Yankees’ Juan Soto trade echoes Maris blockbuster that built a dynasty
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Yankees repeat history with Juan Soto
The reaction to Juan Soto deal by the current Yankees manager harkens back to the Yankees’ past crown jewel trade for Maris. On December 11, 1959, Casey Stengel, the skipper, witnessing the Yankees endure a challenging season with an unusual finish just above .500, was thrilled about the opportunity to incorporate a potent bat. This addition came at the perfect moment, aligning with the player’s age-25 season.
He experienced immense joy on the night when George Weiss phoned him at his Glendale, Calif., home, conveying the news that the Yankees had executed a significant player exchange, acquiring Roger Maris. This concluded a fervent period of negotiations between the Yankees and the Kansas City A’s.
Described as “just what the doctor ordered for the home yard,” the left-handed player possessed speed and excelled as a corner outfielder. At 25, he stood on the cusp of entering the prime of his career. The manager expressed his admiration for the player before the player joined the Yankees, stating that he had admired him from a distance for several years. The manager believed that the team and the stadium would suit the player well, anticipating that the player would be a significant addition to the middle of their batting order.
Boone’s Stengel moment
It’s reasonable to assume that Aaron Boone shared a similar elation when Brian Cashman contacted him on a Wednesday evening, informing him that, after several weeks of active discussions, the Yankees had finally orchestrated a substantial player exchange to acquire Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres.
The current Yankees manager had been visibly impressed and enthusiastic when discussing Juan Soto previously. He described Juan Soto as an offensive powerhouse, highlighting his abilities in getting on base and generating power, along with his remarkable achievements at a young age. Boone commended Juan Soto’s durability and his significant role within a championship-winning team. Additionally, he acknowledged Juan Soto’s consistent and dependable offensive performances over the years, emphasizing his status as a great player in the sport.
He appeares almost frantic, and rightfully so. This is precisely the player the Yankees have been yearning for. Juan a potent left-handed batter poised to exploit the short porch at the Stadium, bringing much-needed equilibrium to a predominantly right-handed lineup. With one of the sharpest batting eyes in the game, he adds the crucial element of balance. Moreover, being young, the prime of his career lies ahead.
The historical comparision
In many respects, Maris serves as an ideal archetype for Juan Soto. Although not as accomplished by December 1959 as Soto is through December 2023 — boasting a slash line of .284/.421/.524 for Juan Soto compared to Maris’s .249/.329/.435 — Juan Soto has already secured a World Series victory and been a runner-up for the MVP, while Maris struggled on struggling teams in Cleveland and KC during his age-24 seasons.
Yet, Maris soared to greatness immediately upon joining the Yankees, living up to the expectations set for him when Cleveland signed him out of Fargo, N.D. While Maris is often defined by his 1961 season, his second year as a Yankee when he broke Babe Ruth’s revered home run record in a season-long chase alongside Mickey Mantle, it was 1960 that truly defined him. From the outset, he displayed brilliance, ending the season with 39 home runs and 112 RBIs, securing the MVP in a tight race against Mantle. Additionally, he earned the Gold Glove as a right fielder.
More importantly, by 1959, the Yankees had become stagnant and somewhat stale after nine pennants and seven titles in 11 years, finishing third, 15 ½ games behind the White Sox with a 79-75 record. In 1960, they won 18 more games and should have beaten the Pirates in the World Series. The sole everyday difference between the teams was Maris, who had a profound impact even before his name became forever linked with Ruth.
The Yankees ALSO acquired Babe Ruth just in time for his age-25 season in 1920..
Baseball has evolved into a completely different realm in 2023, that’s undeniable. The A’s had been regarded as the Yankees’ unofficial farm system for a long time and gladly accepted Hank Bauer, Don Larsen, Norm Siebern, and the yet-to-be-marvelous Marv Throneberry when the Yankees offered them. Once the Yankees acquired Maris, they knew there was no way for him to escape. Only time will reveal whether the Juan Soto trade will be a painful loss, especially considering the impending discussions of a nine-figure extension. In many ways, it’s a vastly different landscape.
Nevertheless, the fundamental truth remains unchanged, just as it did 64 years ago: when you introduce the right young player to the right team in the right stadium, you never know how exciting the upcoming summer days can be. The Yankees experienced this as soon as 1959 transitioned into ’60, and now they are hopeful for a similar experience as 2023 gives way to ’24.
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