Markusen: The Yankees’ free agent pitcher trail: Catfish to Cole

From SABR member Bruce Markusen at The Hardball Times on December 18, 2019:

The New York Yankees’ recent signing of prized free agent Gerrit Cole only adds to their fascinating history of pursuing marquee free agent pitchers. It has been a checkered history, fraught with failed dalliances with pitchers who wanted no part of the city (Greg Maddux), flops who couldn’t deal with the stress of New York (Ed Whitson), failures due to career-cutting injuries (Don Gullett), and a number of unquestioned successes (Goose Gossage, Jimmy Key, David Cone, and Mike Mussina).

It’s a long and twisting history, one that can be traced back to the winter that followed the 1974 season. That’s when a Hall of Fame right-hander became the game’s first true free agent, under special and surprising circumstances that ranged from the mysterious to the bizarre.

As the Oakland A’s headed into their third consecutive World Series that fall, a shadow hovered above the franchise, and more specifically team owner Charlie Finley. For reasons that remain nebulous to this day, Finley failed to make a $50,000 life insurance annuity payment on behalf of Jim “Catfish” Hunter, even though it was clearly stipulated in the ace pitcher’s contract. Supposedly, Finley was upset about having to pay an additional $25,000 in taxes, but that amount of money would soon become small in comparison to the kind of money Hunter would make on the open market.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: December 20, 2019. Last Updated: December 20, 2019.