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Yankeeography Focusing on Michael was Long Overdue

By Jed Weisberger ~ May 1st, 2013. Filed under: New York Yankees, YES.

YES Network finally got around to putting together and airing a “Yankeeography’’ featuring Gene Michael.

Perhaps I’m a bit prejudiced about the production, but I think it is one of the best this outstanding series has aired.

“Oh, I was lucky with a lot of those trades that went down,’’ said Michael, 74, who has been the Yankees’ “Super Scout,’’ officially Senior Vice President and Special Advisor presently, since 1966. “Some of those guys made me look good.’’

Like Paul O’Neill, whom he acquired for popular Yankees prospect Roberto Kelly Nov. 3, 1992. O’Neill easily surpassed Kelly in both individual and team accomplishments, during his tenure as Yankees general manager from 1990-95.

“I liked Roberto a lot,’’ Michael said, “but we were very right-handed at the time. We needed a left-handed bat and a player with intangibles. Cincinnati asked about Kelly, and we made what turned out to be a great deal for us.’’

That was just one of many moves – including the rebuilding of the Yankees farm system, that set the tone for the Yankees Dynasty of the late 1990s – and the program finally gives a man who batted .229 in a 973-game big-league career, spent mostly with the Yankees, credit for what he has done.

Insiders have long known this about the man who, as a light-hitting shortstop, perfected the hidden-ball trick, then, as outsiders now realize, to become one of the sharpest talent scouts baseball has ever seen.

These days, you will not only see Michael at meetings with Cashman and others in New York, but also watching Yankees prospects at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  He’ll be totally focused, taking note after note on each player.

“Gotta see the kids, what they’ve got and how they are developing,’’ said Michael, who will get a glimpse of the Yankees’ Class-A prospects when the Charleston RiverDogs visit the Lakewood BlueClaws in a series beginning tonight.

Michael is most-known for being the force behind the trade that brought the Yankees star first baseman Tino Martinez from Seattle between the 1995 and 1996 seasons.  The Yankees received Martinez, Jeff Nelson and Jim Mecir for Sterling Hitchcock and Russ Davis.

The trade wasn’t all that easy to complete, Michael reveals.

“It  was at the time I was stepping down (as GM) and Seattle wanted Andy Pettitte.  It was tough to part with either Pettitte or Hitchcock, who we did trade, And I liked Russ Davis as well, but we had to replace Don Mattingly.

“There were some things about Pettitte, and his determination to be one of the best that set him apart. I wanted the Yankees to keep him, and we did. Hitchcock was in the trade.’’

While both Hitchcock, won 13 games for Seattle in 1996, and Davis hit 20 or more homers in a season as a Mariner a few times, Martinez and Pettitte certainly overshadowed them.

“As I said, I got lucky a few times.’’

And appreciated. When the Boston Red Sox approached the Yankees in 2002 about Michael becoming their general manager, permission was denied.

The man built the Yankees’ 1990s dynasty, and his influence has helped keep the Yankees’ farm system strong. He enjoys watching Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, Slade Haethcott and Jose Ramirez in Trenton. He’ll be taking notes on Charleston’s Gabe Encinas and Dante Bichette Jr. at Lakewood this week.

The Yankeeography was overdue. Michael has done as much to mold the Yankees over the last 30 years as anyone.

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Jed Weisberger


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