1979 New York Yankees
From BR Bullpen
| 1979 New York Yankees |
|Major league affiliations|
|Manager(s)||Bob Lemon and Billy Martin|
|Baseball-Reference||1979 New York Yankees|
 1979 New York Yankees / Franchise: New York Yankees / BR Team Page
The 1979 New York Yankees played the 77th season in team history. They finished with a record of 89-71, fourth in the American League Eastern Division, 13.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. New York was managed by Bob Lemon and Billy Martin. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium.
It was a year of turmoil for the Yankees, with the publication before the season of Sparky Lyle's tell-all book, The Bronx Zoo, souring the atmosphere from the get-go. A clubhouse fight between reliever Goose Gossage and back-up catcher Cliff Johnson on April 19th put the Yankees' closer out of action for a good chunk of the season. Johnson was traded away to the Cleveland Indians in retaliation. Manager Bob Lemon, who had righted a turbulent ship in 1978, couldn't keep the team together this year and owner George Steinbrenner forgave former manager Billy Martin all of his trespasses, firing Lemon on June 19th and bringing Billy back ahead of schedule (he had already promised to re-hire him as the team's manager in 1980). Then tragedy struck during a break in the schedule on August 2nd, as team captain Thurman Munson was killed while practicing take-offs and landings with his private plane in Canton, OH. The Yankees had to make do with two very weak catchers for the remainder of the year, Jerry Narron, who hit .171, and Brad Gulden, who hit .163. The problems continued after the season, with Billy Martin being fired after punching a marshmallow salesman in a bar in Minnesota in October.
In spite of this on-going soap opera, the Yankees managed to win 89 games, but that only landed them in fourth place in a strong AL East division. They continued to have a very solid offense, with 1B Chris Chambliss hitting .280 with 18 homers, 3B Graig Nettles contributing another 20 homers and 73 RBIs, RF Reggie Jackson hitting .297 with 29 homers and 89 RBIs, LF Lou Piniella hitting .297 and CF Mickey Rivers .287. DH Jim Spencer belted 23 homers in only 295 at-bats, while his main back-up, Oscar Gamble, added 11 homers and a .389 average in 113 at-bats. On the down side, OF Roy White was at the end of the line with a .215 average, SS Bucky Dent fell back to earth after his late-season heroics in 1978, with a .230 average coupled with both a slugging percentage and and OBP under .300. And as stated previously, the two men who tried to fill Munson's shoes were both awful with the bat.
Pitching wise, Ron Guidry did something unprecedented as he won a second straight ERA title in spite of his ERA rising by over a run over his superlative performance of 1978. He finished the year at 18-8, 2.78. Free agent Tommy John went 21-9, 2.96 and another free agent, Luis Tiant, was 13-8, 3.91. However, behind the three front-line starters, there was little: Catfish Hunter was done, going 2-9, 5.31, and Ed Figueroa was traded in mid-season with a record of 4-6. Jim Beattie who had had an excellent postseason as a rookie the previous year, struggled to go 3-6, 5.21. In the bullpen Gossage pitched only 36 times but recorded 18 saves, while set-up man Ron Davis had a tremendous rookie season, going 14-2, 2.85 with 9 saves. There wasn't much beyond those two however, as the Yankees brought in a number of veterans to shore up the bullpen during the season, including Ray Burris, Jim Kaat and Don Hood, with only the latter contributing anything of value (3-1, 3.07 in 67 1/3 innings). The efforts of Bob Kammeyer must not be forgotten: in his lone appearance, he gave up 8 runs without retiring anyone to put up one of the worst seasonal pitching lines in history.
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