Will Troy Tulowitzki become the latest aging star to recapture his glory days with the Yankees?
Brian Cashman and Co. rang in the new year in style on Tuesday, inking former Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a one-year deal. Sure, Tulo turns 35 this year, and injuries limited him to just 197 games over his last three seasons in Toronto. But it wasn't too long ago that he was among the most dynamic all-around players in the game -- and, if the Yankees' track record is any indication, he couldn't have ended up in a better spot.
Most chalk up New York's success in the 1990s and 2000s to solid development and repeatedly spending gobs of money, but there's another reason: The Holy Grail is hidden beneath Yankee Stadium, it uses its powers to revitalize aging MLB stars. Don't believe us? Just look at the evidence:
Strawberry was one of the most captivating players of the 80s, a dominant slugger with one of the smoothest swings around -- but at the turn of the decade, his career appeared to have petered out.
From 1992-94, Straw appeared in just 104 games, hitting .210. The Yankees picked him up for cheap in 1995, figuring he might still have some pop in his bat -- and boy were they right:
Strawberry played a key role in New York winning the 1996 World Series (along with another former Met who might qualify for this list), then launched 24 dingers with an .896 OPS for the historically great 1998 team.
In his prime, Chavez was one of the smoothest players in baseball, a rock-solid hitter and sterling third baseman -- basically Matt Chapman before Matt Chapman. He just couldn't shake back injuries, though, and Oakland let him hit free agency after three consecutive years of 33 games or fewer.
The Yankees offered him a Minor League deal prior to the 2011 season, and in 2012, he put together a vintage year: .281/.348/.496 with 16 homers in 113 games -- his highest total since 2006.
OK, so he wasn't the high-flying, fly ball-devouring menace he was in his Atlanta days. Still: Jones came to the Bronx on his last legs at age 34, then proceeded to morph into a fearsome platoon bat, posting an .851 OPS in 77 games -- his highest since 2006.
It looked like it was time for Ichiro to ride off into the sunset: He'd already had a transcendent career, both in Japan and with the Mariners, and in his age-38 season he was on pace for career lows in just about every major offensive category. Then he was traded to New York, where he hit a blistering .322 down the stretch to help the Yankees make the postseason -- and remind everybody that even Old Man Ichiro is wildly entertaining.
Of course, the Yankees haven't just been up to this trick for the last few years. It goes back decades -- specifically to 1958, when Casey Stengel acquired a 42-year-old Slaughter and helped him go from a slumping vet on the verge of retirement to something very close to the .300-hitting menace he'd been in his prime.
No, we're not talking about Soriano's first stint with the Yankees from 1999-2003 -- when he made two All-Star teams, finished top-three in AL MVP voting, joined the 30-30 club (twice) and hit some iconic October homers. We're talking about his second stint -- when the Yankees reacquired him at 2013 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and the 37-year-old proceeded to carry the offense for a solid month.
Boggs wasn't a bad player as he entered free agency for the first time in 1992. But he was 34, coming off of the worst offensive season of his career, and the Red Sox let their franchise icon walk to their hated rival. So, naturally, Boggs responded by partying like it was 1989: He finished 17th in the AL MVP voting and won a Gold Glove to help the Yankees return to the postseason in 1995, and in 1996, he got to take a literal victory lap.
Was Ibanez's one season with the Yankees back in 2012 drastically out of line with his production before and after? No, it wasn't. Will that stop us from finding an excuse to revisit Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS? No, it will not.