yankees missed the playoffs despite a 97-65 record, as this was before the wild card system was implemented (the first of many close calls for first baseman Don Mattingly).

1986 was Pags’s breakout season. He went on to mash 28 longballs, drive in 71 RBI, and even steal four bases (zero attempts in his first two seasons), en route to another 90-win, second place finish. His offensive WAR was 2.6, and the lefty seemed poised to remain a power hitter for years to come.

1987 furthered the hypothesis. In his best year, Pagliarulo reached the 30-home run plateau, eventually hitting 32 dingers, better than any other Yankee on the team. He also reached career highs in runs (76), hits (122) doubles (26), and RBI (87). However, this was the year that 44-year-old Tommy John, many years after surgery was leading the rotation, and 34-year-old Rick Rhoden was the number two starter. Both pitched well, but they didn’t nearly have the firepower previous rotations did. The Yanks finished with 89 wins, but finished fourth in the AL East.

Pagliarulo then started to decline. While he eclipsed twenty doubles for the third year in a row, he only hit .214, with 15 homers. Granted he was never a player who hit for average (his highest total before that season was .239), but that was an alarmingly low number. After starting the 1989 season with only 4 home runs in 74 games, the team traded him to the San Diego Padres with pitcher Don Schulze for veteran starter Walt Terrell and former Yankees’ draft pick Freddie Toliver.

Pags would then become a journeyman sort of player. He only hit 3 more homers all of 1989, finishing the season with a career low 7 four-baggers. At the beginning of the new decade, he stopped focusing on the longball, and began to work on improving himself as a hitter. He only tied last season’s home run total, but had 23 doubles and a career high batting average of .254, to that point.

In 1991, he signed with the Minnesota Twins, and hit .279 in 121 games. He helped the Twins reach the playoffs, his first, and last, postseason. In the ALCS, he hit a home run, and he hit a home run in the World Series, winning Minnesota it’s second World Series in five years. He played 40 games in 1992 for the Twins in a shortened season, and started 1993 with the Twins until he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. He would bat .303 combined between the two teams.

In 1994, during the infamous strike-shortened season, Pagliarulo hopped hemispheres, joining the Seibu Lions for eighty games. He hit 7 home runs.

His final professional season was back in the states. He struck a contract with the Texas Rangers at age 35, and played in 86 games, with 16 doubles and four home runs. Pags retired after 1995, ending his 1246 game career with 942 hits, 206 doubles, and 134 big flies, but Pagliarulo will always be known as a New York Yankee.