Yankees: Revisiting NYY Stealing Mike Stanton After Red Sox Let Him Go
By Adam Weinrib
The New York Yankees stole a relief ace when they signed Mike Stanton in 1997.
The 1996 Yankees did pretty well for themselves — after all, Charlie Hayes’ catch summoned the bubbly for the first time in 18 years. All in all, you’d probably call that a rousing success.
But entering 1997, New York had some…bullpen questions? That can’t be right. Didn’t they have a young Mariano Rivera with a 15-year career ahead of him?
Well, yes, but…he wasn’t Rivera yet. He wasn’t a closer — and they’d lost one of those when they let John Wetteland walk to Texas on a four-year deal coming straight off his World Series MVP honors.
So, in the interest of protecting Rivera before his first-ever stint as a closer, New York went out and got…Mike Stanton in free agency, who immediately became a bullpen mainstay of the remainder of the dynasty.
Stanton paid immediate dividends in his age-30 season in ’97, going a remarkable 6-1 with a 2.57 ERA, and locking up the middle innings from the left side, along with Jeff Nelson and swingman Ramiro Mendoza in newfound setup roles. Graeme Lloyd shined that year, too, posting just a 3.31 ERA despite allowing 75 baserunners in 49.0 innings. Teach me your ways!
The burly lefty remained in pinstripes through 2002, making the All-Star team in 2001 — crazily enough, his old ‘pen mate Jeff Nelson made the squad that year, too, during his first year back in Seattle.
Objectively, Stanton was a force when the team needed him most — seems like someone the Red Sox might’ve wanted to help counteract the Yankees dynasty, huh? Well, about that…
Stanton was a prominent member of the Yankees’ two chief rivals in the ’90s, at one point. He came up as a Brave, finishing eighth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1991, while throwing 12.1 World Series innings across ’91 and ’92 without allowing an earned run.
Atlanta then shipped him up to Boston at the July 31 deadline in 1995, where he continued to shove, posting a 3.00 ERA in 22 games after a 5.59 mark in the first half in Atlanta. At the next season’s deadline, though, the Sox sent him to Texas, let the Yankees sign him at the end of the season, and that was that.
Guess they didn’t know what they had ’til it was gone and flailing its left arm in their faces for the next five years, huh? Oops!