Friday, January 12, 2018

An ode to Jeff Nelson

I'll always be a Jeff Nelson fan.

First and foremost, he was an incredibly important bullpen cog during the Yankees title runs from 1996-2000. As we've seen by the free agent market the past few years, good relievers are tough to come by and are getting paid handsomely. Nelson was as solid as they came, and created an incredible set-up tandem with lefty Mike Stanton that served as the bridge to Mariano Rivera.

Second, he came to the Yankees in the Tino Martinez trade, so he'll always have that connection to my favorite player. I'm not quite sure why the Mariners threw in not one but TWO relievers (Jim Mecir being the other) in addition to Tino for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock. Perhaps the prospects were so highly rated that they needed to? Or the M's needed to cut payroll that much? Nelson was just coming off of a season for the M's in which he went 7-3 with a 2.17 ERA in 78 innings. That's valuable!

He was an emotional leader out there, and it's easy to remember his sidearm motion then striking out a guy and doing a fist pump heading into the dugout. He also loved the 'ol fake-to-third-throw-to-first move. It even worked once!
After 2000, Nelson returned to Seattle and once again enjoyed success. However, his time in Pinstripes was not up! In the never ending search for middle-relief help in the mid-2000s, the Yankees once again brought Nelson back, this time trading away the much-hated Armando Benitez, who was never welcomed as a Yankee for obvious reasons dating back to 1998 when he drilled Tino Martinez in the back. So you trade away a hated player and bring back a loved former player? Done deal!

In 2007, Nelson signed a one-day contract with the Yankees and retired as a member of the organization.

I saw him on the subway platform once but didn't speak to him, as I was in the train and I saw him when the doors opened. The card featured at the top of this post is my first and only autograph of Nellie. He has a cool autograph that I hope he signs sidearm!


  1. Nice autograph. I mainly know Nelson from his cameos on the MLB Network but I did at least know that he was also involved in the Yankees dynasty back in the day.

    The Russ Davis & Sterling Hitchcock deal looks nuts in hindsight and I might have to blog about that in the future.

    Also just as nuts is how Benitez was once a Yankee. I'd have never known lol.

  2. I wonder if Benitez is loved by any fanbase. I don't really have a preference, but I seem to remember that he wasn't that adored in San Francisco either.