12/21/2004 7:15 PM ET
Yankees close deal with Womack
Second baseman has played in two World Series
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
|Tony Womack hit a career-high .307 for the Cardinals during the 2004 season. (James A. Finley/AP)
Tony Womack put a new spin on an old adage:
If you can beat 'em, join 'em later on.
"People always say that in order to be a champion, you have to beat the best," Womack said. "But it's one thing to say you beat the Yankees, and another to join an organization with the tradition they have.
"It's an absolute thrill for me," added Womack, formally unveiled Tuesday afternoon as the Yankees' new second baseman.
Three years ago, Womack was a key contributor during the Arizona Diamondbacks' postseason run that ended with a Game 7 World Series win over the Yankees.
His ninth-inning single beat the Cardinals, 2-1, in the decisive Game 5 of the 2001 Division Series, and his RBI double was the centerpiece of the two-run ninth-inning rally that stunned the Yankees, 3-2, in the World Series finale.
So Womack, whose versatility was one of the keys to the 2004 Cardinals' run to the World Series, has had his moments in the limelight.
Still, being officially welcomed into the Yankees family moved to the top of the list.
The club announced that Womack, 35, has signed a two-year contract. The development had generally been known for two weeks, and although no terms were released, Womack's deal has been reported to be for $4 million.
"When it's all over," Womack said, "to look in the family room or trophy room to see that uniform that you wore with pinstripes ... I've had people tell me, 'Well, you finally made it to the big leagues.'"
The 12-year veteran is expected to bring stability to a position the Yankees considered a weak link in their 2004 drive to a seventh consecutive American League East title.
Miguel Cairo, now a free agent, did a stellar job in 122 games last season. However, in the wake of Alfonso Soriano's departure to Texas in the Alex Rodriguez trade, the Yankees entered the season rotating Enrique Wilson and Cairo, who did not take over on a regular basis until midseason.
Womack appeared in 145 games as the Cardinals won 105 games and ran away with the National League Central. He batted a career-high .307, scored 91 runs and stole 26 bases in 31 attempts.
Womack also set personal bests for slugging percentage (.385) and on-base percentage (.349) -- particularly noteworthy since he becomes a leading contender to become the new leadoff hitter atop the Yankees' stacked order.
"I want to improve. I keep busting my butt," Womack said, addressing the work ethic that propelled him to a career season in the 12th year of his career. "I never settle for what I have done. I always try to improve.
"Your average can go up and down. But something that always stays the same is the heart. I still have the drive, the smarts and the energy to compete."
In 2004, manager Joe Torre shuttled numerous options atop the lineup. He now again has a legitimate No. 1 hitter.
"I'm very confident in my abilities, and I have been for a long time," Womack said. "This is no different. I won't let that pressure of being in pinstripes get to me."
All in all, last season was a miraculous one for a player who had undergone reconstructive surgery on his elbow six months prior to Opening Day. Perhaps it doesn't take infielders as long to recover from Tommy John surgery as it does for pitchers, but Womack's quick recovery stunned even medical experts.
"My elbow is truly healthy," said Womack.
He spent Spring Training in the camp of the Boston Red Sox, who were looking at the time for a second baseman to replace Todd Walker. But Boston ended up dealing him to St. Louis in late March.
The Red Sox would later sweep the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, leaving Womack with a split in two Series appearances.
For someone whose career has dripped with irony, Womack easily recognized the latest:
The Cardinals' double-play combination has been divided by the fence running down the center of the fiercest rivalry in sports.
Shortstop Edgar Renteria is in Boston, with Womack on the other side of the bag in New York.
Womack hinted that he may willingly put more logs onto the fire between the teams.
"From the time the World Series was over, [the Cardinals'] focus was on re-signing Edgar," Womack said. "That's where their money focus was. They were spending all their time and energy trying to re-sign him.
"I couldn't take a risk on waiting on that and letting them decide later. So when the Yankees showed interest, it happened quickly. It was a no-brainer."
The Yankees continue to work on completing a complex deal that would land them one of the pitching aces of that '01 Arizona team, Randy Johnson. Now, waiting in the Bronx for the reunion, will be Womack.
"He's a gamer, such as myself," Womack said of the left-hander, "As a position player, all you want is for teammates to be gamers, competitors.
"This guy doesn't give in. You have to beat his brains in, and even then he won't give in. If this deal goes through, people in New York and in the clubhouse will be just amazed by his work ethic."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.