Kevin Maas is less of a former Yankee and more of a litmus test for fans and expectations.
It is strange that a player who had a good half of a season still is remembered 27 years after it happened.
But the excitement he gave fans in a bleak season was so unexpected and it ended almost as quickly.
For Yankee fans of a certain age, he represents false fleeting hope. However fleeting hope can be fun.
Maas was not a big prospect. He was a 22nd round pick by the Yankees out of Cal berkeley in 1986. He managed to find his power stroke in the minors and on June 29th, 1990, he made his big league debut with a very bad Yankee team.
For Yankee fans of the early 1990’s, when the team was a non contender, the lineup of that day was a who’s who of forgettable Bombers.
Roberto Kelly, Don Mattingly and Jesse Barfield were all there. So was Mel Hall, Wayne Tolleson and Alvaro Espinoza. Matt Nokes, one of the many catchers to go through town, started. Steve Sax, the man who supplanted Willie Randolph, made an appearance. Lee Guetterman pitched.
Naturally it was a 1-0 loss, one of 95 Yankee losses that year.
Jim Leyritz also played, a connection to the team that would ultimately win the World Series.
On July 4th, George Steinbrenner’s birthday, the Yankees got clobbered by the Royals, 13-6. But in that game, Kevin Maas homered off of Bret Saberhagen. Three days later Maas homered again, this time in a 12 inning win over the Twins. On July 14th, he homered twice. Granted, it was another Yankee loss, but fans were starting to notice.
With the Yankees stumbling to their worst season in a generation, beloved Yankee Don Mattingly struggling through an injury plagued season and future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield dumped to the Angels, there wasn’t much to cheer for in the Bronx.
Ergo, fans hoping to have ANY Yankee pride found themselves clinging to the left handed power swing of the California kid who came out of nowhere. Girls would show up to the game and fling their “Maas Tops” shirts off when he hit a homer.
In just 72 career at bats, he hit 10 homers. That was the fastest pace in history and prompted this Record Breaker card.
He was also the fastest in history to 15 homers with 133 at bats. In just 300 plate appearances, he hit 21 homers and saw his OPS soar to .902. The thought of that left handed power swing in the Bronx for a whole season was too wonderful for Yankee fans to contemplate.
There wasn’t much else to cheer for and he was a feel good story in 1990.
He started 1991 with a bang, hitting homer number 1 in his second at bat of the year. By May 8th, he was batting .300 with an OPS of 1.024 with 6 homers. It looked like 1990 was no fluke.
He slumped through June and then batted under .160 in both July and August. He managed 23 homers for the season, but his numbers were tumbling.
1992, another lost Yankee year, saw Maas go back and forth between the Bronx and Triple A Columbus. By 1993, their first contending season since 1988, Maas was barely a factor, making only 177 plate appearances.
After that, he bounced around several organizations, resurfacing with the Twins at the major league level.
He now works for a financial advisor group in the Silicon Valley, proud of his time as a short lived Yankee legend.
Now whenever a player has a great start for the Yankees, whether it be Shane Spencer or Aaron Judge or anyone else, there are fans who have their guard up.
Is this guy going to be a Derek Jeter or a Kevin Maas? Don’t get your hopes up. They could flame out like Maas.
I think that is unfair. There is something to be said about a player who shows up, shines brightly and moves on.
Nothing wrong with being a Kevin Maas. Enjoy the ride, even if it isn’t a long one.
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