Ferguson: End of an era for Yankees' retiring stars

Scott Ferguson
9/23/2013 12:28:32 PM
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Around baseball, they are known at the "Core Four", but in New York, amongst Yankee fans, there are truly five homegrown players who were at the centre of an incredible run that saw the "pinstripes" put together a run of 21 straight years of finishing over .500. They appeared in the postseason in 17 of 18 years (excluding this year, of course), winning seven American League pennants and five World Series titles.

The five include Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, "the Greatest Closer" of 'em all Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams, who was the first to retire.

Now by the end of this week, unless the Yanks pull off a miracle and make the postseason, all save for Jeter will be retired. Even Jeter's future as a player is uncertain because of his age (40) and condition of his ankle.

You might think all five of these players would have been high-end first-round draft picks. Except for Jeter, that was in fact not the case.

Bernie Williams was signed as an international free agent out of Puerto Rico in 1985, and went on to join the ranks of great Yankee centre fielders such Joe DiMaggio. In the real June draft in '85, the Yanks chose 28th and last in the first round and took a pitcher named Anthony Balabon who is a mere footnote in history now.

1990 was the Yankees "golden" year in terms of laying the groundwork for their dynasty. That was the year they signed Mariano Rivera as an international free agent out of Panama. Then they procured two incredible late-round draft picks.

Andy Pettitte, the lanky lefty, was chosen 10th in the 22nd round. In that same draft Atlanta chose Chipper Jones No. 1 overall. The Yankees selected outfielder Carl Everett and his "off the wall" personality at number 10. Baltimore grabbed right-hander Mike Mussina (a future Yankee) at number 20, while the Blue Jays selected left-hander Steve Karsay at number 22. Though Karsay didn't do much for the Jays, they were able to use him as part of a package to acquire Rickey Henderson from Oakland in 1993 at the deadline to help cement their second straight World Series victory. Still it was astounding that Pettitte lasted until the 22nd round.

Even later in that 1990 draft, the 24th round to be precise, the Yankees used the 10th pick of that round to take catcher Jorge Posada. Oddly enough in the 23rd round, Houston selected a high school catcher by the name of Jason Varitek. He opted to go to college instead of turning pro, and was drafted two more times, by Minnesota in 1993 and Seattle in '94, before the Mariners ultimately traded him to Boston where he put together the kind of career that should put him in the Hall of Fame.

Jeter was the true first-rounder. He was selected No. 6 overall. Houston chose 3B Phil Nevin who went on to have a solid, if unspectacular career as the No. 1 overall pick. Montreal with the third pick took a lefty by the name of Billy Wallace, and Cincinnati at number 5 took current Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola, who was simply regarded as too good a hitting prospect to pass up. Besides, the Reds had Hall of Famer Barry Larkin at short and he had hit over .300 his previous three seasons and was part of a World Series winner in 1990. But can you imagine how history would have changed if the Expos had chosen Jeter at number 3? It may not be too far a stretch to say that Montreal still might have a team if that had happened.

Whether you love the Yankees or hate them, you've got to admit that these five helped define a dynasty the likes of which may never be seen again.

The Stretch Drive

The Cleveland Indians have the inside track on the second Wild Card slot and maybe even the first. With just six games left, they are just a half-game back of Tampa Bay and a game-and-a-half up on Texas.

The Tribe closes out with two at home to the White Sox starting Tuesday and then winds up the regular season on the road against Minnesota for four games.

The Rays play their final home game tonight against Baltimore, then hit the road for three against the Yankees and three at Rogers Centre this weekend against the Blue Jays.

The Rangers play their final seven at home, with three against Houston and four versus the Angels. The Royals, Yankees and Orioles are still alive, but really don't have a chance.

It would really be something if Cleveland got the first Wild Card, and Terry Francona and got by Tampa or Texas, to face his old team Boston in the ALDS.

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