A while back Jason Browning, esq. asked if we would review Pinstripe Defection, a book by Clay McKinney that centers on Jason’s extended legal battle with the New York Yankees representing Senor Gustavo Ricalde (owner of the Yucatan Lions) over a $500,000 bonus owed if a certain Cuban defector made the Yankees 40-man roster. Michel Hernández was the player in question, and made his major league debut on May 11, 1998 and ultimately played five games in Yankee pinstripes. Over three years in the majors, Hernandez only got into forty-five games total. It takes tremendous depth to win the World Series and having role players that can step up and perform when called on can be the difference. The Yankees were willing to play fast-and-loose with the rules in order to secure even marginal prospects, who could one day provide the difference with a key at-bat or strikeout.
Pinstripe Defection does have a fair amount of inside baseball for attorneys (extended discussions of depositions) and baseball scouting (stories from MLB Jorge Oquendo), but our favorite part was how the book transported us back to time the mid-to-late 90s where major league baseball was crazy for Cuban defectors. We had forgot about so many of these players, but when they broke into the majors, it was a big deal. Jason was a huge underdog, being an unknown but capable young attorney from Arkansas, and does his absolute best to hold the Yankees accountable for their shady signing practices in Latin America. We feel for Senor Ricalde whose long dedication to baseball, business, and charity was besmirched by the Yankees and their refusal to comply with the arbitration proceedings. We’d recommend checking out Pinstripe Defection for all Yankee Haters, legal minded individuals, or Latin America scouting wonks.