Jeff Nelson’s flat “frisbee” curve devastated right-handed batters. During the New York Yankees run of four championships in five years, Nelson held righties to a .118 batting average while setting up for closer Mariano Rivera. With lefty Mike Stanton and Rivera, Nelson formed one-third of a trio that shut down the opposition late in games and became a major part of the Yankees’ post-season success.
Off the field, Nelson’s outspoken personality emerged. In 1999, while stuck on the DL with an elbow ailment, he alienated his bullpen-mates when he told a reporter, “I don’t think it’s going too well for these guys…as much as I was aching to come back here, they were aching to get me back.” But the big blowup occurred in July of 2000. While pitching exceptionally well in 41 appearances for the Yanks, he became furious when manager Joe Torre failed to name him to the All-Star team. After a shouting match in Torre’s office, he vented his feelings to the New York Post: “If I am not going to get the respect from my manager, I am not going to be a bulldog and suck one up for the team.”
Possibly as a result of the All-Star snub, at the end of the 2000 season Nelson chose to test free agency and signed with the Mariners, with whom he had begun his career in 1992.