February 6, 2023

From Chumps to Champs: Book Review

January 2, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

Chumps to ChampsFrom 1989-1992, the New York Yankees compiled their worst 4-year record (288-357) since 1913.

Yet, they won the 1996 World Series and won 4 of 5 World Series from 1996-2000. From 1996 to 2012, the club played in every post-season but one.

Author Bill Pennington explains how the Yankees made the dramatic transformation in Chumps to Champs.

The Yankees traded away lots of talent in the 1980s and they entered the 1990s with no real plan for the future. Stump Merrill succeeded Bucky Dent as manager in 1990, but he was no match for George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ overbearing owner. At the end of the 1990 season, 14 players were jettisoned and by 1992, 25 of the players on the 1990 squad were no longer on the team.

Buck Showalter was named to succeed Merrill as manager and he teamed up with general manager Gene Michael and other members of the front office to rebuild the Yankees. A key development was the expulsion of Steinbrenner from baseball for two years for his involvement in trying to get dirt on Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield and his foundation.

Since Steinbrenner was prohibited from being involved with the team’s day-to-day operations, he couldn’t meddle in the affairs of the front office. This gave Michael and Showalter freedom to operate as they saw fit.

Due to their poor finishes in the past, the Yankees also received some high draft picks, which they made the most of. The club drafted and developed Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams.

The saga of pitcher Brien Taylor, the Yankees No. 1 draft pick who received a $1.5 million signing bonus, is also covered. Taylor, who had a 95 mph fastball in high school, suffered a should injury in a fight eight days prior to his 22nd birthday. His career was essentially finished and he never pitched in the major leagues.

Steinbrenner, who was always fond of trading away young talent for veteran players, didn’t have the opportunity to do so.

Showalter added players he termed “culture creators” to change the clubhouse attitude.

By 1994, the club appeared playoff bound, but the strike, which canceled the World Series, crushed their hopes. The Yankees made the playoffs in 1995 for the first time 14 years. New York, however, suffered a bitter playoff loss in five games, after winning the first two, to the Seattle Mariners.

Showalter was fired after the 1995 season and the Yankees went on to win the 1996 World Series with Joe Torre as manager. The Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves in six games, winning their first World Series in 18 years.

Perhaps the Yankees couldn’t have reversed their fortune if Steinbrenner hadn’t been kicked out of baseball for two years.

Pennington delivers an interesting account of the transformation. Lengthy interviews with Michael and Showalter, along with interviews of 140 other people, enhance the book. You don’t have to be a die-hard Yankee fan to enjoy this book.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!