No doubt about it. I was upset when the Yankees signed Jason Giambi instead of re-signing Tino after the 2001 season. I didn't care that Giambi was the previous year's MVP, or that he had a sky high-OBP and popped them out of the park at a more than regular rate. (Of course, many can say now that perhaps it was with the help of steroids that Giambi did what he did, and in a bizarre twist, since it doesn't help the Yankees, I can now say, "HA, I told you so.") Coney already left. Tino was my second favorite player. The Yankees can't do that to me. (Hey, I didn't say I was reasonable. I was upset, alright?)
So what is it that made me so attached to this guy, you ask? I'm not gonna lie. Tino is cute. Very cute. Nothing wrong with that, I AM a girl, as hard as it may be to believe sometimes, hehe. But there are other reasons too. Maybe first and foremost, he was the favorite player of my best friend, even before Tino became a Yankee. And my best friend was a big part of why I'm a Yankees fan today. Honestly, before 1998, I hated baseball. I can actually tell you that I didn't even know the Yankees won the 1996 World Series - that's how much attention I paid to baseball, since at the time, basketball was what I cared about. But under some heavy influence - and it didn't hurt that the 1998 Yankees ruled baseball - I became a big time fan.
It also didn't hurt that Tino was a pretty damn good player too - especially during do-or-die situations. I don't remember much about regular season games, but I do remember one in 1998, against the Phillies I think before the All-Star break, when Tino hit a home run to tie the game in the 9th. Time after time - maybe it's not important to some people, but it's made a lasting impression with me.
For me, the next best thing to having Tino signing with the Yankees was for him to sign with the Cards. The Cardinals visited the Bronx for the first time in the regular season ever in 2003, from June 13th to June 15th. It was also Tino's first return to the Bronx since he was not re-signed after 2001. I was in attendance for the June 14th game. (Yes, that was also the date of the NYYFANS forum party!) While the Cardinals got crushed by the Yankees (and I actually saw them win a game at Yankee Stadium for once!), Tino made his presence felt by crushing two home runs to the right field porch, one off Andy Pettitte in his first AB of the game, and one off Jason Anderson in the ninth inning, making him responsible for all four runs that the Cards scored.
The Cards, if nothing else, are dedicated to winning. And their fan base is nothing but supportive of that. Of course, it didn't turn out all to be a smooth ride for Tino, given that he was replacing the legend known as Mark MacGwire. True, he had done an awesome job filling in the shoes of another legend - Don Mattingly - when he came to New York after the 1995 season. That's part of the reason why the NY fanbase loves him. But then again, he was 28 when he came to New York. By the time he went out to St. Louis, he was 34. While he did a respectable job filling in the hot corner for Big Mac, it was unrealistic for fans to expect him to be the home run machine that MacGwire had been. Inevitably, the fans grew restless, and looking for another alternative, sent Tino packing to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for the 2004 season.
The 2004 season was not a bad one for Tino, as his return to the American League helped his offensive stats a bit. And for the first time in its team history, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays actually finished out of the basement of the AL East, finishing 4th with a 70-91 record. Return to Tampa Bay however was not an option, when the D-Rays declined to pick up his option and Tino became a free agent. To the joy of many Yankee fans - myself included - the Yankees decided to give Tino another try for a year. Tino stated that the Yankees will be the last major league team he will ever play for - and I have no problems with that.
Although he gradually faded in the 2005 season after a scorching hot May, where he hit 10 home runs, he remained a fan favorite. As his career concludes, Tino will continue to play a crucial part in baseball as an analyst for ESPN Baseball Tonight. Tino!!! ^_^
*#24 for the New York Yankees has hit a grand slam in every season from 1995-2002,
tying a major league record.*
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