Some how Mike Stanley never won a World Series ring. It is nothing short of mind boggling to think of his truly awful timing in terms of winning the big prize.
If you are a casual baseball fan or someone who isn’t as much of a lunatic as I am and are familiar with Mike Stanley, chances are you think of him as a solid Yankee and part of at least ONE of the World Series winning teams.
And you would be wrong.
His name is Robert Michael Stanley. Not sure why he wasn’t Rob Stanley. Bob Stanley was already taken by former Red Sox pitcher Bob Stanley, who had the chance to clinch the 1986 World Series. But this post is about other post season cruelty.
The Fort Lauderdale native played for the University of Florida baseball team. He was hardly a top prospect as he was available in the 16th round of the 1985 draft where the Rangers selected him.
He made the most of the minor leagues, batting .319 with a .837 OPS in 63 games after being drafted, jumping up to AA. In 1986 he hit .327 with an OPS of .920 between AA and AAA, earning a call up to Arlington.
In 1987, his bat continued to clobber AAA pitching and he was in the majors for good at age 24.
Stanley’s minor league success did not translate to stardom in Texas. Injuries and sharing time cut back on his numbers. In 1991 he caught a Nolan Ryan no hitter, the last one of his career.
Before the 1992 season, Stanley signed with the Yankees. Almost nobody took notice of the deal. At the time the Yankees were struggling and Stanley was a reserve. As the Yankees had another losing season in 1992, Stanley hit a career high 8 homers in a reserve role.
But in 1993, the Yankees had a turn around season. They contended deep into September and Mike Stanley was a big reason why. He clubbed 26 homers, more than 3 times his previous career high. He also batted .305 and had an OPS of .923. A generation of Yankee fans were, believe it or not, experiencing their first ever pennant race.
While the Yankees fell short of the Blue Jays for the AL East title, fans embraced Stanley as a hard working slugger and one they could get behind.
The Yankees were the best team in the AL East in 1994 and Mike Stanley was no small part of that. He batted .300 again and his OPS was at .929, slugging 17 homers along the way. The Yankees had the Division locked up and looked to be on a collision course with either the mighty White Sox or the upstart Indians in the ALCS.
The problem was not on the field but off it as the players strike wiped out the post season. The Yankees would have to wait.
Stanley’s power bat was still there in 1995 as he earned his lone All Star berth and the Yankees made the post season for the first time since 1981. Splitting time with Division Series Game 2 hero Jim Leyritz, Stanley homered and batted .313 in the series with the Mariners. But the team, one inning away from advancing, lost on the dramatic double by Edgar Martinez. It was a devastating blow, but the Yankees were a playoff team finally.
But in all the off season moves, the Yankees made one that caught fans off guard. Rockies catcher Joe Girardi was acquired and Mike Stanley was suddenly out of a job.
Stanley would sign with Boston of all teams. I remember being at a game in Yankee Stadium when Stanley came to the plate in 1996 as a Red Sox catcher. The stadium gave their beloved slugger a standing ovation. They knew he wanted to come back.
That October, the Yankees won the World Series and got dramatic hits from their catchers Joe Girardi and Jim Leyritz.
Stanley returned to Boston in 1997 but with the team fading, they made a rare deal with the Yankees. Stanley was returned to the Bronx where they were defending their World Series title. The Red Sox got pitcher Tony Armas Jr., the son of their former centerfielder. Armas would be included in the deal that brought Pedro Martinez to Boston.
Stanley was back in the post season but the Yankees once again fell short in the Division Series, this time to Cleveland.
Once again, the Yankees did not sign him and he went to Toronto. The Red Sox would pick him up midway through 1998 and he would see time in the 1998 and 1999 post season but not make it to the World Series.
In 2000, he was on yet another playoff team, the AL West Champion Oakland A’s. They too would fall in the division series. His career wrapped up in Oakland.
Now think about that for a minute. Stanley helped put the Yankees back on the map. And between 1995 and 2000, the only times they did NOT win the World Series, Stanley was there. How do you be there for the 1994 strike and the losses in 1995 and 1997 and NOT the glory of 1996?
And to top it off, he was in the OPPOSING dugout in 1999 and 2000 watching the Yankees celebrate enroute to piling up multiple titles.
He was a Yankee multiple times, played for Joe Torre, played with Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte and Bernie Williams and somehow walked away from the situation ringless.
FYI, he was later a Red Sox coach but quit after 2002, two years before… oh well you know.