Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Looking Back: Albert Belle Was Nearly a Yankee

Looking Back: Albert Belle Was Nearly a Yankee

By Mike Silva ~ November 27th, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Yankees, NY Baseball Memories.

There was some reminiscing going on at River Avenue Blues this holiday weekend as they remembered how close Bernie Williams was to becoming a member of the Boston Red Sox after the 1998 season. Of course, we all know the Yankees won 114 games that year and the World Series. It was Williams best year of his career putting up a .997 OPS with 26 homers, 97 RBI and a .339 batting average.

Williams contract squabble with the Yankees started before the season as I remember him threatening to sign with the Mets during the spring of 1998. A month after the World Series it appeared his tenure with the Yankees was over. The Yankees wouldn’t budge from their 5 year $60 million dollar offer. Williams team pointed to the Mike Piazza contract (7 years/$91 million) as the basis of their demands. Meanwhile,  Joe Torre was pushing for the signing of Albert Belle.

A unique clause in Belle’s contract demanded that his current team, the Chicago White Sox, make him one of the three highest paid players in the game. With the explosion of salaries that changed, thus making Belle a free agent just two years after signing in Chicago. It wasn’t a terrible thought by Torre. Belle was the first player to have 50 homers and 50 doubles in a season in 1995 with Cleveland. After a down year (for him) in 1997, Belle rebounded with one of his better seasons hitting 49 homers, driving in 152 runs, and producing an OPS well over 1.000.

In reality Bernie never wanted to leave and at the last minute George Steinbrenner relented, giving Williams a 7 years/$87.5 million dollar deal. Imagine if the Yankees decided to sign Belle and spurn Williams. How would the next few years pan out?

Albert Belle wound up signing a 5 year/$65 million dollar deal with the Orioles. He would have to retire after the 2000 season due to osteoarthritis in his hip, but would remain on the O’s forty man roster for insurance purposes. Over that same period of time Williams average season was 23 homers, 99 RBI, and an OPS of .912. Let’s not forget that Williams manned centerfield, and actually did a decent job defensively. Belle was a corner outfielder and not known for his defensive prowess. There would have been two holes on the Yankees roster to fill.

Belle hit 60 homers in two years in Baltimore. His .882 OPS wasn’t lousy, but most of the production came in 1999. Who knows how his surly personality would have gone over in New York? Perhaps Torre could rein him in, but that’s debatable. It’s possible the Yankees dynasty ends if they swap out Williams for Belle. Not to mention how this would go down as one of Steinbrenner’s biggest free agent busts.

The nineties Yankees led a charmed life. Very few of their decisions backfired. Fortunately, George Steinbrenner stepped in and gave Bernie Williams a last minute offer to stay in pinstripes. If not, the course of Yankees history could very well have changed for the worse.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
Mike Silva
View all posts by Mike Silva
Mikes website

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook

Leave a Reply