Architect of the Yankees dynasty from 1995-2000 has died at the age of 79 after suffering a heart attack. Gene “Stick” Michael was the team’s general manager from 1991-1995.
In an organization that was not known for having patience with young players, Michael had the trust of the late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner was a big believer in winning and winning now and was hesitant to turn the reigns over to young talent like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Michael was able to convince Steinbrenner to hold on to what is considered the “Core Four” that would the Yankees to five championships.
Michael’s influence is on Steinbrenner and the Yankees is one that cannot go unnoticed. He put the breaks on a trade that would’ve sent Mariano Rivera out of the Yankees farm system in 1995 for David Wells that Michael turned down. Michael also had an influence in another deal that would have sent Rivera to Seattle as Steinbrenner and his circle was not ready to go with the young Derek Jeter and the Mariners had given the Yankees a choice between sending either Rivera or Bob Wickman to Seattle for shortstop Felix Fermin.
The Yankees were also considering moving the young Jeter to centerfield because he was having issues defensively at short. Michael noticed something that others in the organization did not and helped Jeter get over his throwing issues from short.
It’s hard to imagine what the fate of the Yankees would have been without Michael. The team most likely would have traded the greatest closer in baseball history for a shortstop that would not have the same impact that Jeter went on to have. Michael had an eye for talent that other general managers and scouts did not have.
Michael’s impact is present on the 2017 Yankees with having a say in guys that play a key role on the team today. Michael saw something in guys like David Robertson who would also help lead the Yankees to a championship in 2009 playing a major role in the bullpen. Whenever he spoke the organization listened.
When talking about Michael, manager Joe Girardi summed up his impact perfectly. “He was such an important part of those championship teams. He did it by sitting and watching with eyes and he just had a great feel for the game. He was a very bright baseball man and we will be missed.”
Michael acquired Girardi in 1996, along with other veterans, to help tighten up the defense behind the plate. Girardi would go on to win three championships with the Yankees before becoming manager in 2008.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter who was the Yankees manager in 1995 and was right in the middle of the youth movement called Michael “the best baseball evaluator” he ever saw. Showalter never had the chance to stick around with the Yankees, but he had a special bond with Michael.
The Yankees will wear black armbands on their left sleeve in honor of Michael’s memory.
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