Ed Whitson came to the Yankees with high expectations after finishing the 1984 season with a 14-8 record and a 3.24 ERA. When he came to the Bronx though he struggled right out of the gate going 1-6 with a 6.23 ERA in his first 11 starts in Pinstripes and the fans rained boos down upon him nightly. He did manage to turn his season around finishing 9-2, but the following year he again struggled before he was demoted to the bullpen and eventually traded.
As a result anytime a player, especially pitchers, comes to New York and struggles they are compared to Whitson. This, obviously, has caused some bitterness in Whitson who is said not to sign baseball cards of him appearing in the Yankee pinstripes. So it is rare that we as Yankee fans ever get to hear him speak.
Well I guess this Javier Vazquez situation has gotten so out of hand that Whitson decided to come out of hiding as he recently spoke with ESPNNewYork’s Ian O’Connor about the Bombers.
Here is a quick read:
“It’s like working in an office and your boss comes in and says, ‘You suck,’ after you’ve tried your best,” Whitson said. “Now multiply that by 50,000 bosses, all of them telling you that you suck, and imagine what that feels like.
“You feel like everybody’s against you, and sometimes you just want to quit. But you can’t ever quit.”
Whitson had a terrible first start at Fenway and opened the season at 1-6. He spoke then of receiving hate mail, of fans chasing him out of the Yankee Stadium parking lots, and of verbal abuse so vile he refused to let his wife, Kathleen, attend his home games.
He’d never been comfortable in New York as a visiting player, confining himself to his hotel room before and after games. But Whitson had no idea the fans and the media could lock him in such an unforgiving vise.
“I was in awe of being in Yankee Stadium and the big city,” Whitson said. “Some people can handle it, and some people can’t. … You dream about pitching in Yankee Stadium as a kid, but it can be pretty overwhelming for a guy coming out of a small hometown and smaller media markets. I was so excited, I tried to overthrow everything.”
Here is one particularly bad anecdote that occurred even after the Yankees traded him:
Only it wasn’t over for Whitson in New York, not even close. Before his next scheduled start against the Mets at Shea, the phone rang in his Manhattan hotel room.
“Is this Ed Whitson?” the voice said.
“If you start this game tonight, I’m going to blow your brains out.”
Whitson asked the man to reveal his identity, and the caller repeated the threat before hanging up. The pitcher alerted the Padres, who then contacted the commissioner’s office.
“I had to ride to the ballpark with Bart Giamatti and his security team,” Whitson said. “Stuff like that can tear a guy up.”
As for advice for Vaquez:
“I would tell Vazquez I’ve been there,” Whitson said. “I’d tell him to forget about everything people are saying and just throw the damn ball like you threw it in Atlanta. I’d tell him you can’t make every pitch perfect, because only God himself can do that.”
Thoughts: I actually wonder if these words from Whitson will actually help or hurt the Vazquez and the way he is treated by fans. I still think that Vazquez can and likely will become a productive member of this organization again. Maybe hearing these words from Whitson will force Vazquez to stop worrying about the situation so much and finally settle down. We’ll see.
Follow the link at the top to read O’Conner’s entire article. Also, let us know what you think about the situation by commenting. Is Vazquez doomed to be the next Ed Whitson? If he doesn’t, could Vazquez force fans to finally forget Whitson 25 years later?