Player: Andre Robertson was chosen in the 4th round of the 1979 draft by the Blue Jays but his contract was sold to the Yankees just 6 months later. It was strange for Toronto to think highly enough of a player to draft him and dismiss him so quickly but that's what happened. Perhaps they were unimpressed with his lack of on base ability as he batted just .216 at single-A Dunedin. By the next year Robertson reached AAA Columbus with the Yankees, a place he would become very familiar with through the years.
Robertson made his major league debut with the Yankees in September of '81 and had five hits in 19 at bats. He made the postseason roster and was hitless in one at bat in the ALCS and was used just once as a pinch runner in the World Series. New York fancied him as their shortstop of the future and had hoped they had found a complement to second baseman Willie Randolph. In fact some scouting reports compared the two do to similarities in size and batting stance. That's where the similarities ended however. Randolph could hit and draw walks and Robertson didn't show the ability to do either. Shuttled back and forth between Columbus and the Big Apple in '82, Robertson hit .220/.270/.314 while playing 27 games at short and 15 at secondbase.
The 1983 season would be the only one in Robertson's career spent entirely in the majors. He started most games at shortstop while filling in at secondbase 28 times for Randolph. He was batting .248 when a horrific car accident changed his life forever. On August 18, Robertson rolled his Buick on an S-turn on the West Side Highway in the early morning hours, breaking his neck and paralyzing his passenger. The accident would hinder his best athletic assest- his defensive range and throwing.
Robertson had just 152 plate appearances in '84 batting a dismal .214. The Yanks tried him as Mike Pagliarulo's platoon partner at thirdbase in the second half of 1985. He was error prone at the hot corner with a .867 fielding percentage in 33 games. Robertson hit like never before batting at a torrid .392 from June 1 to September 4. He finished the year batting .328/.358/.416 in 125 at bats.
By June of 1986 Robertson was out of the Yankees plans and batting .187 at Columbus when he was packaged with Ken Griffey in a trade to the Braves for Caludell Washington and Paul Zuvella. Robertson never made it back to the majors rounding out his pro playing career with stops in the Mariners, A's, and Rangers organizations before calling it quits in 1989.
Flipside: Not a whole lot to say about the back other than Robertson didn't even hit much in the bushes. He retired with a .233 career average in the minors. His hot streak in '85 raised his career MLB mark to .251.
Oddball: "The Scouting Report: 1983" that I often reference raved about Robertson calling him the "crown jewel" of the Yankees system and the "best young infielder in the American League." The problem was Robertson wasn't that young. Turning 25 in '82 he was already older than Alan Trammell. Although, Robertson's car accident and broken neck are often blamed for ruining his promising career, I doubt he would have been a star. Frankly if he was going to be able to hit major league pitching he should have been hitting better than .250 in the minors. Another thing that limited him offensively was his impatience. He walked just eight times in 343 plate appearances. Hackers don't usually last that long unless they are Shawon Dunston.
History: Robertson was a good defender but wasn't able to hit consistently. The Yankees had big hopes for him but his broken neck diminished his skills and hastened the end of his career. A very good article on Robertson's accident and life after baseball can be read here.
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