Classic card of the week

Steve Sax, 1989 Diamond King

This is the second artist’s rendering of Steve Sax we have examined around these here parts. Which one is better? Difficult to say. Purely subjective. For me personally, the colorful lines randomly zig-zagging in the background really take this one to another level. Do those lines represent the unique yet aimless nature of our very existence? Prolly. Or, it could have just been like:

Donruss executive: Background’s too white on this Sax.

Diamond King artist: I could put some lines on there, all different colors, going this way and that. I’ll make it look like the background of an 80s grade school picture.

Donruss: This is the 80s. Why are you referencing this current era?

Diamond King artist: I don’t know. I’ll go get my ruler.

However those colorful zig-zaggy lines speak to you, they leave no doubt that Steve Sax was a baseball player.

But what kind of baseball player?

Steve Sax is one of the rare players who made the transition to playing for the New York Yankees without a hitch.

Indeed, the majority of players who were not originally drafted by the Yankees but instead brought to the organization from somewhere else experienced hitches. I think we all remember the time that crop of ’90 free agents and trade acquisitions all simultaneously began wearing their gloves on their feet and wore helicopter beanie hats instead of baseball hats. Quite embarrassing. I don’t know what it is about the bright lights of NYC—especially during the Sax years, when the Stadium was half-filled and there was zero postseason pressure—that made lesser men cave, but the evidence is undeniable. It sort of makes you wonder why the Yankees even bothered bringing in outsiders, and how they were able to compete amidst the complexities of so many hitches. This all begs the question—how did a guy like Sax do it?

He did it by playing well.

Bucky Dent, Mgr, 1990: C’mon in here, Jesse. Have a seat.

Jesse Barfield: Sure, what’s up skip?

Dent: Jesse, you’re pressing out there. I can see it. Ever play in New York before?

Barfield: Well, yeah, last year—

Dent: See that’s the thing. You can’t handle it. It’s obvious. Too many lights, too much media, too many accessible corner shops with cheap vegetables. You got a hitch in your thingamagig.

Barfield: I don’t know what that means.

Dent: Jesse, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to be more like Sax.

Barfield: How so? You want me to play second base and hit five home runs?

Dent: I want you to play well.

Barfield: I am playing well. I have a 127 OPS+ to Sax’s 80.

Dent: You’re talking gibberish. Just get out there and play well, okay? Like Sax.

Sax, a former Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers in 1982, was the most consistent player for the Yankees last season.

Steve Sax, 1989: 158 games played, .387 SLG / .751 OPS / 113 OPS +
Other guy, 1989: 158 games played, .477 SLG / .828 OPS / 133 OPS +

But go ahead, please continue:

If the Yankees can acquire more players with Sax’s skills and attitude, they’ll be on their way to winning again.

I’ve done the math, and I’ve determined that a team constructed entirely of Steve Saxes would hit 40 home runs and win 39 games, but lead the league in attitude. That would be much better than the five World Series titles they have won post-Sax. Because of all the hitches.

Did you know?
The Saxian philosophy of "playing well" has been adopted by several current Major League Baseball players.


Bo said…
Re the Sax/Mattingly comparison - to be fair, they did say "consistent," not "best". Mattingly was always kind of streaky as a player.
mkenny59 said…
Bo, you must have read my mind. On the way to work this morning I was thinking I needed to add something there -- yes, I am a weird person who thinks about Steve Sax posts on the way to work -- because I did not address the "consistency." But then I forgot. You are absolutely correct.

That said, I will take Mattingly's streakiness over Sax's consistency any day. When Donnie caught fire he would do things like hit home runs in eight straight games and the like.