Caveat Emptor- Part Two
The Off-Season: Caveat Emptor- Part Two
By Tim Kabel
January 22, 2022
The other day, I wrote my first article in this series, which I am calling Caveat Emptor.
The subject of that article was Steve Kemp. Steve Kemp’s Yankee career was a disappointment for everyone. As I stated in my article on Thursday, it was not his fault. He suffered some major injuries in his first season as a Yankee. The worst one was the line drive to his eye that permanently affected him. He was never the same player again. In the strict sense, the Kemp signing may not fit the adage of Caveat Emptor, because there were no warning signs. Also, Kemp’s precipitous decline as a Yankee was the result of his injuries. However, I look at Caveat Emptor more in the sense of being careful with every purchase or signing, not just the risky ones.
Every free agent signing involves a certain level of chance and uncertainty. Then, there are those impulse buys that are just not a good idea from the outset. For example, if Hafbor Julius Bjornsson, the actor who played the Mountain on Game of Thrones purchased a Mini Cooper, that would be classified as a bad idea. Another example would be the gadgets that we purchase at fairs and festivals. The device that turns an onion into a flower so that you can batter and deep fry it, leaps to mind. Then of course, there are the Boxcar Willie and Slim Whitman record albums, which used to be hawked endlessly on the local TV stations, for some unknown reason. Purchasing one of those might have seemed like a good idea at the time but in retrospect, it probably wasn’t.
The next signing that I wish to discuss falls into the category of being a bad decision right from the start. In 1981, the Yankees lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not only did George Steinbrenner apologize to the fans and engage in purported fisticuffs with California hooligans, but he reached the conclusion that the Yankees were focused too much on power and home runs. The Bronx Bombers suddenly became the Bronx Burners, with an emphasis on speed. They even concentrated on running drills during spring training. As part of this obsession with speed, the Yankee signed Dave Collins, Collins had a very good year for the Cincinnati Reds in 1980, hitting .303 with 79 stolen bases. In 1981, his season was limited to 95 games, and he stole 26 bases, while batting .272. The Yankees signed him to a five-year deal, worth about $750,000 a year.
For those of you who don’t remember, or blinked, Collins did not fulfill his contract. He did not last all five years with the Yankees. He didn’t last four years either. On and on… He was gone after one season. Wait, it gets better. Collins did not have a clearly defined role on the Yankees and played three different positions in his one year as a Yankee. He batted .253 with 13 steals in 21 attempts. The Bronx Burner burned his way right out of town. Bad free agent signings happen every year and no team is immune to them. The fact that Collins was an impulse buy who just didn’t work out is not a cause for shame. When you factor in the length of the contract, it becomes more problematic. It’s what happened afterward that is truly pitiful.
In 1983, the Yankees traded Dave Collins to the Toronto Blue Jays for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd. Tom Dodd had a two-week Major League career with the 1986 Baltimore Orioles and batted.231 with one home run. He had a grand total of three Major League hits. Dale Murray was a fairly ordinary relief pitcher, who pitched for the Yankees for two years. He also bore a striking resemblance to Mr. McFeely, the mailman on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. So, the Yankees traded one of their major free agent acquisitions, who lasted with them for only one season, for a mediocre, journeyman relief pitcher and a fellow who had a grand total of three Major League hits, with another team. Wait, it gets even better.
As if the trade wasn’t lopsided enough, the Yankees also gave up Mike Morgan, who had a Major League career that lasted 25 years and is one of 29 players in baseball history to appear in Major League Baseball games in four decades (1978-2002). He was an All Star in 1991, and a member of the 2001 World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Morgan was not a great pitcher by any stretch of the imagination but, he had a decent career, and he has a World Series ring. So, we can all agree that signing Collins was a bad move that became markedly worse when they traded him and Morgan for not a great return.
But wait, it gets even better yet.!
Apparently, someone decided that Mike Morgan and Dave Collins were not enough for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd. the Yankees threw in someone else. That player was Fred McGriff. McGriff finished his Major League career with 493 home runs, the exact same number as Lou Gehrig. He won a World Series Championship with the Atlanta Braves in 1995. He had 2,490 career hits and 1,550 RBI. His career batting average was .284. He received Hall of Fame consideration and might conceivably get in someday. Imagine Fred McGriff with that left-handed swing playing his career as a New York Yankee. Well, at least we had Dale Murray.
The initial signing of Dave Collins was a bad decision that led to other bad decisions. I’m not implying that Dave Collins was a terrible player, and he apparently speaks highly of his time with the Yankees and praises their organization. Well, why wouldn’t he, based on the contract they gave him? He was not a good fit, and it was not a good idea to sign him. His signing falls solidly into the Caveat Emptor category.
The Yankees would have been better off purchasing a boxcar full of Slim Whitman albums.