Answer: They all made starts for the New York Yankees last season. No, not during spring training, but in actual regular-season games. In fact, they were three of 14 different pitchers who started games for Joe Torre last season.
That is exactly half the total number of pitchers used by the Yankees in 2005 — everybody from Colter Bean to Kevin Brown — and an astounding 15 of those 28 posted ERAs of 6.00 or above, including five who had double-digit ERAs.
And only two — Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina — started more than 17 times and won more than 10 games.
Does this sound anything at all like the pitching staff of a team that won 95 games and a division title? It certainly doesn’t, as this clearly was the worst-performing staff in the Yankees’ run of division titles that has reached eight in a row.
So it should have surprised nobody that general manager Brian Cashman made upgrading the staff one of his top priorities in the off-season. But at this point, you can only conclude that Cashman didn’t succeed as well as he did in filling needs at leadoff and in center field by signing Johnny Damon.
On the positive side, the injuries and turnover that led to the startling numbers stated above — not to mention a staff ERA of 4.52, ninth in the league — aren’t likely to occur again. Because while they didn’t land any high-priced free agents such as the new Blue Jays pair of A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, the Yankees did add quality depth, particularly in the bullpen.
Kyle Farnsworth replaces the departed Tom “Flash” Gordon, and Octavio Dotel is another intriguing setup possibility in the second half assuming he can bounce back from surgery. Solid veterans Ron Villone and Mike Myers should be upgrades on the left side of the bullpen, which last year had ERAs of 4.91 (Buddy Groom), 6.39 (Wayne Franklin), 7.07 (Mike Stanton), 7.53 (Alan Embree) and 13.50 (Alex Graman) in a combined total of 69 innings.
But two potential problems loom: Farnsworth must prove his surprising decision to pass up closing in Atlanta for setting up Mariano Rivera in New York was the right one. Handling the hyper scrutiny and pressurized atmosphere of the New York market is more demanding than pitching for the Cubs, Tigers or Braves. And here are Gordon’s combined numbers in two similarly outstanding seasons in New York: 159 games, 170.1 innings, 115 hits, 52 walks, 165 strikeouts, 69 holds, six saves, 14-8 record and a 2.38 ERA. Those won’t be easy to match.
And the depth in the middle-innings corps can’t be eroded by injuries that force them into the rotation. One of more unlikely occurrences in the 2005 season was the combination of Small and Shawn Chacon going 17-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 21 starts and 29 games down the stretch after toiling anonymously in Columbus and Colorado, respectively, in the first half. That’s not likely to happen again.
The early health signs aren’t encouraging. Carl Pavano, whose ailing shoulder limited him to four wins in the first year of his four-year, $39.5-million deal, was bothered by back stiffness that limited his early throwing. He says his shoulder feels fine, but he has yet to throw off a mound.
Although this is a staff from which improvement over 2005 can be expected, it also appears to be one that will come up short against better-on-paper staffs in Chicago, Oakland and Los Angeles, and might not even be the best in its own division.
Health is vital, and even then, they still might need more help — especially when owner George Steinbrenner already has stated this will be the season his team ends a five-year world championship drought.
Add another near miss in this 2013 baseball season - this time it was Detroit's Anibal Sanchez falling just short of a no-hitter.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.