Game 147: More Offense Against The O’s

(Abbie Parr/Getty)
(Abbie Parr/Getty)

A fun fact: the Yankees are 6-1 against the Orioles in Yankee Stadium this year. Another fun fact: they’ve scored 80 runs (!) in those seven games. Yet another fun fact: they’ve scored 17 first inning runs in their last three home games against the O’s. The Yankees have had their problems at Camden Yards the last few years. They’ve crushed the O’s in the Bronx though.

Needless to say, another big offensive effort would be appreciated this evening. Blowout wins are always great. Plus, you know, pounding the Orioles and catching a glimpse of Buck Showalter being miserable is always fun. Blowout or not, the Yankees are closing in on a postseason berth — they’re still within striking distance of the AL East title too — so they need as many wins as possible now. The finish line is approaching. Don’t slow down. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. DH Matt Holliday
  9. 1B Greg Bird
    RHP Luis Severino

It is a bit cloudy in New York today, but otherwise it’s a very pleasant evening for a ballgame. Tonight’s game will start shortly after 7pm ET. WPIX will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Aaron Hicks (oblique) played catch and took dry swings, so he’s making progress. Joe Girardi said he expects Hicks to play again before the end of the regular season … Todd Frazier has a stiff back and is out of the lineup as a precaution. He’s available off the bench and will be in the lineup tomorrow.

Red Sox, Yankees fined for sign stealing saga; fines donated to Hurricane Irma relief

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

This afternoon MLB announced both the Yankees and Red Sox have been fined undisclosed amounts for the recent sign stealing saga. As you know, the Yankees recently filed a complaint with the commissioner’s office that the Red Sox were using Apple Watches to steal signs. The Red Sox filed a counter-complaint alleging the Yankees did something similar with YES Network cameras.

Commissioner Rob Manfred’s statement says the Red Sox were fined for using illegal electronic equipment — stealing signs isn’t against the rules! — while the investigation into the Yankees found “insufficient evidence” for sign stealing. However, the investigation uncovered evidence the Yankees used the bullpen phone improperly in previous seasons, so that’s why they were fined. Huh. The fines are being donated to the Hurricane Irma relief efforts. Here’s the full statement, if you’re interested:

“At the outset, it is important to understand that the attempt to decode signs being used by an opposing catcher is not a violation of any Major League Baseball Rule or Regulation.  Major League Baseball Regulations do, however, prohibit the use of electronic equipment during games and state that no such equipment ‘may be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a Club an advantage.’  Despite this clear Regulation, the prevalence of technology, especially the technology used in the replay process, has made it increasingly difficult to monitor appropriate and inappropriate uses of electronic equipment.  Based on the investigation by my office, I have nonetheless concluded that during the 2017 season the Boston Red Sox violated the Regulation quoted above by sending electronic communications from their video replay room to an athletic trainer in the dugout. 

“In assessing the significance of this violation, the investigation established three relevant points.  First, the violation in question occurred without the knowledge of ownership or front office personnel.  Second, when the Red Sox learned of the Yankees’ complaint, they immediately halted the conduct in question and then cooperated completely in my investigation.  I have received absolute assurances from the Red Sox that there will be no future violations of this type.  Third, our investigation revealed that Clubs have employed various strategies to decode signs that do not violate our rules.  The Red Sox’ strategy violated our rules because of the use of an electronic device.

“Taking all of these factors as well as past precedent into account, I have decided to fine the Red Sox an undisclosed amount which in turn will be donated by my office to hurricane relief efforts in Florida.  Moreover, all 30 Clubs have been notified that future violations of this type will be subject to more serious sanctions, including the possible loss of draft picks.

“In the wake of the Yankees’ complaint to the Commissioner’s Office, the Red Sox brought forward allegations that the Yankees had made improper use of the YES Network in an effort to decipher the Red Sox signs.  The Commissioner’s Office also investigated this allegation and the Yankees fully cooperated with the investigation.  During that investigation, we found insufficient evidence to support the allegation that the Yankees had made inappropriate use of the YES Network to gain a competitive advantage.

“In the course of our investigation, however, we learned that during an earlier championship season (prior to 2017) the Yankees had violated a rule governing the use of the dugout phone.  No Club complained about the conduct in question at the time and, without prompting from another Club or my Office, the Yankees halted the conduct in question.  Moreover, the substance of the communications that took place on the dugout phone was not a violation of any Rule or Regulation in and of itself.  Rather, the violation occurred because the dugout phone technically cannot be used for such a communication.

“Based on the foregoing, I have decided to fine the Yankees a lesser undisclosed amount which in turn will be donated by my office to hurricane relief efforts in Florida.”

I figured the Red Sox were going to get a relative slap on the wrist. Moral of the story: don’t snitch.

Guest Post: My Father Was a Baseball Player Down in Jersey

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who goes by Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Miller Huggins, Jerry Kenney, the Copacabana incident, Mark Koenig, Earle Combs, Urban Shocker, and Michael Milosevich.

Snuffy. (Getty)
Snuffy. (Getty)

Residents of the Jersey Shore must have thought it was just another day on September 15, 1958. The weather provided a wonderful, clear mid-September morning for those boarding Central Railroad of New Jersey train #3314 out of Bay Head at 8:28 am. Destined for Communipaw Terminal on the west shore of the Hudson River, hundreds would transfer to a ferry so they could reach jobs in Manhattan. The people on 3314 that morning read of a who’s who of people who would make such a commute. On board was a mayor of a town on the Jersey Shore, a secret courier for the United States Army, an artist, chemical director, a law firm partner, even a four-month-old baby. The train was supposed to make several stops, including Red Bank, New Jersey, where a 39-year old foreign freight agent nearly missed his train for a luncheon in the city.

After passing the Elizabethport station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, train 3314 sped up to approach the drawbridge over Newark Bay. In the blink of an eye, the two front locomotives and two of the coaches in the front of the train spilled off the tracks and into the waters below. Precariously, a third car dangled on the side of the bridge with numerous lives hanging in the balance. No one knew of the foreign freight agent, who had come down with the train into the waters below. This is a story about that 39-year old foreign freight agent.

Destined to be a Yankee

George Henry Stirnweiss was born on October 26, 1918 in Manhattan as the son of Officer Andrew P. Stirnweiss (b. 1899) and Sophie C. Stirnweiss (Daly; b. ~1898). They were also natives of New York City. George Stirnweiss was raised at 865 Van Nest Avenue in the Morris Park section of the Bronx. When he was five, his parents gave birth to a second son, Andrew Stirnweiss, Jr. (1924-2006). Andrew Stirnweiss, Jr. ended up joining the Navy and serving for 28 years as a pilot. Stirnweiss ended up going to the Fordham Prep School (441 East Fordham Road) and was an All-City Athlete for the varsity football team in 1934 and 1935. During this time period, he was a three-sport athlete, showing success in baseball (where he led the team to the city championship) and basketball (where the team went the Bronx-Westchester CHSAA title).

While he attended Fordham Prep, George Stirnweiss ended up applying and going to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Receiving an athletic scholarship, Stirnweiss was the starting quarterback for three years. At UNC, Stirnweiss was the “terror of the grid” known as “Old 92.” According to an article in the St. Louis Sporting News from 1942, Stirnweiss averaged 6.2 yards carrying and in 1942 was the sixth-best punter in the entire nation. His punting statistics average 40.6 yards across the field. He was also playing baseball during this time period and earned the honor of being the captain for the football and baseball teams. (No other Tar Heel had ever done such a thing.) His time in football was so good; the Chicago Cardinals drafted him in the second round of the 1940 draft. They were going to offer him $6,500 to play football. However, Stirnweiss declined this, figuring that his career would go longer if he played baseball, in which he hit .391 in a 16-5 record for the Heels. On a hunch, a scout from the New York Yankees signed Stirnweiss on the day of his graduation so he could play for his favorite team.

His minor league career started higher than many others. The Yankees front office immediately assigned him to the Norfolk Tars of the Class-B Piedmont League. The aforementioned Sporting News article noted that it was at this level of baseball that players took note of Stirnweiss’ insane use of chewing tobacco and “big black cigars.” There he received the nickname that would stick with him, “Snuffy the Bear” (or just “Snuffy”). At Norfolk in 1940, Stirnweiss hit .307 and slugged .510 in 86 games, with 12 homers and 17 doubles.

However, it was the tool of his speed that kept Stirnweiss a popular piece. Early scouting reports put Stirnweiss’ speed as comparable to Joe Gordon (who would be a teammate in a few years).  Many people felt that it was possible that Stirnweiss would end up replacing Gordon on the squad in a few years and that it was inevitable. His playing at Norfolk got him a promotion to AAA Newark to play for the Bears in the International League.

In 1941, Stirnweiss did not knock the socks off the International League. His manager, the Detroit first baseman Johnny Neun, seemed to be the weak point for his .264/.341/.688 batting line in 100 games. He had only managed 21 steals with 5 home runs and 9 doubles in 96 hits. However, his season was cut short when he came down with stomach ulcers on August 15. At that point, the 21-year old Stirnweiss went straight to the hospital and have them removed. It was believed that a collision at the plate with Ed Parsons of the Buffalo Bisons aggravated the problem, which the Bears never knew about. As a result of the ulcers, he had to reduce his use of cigars, but kept his insane chewing tobacco habit. Health issues involving his tobacco habit will come back later to haunt the infielder.

The idea of “destined to be a Yankee” tells you how close he came to never being one. In July 1942, during a season in which he would bat .270/.340/.397 in 144 games for the Bears, Ed Barrow almost traded the infielder to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Thankfully, Barrow and Larry McPhail got into a massive feud during this time and the deal was nixed. During that 1942 season, Stirnweiss demolished the league in several offensive categories, having 66 steals by July and having 103 runs scored and 105 runs batted in by August! Scouts noted though that Stirnweiss would need to be successful to make the majors as his 5-foot-8 inch frame was not going to help him. Stirnweiss would end the 1942 season, stealing 73 bases for Newark.

A Product of His Time

In December 1942, the Yankees decided to promote 8 members of the Newark Bears to bring some new blood into the team. The 1942 team had a lot of aging and retiring stars. Bill Dickey failed to catch 100 games for the first time since 1928. Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing, the aces of the Yankees during the 1930s were about to retire. On top of that, Frank Crosetti was required to serve a 30-day suspension for a run-in with umpires during the 1942 World Series. Red Rolfe retired to coach baseball at Yale University. On top of that, Phil Rizutto and Buddy Hassett were in the military.

As part of the eight-man group called up, the Yankees promoted Stirnweiss, Tommy Byrne, Hank Majeski (a hitting prodigy for the Bears), Bill Johnson, Bud Metheny and Russ Derry to hit for the team. On top of that, the Yankees promoted a new battery, with Milo Candini and Aaron Robinson being promoted as well.  George Weiss made a joke to the media that he may have to play himself given the lack of players.

The 1943 season around baseball had a hell of a crop of rookies that season, not just in New York. The Altoona Tribune noted that there were many new young stars that fans would look forward to. Aside of Stirnweiss and Johnson, the Red Sox had Eddie Lake (not really a rookie, but a good acquisition from the Cardinals to replace Johnny Pesky) along with Louis Lucier, a pitcher under the eye of Herb Pennock; the Tigers had Dick Wakefield; the Indians had future Yankee ace Allie “Superchief” Reynolds; finally, the Philadelphia Athletics and Connie Mack had a brand new infield of Eddie Mayo, Irwin Hall and Frank Skaff. It was one hell of a crop that year.

After a good Spring Training, Joe McCarthy named Stirnweiss the starting shortstop with the Scooter in the Navy. Stirnweiss would also take Rizutto’s place in the lineup, batting 1st as a leadoff speedster for the Yankees. McCarthy loved his speed, but felt he had the hitting ability to take the job. At the same time, Stirnweiss was to come up for the draft in late April and early May. Draft or no draft, Stirnweiss wasted no time proving Joe McCarthy’s comments correct. By April 28, when Stirnweiss was to leave for Hartford, Connecticut about his draft status, he raised his average to .455 in the first month. Just six days prior, Snuffy got his first MLB hit in his debut against Early Wynn and the Washington Senators.

During the early 1943 season, Stirnweiss married his sweetheart, Jayne Powers, a diehard baseball fan. Stirnweiss met Powers during his days in the minors and when he was promoted to the majors in the spring, they tied the knot. Stirnweiss himself was considered a shy man, and Kevin Cook notes in his book Electric October: Seven World Series Games, Six Lives, Five Minutes of Fame That Lasted Forever, that Stirnweiss handed the bat boy at Newark the following note for Jayne:

“Please don’t think of me too forward or rude. If you do please tear this up, but seeing you today I’d enjoy nothing more than meeting you. Again please don’t think me forward if you find it convenient I’d like to call you. George Stirnweiss #2.”

Stirnweiss tried the winter prior to enlist as a naval aviation cadet to serve his country. However, the stomach ulcers his smoking caused in 1941 caused the military to decline him originally. Despite that, Stirnweiss still departed the team on April 28 to take an examination to see if he was eligible. Thanks to some confusion in his status, they moved the place of his testing from Virginia to Hartford, and club officials noted there was doubt Stirnweiss would be accepted this time around. That ended up being the result as Stirnweiss was sent back to the Yankees instead of being drafted.

That said, the 1943 season was one Stirnweiss would rather have forgotten. Despite the early hot hitting, Stirnweiss finished the season with a .219/.333/.288 batting line as the backup to Crosetti and Joe Gordon. A year after stealing 73 bags for the Newark Bears, Snuffy took 11 bags in 20 attempts. He hit only 1 home run and 60 hits in 83 games. He had 47 walks and 25 RBI. At the end of the season, Weiss noted to the media that Stirnweiss likely would stay in a Yankee uniform if Joe Gordon was sent to the military. At the same time, several teams reached out to Weiss for Stirnweiss’ services.

Similar to his early April performance, Stirnweiss did an excellent job making the front office look smart. 1944 came and Joe Gordon was unable to report to the Yankees in Spring Training at Atlantic City. On the other hand, Snuffy lost 10 pounds in the offseason and managed to start playing second base for the MIA Gordon. His United States military 4-F status (unfit for duty), gave him the opportunity to become a star. A star he became. Replacing Joe Gordon at second base and working with Crosetti, he appeared in a career high 154 games. The speed Stirnweiss was known for in Newark returned. In the famous three-team baseball game for charity on June 26, Stirnweiss outclassed the Dodgers and Giants during the exhibition events, such as a 180ft sprint event, where he outraced Johnny Rucker to home plate in just 7.8 seconds.

In a piece to Joe James Custer of the UPI, Stirnweiss stated that he studied every movement of the pitchers helping to his stealing. By July of 1944, he stormed to 21 steals, five ahead of George Case of the Senators. While he was really hush hush about ever beating Ty Cobb’s 1915 record of 96 steals in a season, his speed became a nuisance to many pitchers. An American League pitcher, aggravated about Stirnweiss stealing second and third on back to back pitches, told the infielder: “Okay, Kid, now go ahead and steal home and get the hell off the field, will you please?!” Strangely, there is no record in Retrosheet of where this exactly occurred, because all of his two stolen base games until that point were not consecutive pitches.

Aside of his super legs, that led to a career high (and major league high) 55 steals in 1944, Stirnweiss led the team and the majors in hits, triples and runs scored. The 154 games during the 1944 season gave Stirnweiss the chance to get 205 hits, 16 triples, 35 doubles and a strangely low 43 RBI. He also scored 125 runs for the Yankees. Those numbers were enough to give him third place in the AL batting title race (behind Lou Boudreau and Bob Johnson) in a season where the best players were overseas fighting for their country. Stirnweiss also appeared in all 154 games that season, playing a career high 1,390.1 innings and making only 17 errors, while turning 117 double plays. No Joe Gordon? No problem. That 1944 team ended up finishing six games behind the Browns, but contained the batting champion and the home run champion as Nick Etten hit 22 home runs that season.

Snuffy’s Season

1945 would have to be considered the Year of the Stirnweiss. The year the estate of Col. Jacob Ruppert sold the Yankees to Larry MacPhail, Dan Topping and Del Webb for $8 million, Stirnweiss came in as a part of the group. When the team was sold, newspapers noted his name next to those of Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Spud Chandler, Phil Rizzuto and Charlie Keller. His day had finally come.

1945 wasted no time throwing curveballs at Stirnweiss and his manager Joe McCarthy. After Nick Etten was reclassified by the military as a 1-A draft status, meaning eligible to serve, Stirnweiss was called once again for a physical examination. Along with Etten and Stirnweiss, Oscar Grimes, Tuck Stainback and Johnny Lindell were also called. If Stirnweiss was drafted, McCarthy would replace Stirnweiss with Joe Buzas. Etten and Stirnweiss managed to avoid losing their service duty, but the Yankees lost Lindell to the military.

Military status removed, the Yankees benefited from a second straight successful season from Stirnweiss. Stirnweiss played in 152 games that season, setting a career record in triples with 22 (this also led the league), with a career high of 10 home runs and a league-high 33 stolen bases. While the numbers for Stirnweiss were not as grand as 1944, he was just as useful for a team that finished 81-71, 6.5 games behind the AL winning Tigers. His final line was .309/.385/.476 (a .476 slugging led the majors). Interestingly, Stirnweiss led the majors in total bases and stolen bases in 1945, a feat only accomplished by those with last names of Wagner, Cobb and Klein.

The last game of 1945, Stirnweiss collected 3 hits to knock Tony Cuccinello of the Chicago White Sox to make sure it belonged to him. (Cuccinello finished with a .308). This was the lowest average for a batting title since 1905, when Elmer Flick of the Cleveland Naps hit .306. As a result, the Yankees offered a “George Stirnweiss Day” at Yankee Stadium. There, they presented Stirnweiss with a new automobile, and Joe McCarthy called him “without a doubt, the best player in baseball today.” However, he would finish third in MVP, which ended up going to Eddie Mayo.

The Post-War Years

World War II ended on September 2, 1945. One might argue, so did the prime career of Snuffy Stirnweiss. Stirnweiss did not help his cause entering the 1946 season either. He decided to conduct a holdout for a raise he felt entitled to. As the previous season batting champion, there stood to be a good reason for a raise. Until then, he stayed up north to workout, being spotted at the New York Athletic Club on February 16. The media began to question his future with the Yankees, but Joe McCarthy killed any idea of that on February 26 when the skipper stated that a trade proposed with the Philadelphia Athletics was unlikely to happen. At that point, Phil Rizzuto had returned, severely underweight for baseball purposes. Stirnweiss ended his holdout a couple days later (February 28) and hit the Silver Meteor bound for Florida. Stirnweiss noted that he would sign a 2 year contract for $40,000 once he got to Florida. While details were not announced, his salary of $16,000 in 1945 turned into $20,000 for 1946 and 1947.

Now without a guaranteed starting job at second base, the Yankees had to move Snuffy Stirnweiss to a third position during his time in the majors. Rizzuto returned to play shortstop despite his poor weight, and Joe Gordon also returned to take his position at second base. Instead of demoting Stirnweiss back to a utility role such as he was in 1943, Crosetti and Oscar Grimes were put back in that position. Unfortunately, the decline of the Stirnweiss was on in 1946. Appearing 129 games that season, he only hit .251/.340/.318, a massive drop over his 1944 and 1945 seasons. His speed vanished; just 18 steals in 24 tries (remember Stirnweiss was only 27 at this point).

Despite the great McCarthy resigning in May 1946 and the team being rather lackluster for one that had a winning record, Stirnweiss’ quality moment was appearing as a reserve in his first ever MLB All-Star Game. The Sporting News noted that Stirnweiss probably would have made the 1945 game as a starting player had the game occurred. Teammate Charlie Keller went deep that day along with Teddy Ballgame in a 12-0 blowout over the National League.

However, the man destined to be a Yankee got another chance in 1947. Dissuaded by the resignation of McCarthy and poor results, Joe Gordon was trade bait for Larry MacPhail. At that point, MacPhail talked to Joe DiMaggio about trading Gordon for one of the members of the Cleveland Indians’ pitching staff. After Joe D. agreed, MacPhail traded the second baseman to the Indians for the future ace, Allie “Superchief” Reynolds. This trade opened up second base for Stirnweiss once again.

Now labeled by some in the media as a “War Product”, Stirnweiss took the chance to become a star once again in 1947. However, the magic could not return as Stirnweiss’ numbers continued to collapse. Snuffy played in 148 games as only a second baseman. However, he only got 146 hits and stole all of 5 bases in a .256/.358/.342 batting line. However, the Bucky Harris-led team managed to reach the World Series after three years of mediocrity. Stirnweiss took home his second ring with a .259/.429/.333 batting line in 27 at bats. He played in all 7 games. This would be his most post-season experience. He only played in 1 game and got 1 appearance in the 1943 World Series.

1948 was not much of an improvement for Stirnweiss. That season, the sapped speedster participated in 141 games as the second baseman for Bucky Harris. He replicated most of the 1947 stats except in one area, which for a time was a record. His defense never fell down and working with Phil Rizzuto turned a lot of double plays. Stirnweiss managed to set records for the best fielding percentage for a second-baseman (.9930) and the fewest errors at second base (5). These records held until 1964 and 1988 and were probably the last thing that the great War Man ever did. Rizzuto finished the 1948 season with a .252/.360/.336 batting line, in line with his averages post-1945. His speed was still MIA (with only 5 steals in 9 attempts after 5 in 8 the previous season). It was a fall from grace from the man who had won a batting title three years before. To add insult to injury, Stirnweiss hurt himself on October 22 in North Dakota, pulling a leg tendon during a Birdie Tebbett’s Baseball All-Stars appearance.

Coming into the 1949 season, baseball writers were baffled to what happened to Stirnweiss. They were wondering what contributed to a bad 1948 season, and it seemed to lean on Rizzuto and Stirnweiss having awful numbers. General belief is that Stirnweiss came into the 1948 season severely overweight (if you call 188 pounds overweight). He lost weight coming into Spring Training of 1949 and the hope was that he would get back to his speedy self. Injuries also got to Stirnweiss in 1949. Stirnweiss was named the starter at second base for the third straight season post-Joe Gordon’s trade. However, on Opening Day, he was spiked in the hand, and the position was handed to a rookie, Jerry Coleman. Reduced to an utility infielder, Stirnweiss’ game was further reduced, slashing a .261/.380/.338 line in 70 games. The stolen base total dropped to 3 and signaled the end of any hope for his speed to return. He did get his third ring as he barely appeared in the 1949 World Series at all.

The End

Humorously, before the 1950 season began, Stirnweiss was photographed by the media catching and bagging a 175-pound spikehorn buck at the Crocker Turn Camps up in Maine. In January, he was spotted giving young fans advice at a charity event in the Spring Lake, New Jersey American Legion post. That night, the boys, all of which suffered from polio got to meet Stirnweiss personally and he signed many items for them.

At the same time, the media did ask Stirnweiss what he felt about being the subject of numerous trade talks during the 1949-1950 offseason. He felt like he was going to be a Yankee through 1950, but knew that being traded was possible. Stirnweiss spent his time as a Yankee in 1950 as a pine-rider, appearing in 7 games and getting 2 at bats. No hits, no stolen bases, no nothing for a man who had won the batting title just five seasons prior. On June 15, the trade deadline at the time, speculation became reality. The Yankees traded Stirnweiss to the St. Louis Browns for 35-year old Mike Ferrick along with pitchers Sid Schacht, Joe Ostrowski and infielder Leo Thomas. The Browns also acquired outfielder Jim Delsing along with pitchers Don Johnson and Duane Pillette. Coleman and a kid known as Billy Martin made Stirnweiss expendable.

Zack Taylor, the manager of the Browns stated that Stirnweiss would go from second base to third base immediately. With rookie Owen Friend installed at second base in his age 23 season, there was no reason to keep Stirnweiss at the position. Going to St. Louis jump-started Stirnweiss’s bat a little during the 1950 season, but the numbers only came out to a .218/.324/.288 pace. The speed was still missing, as he stole three bases in six opportunities for the Brownies. In typical baseball justice, Stirnweiss got a game-winning hit in July against his old team, beating them 3-2, scoring Sherman Lollar.

The next April, the Browns decided Stirnweiss himself was expendable, sending him to the Cleveland Indians in a deal in April 1951. Like in New York, they felt a kid would accomplish more than Stirnweiss, replacing the veteran with Bob Young. Al Lopez, the manager of the Indians felt that Stirnweiss should be nothing more than an injury replacement, feeling Ray Boone was more than capable of performing over the legless Stirnweiss. That season, Stirnweiss appeared in 50 games for the Indians, notching one steal in one try, hitting .216/.363/.261 as a utility infielder.

Ironically, as the 1952 season began, Tony Cuccinello and Snuffy Stirnweiss became teammates on the Indians. The man Stirnweiss beat for the 1945 batting title was now his teammate. While the media made hype of this, there never was a future repeat. The Indians let Stirnweiss appear in one game and released him. He finished the season at Indianapolis in the American Association, batting .238/.390/.375 in 97 games. He stole all of three bases in Indy and was released by the organization after 1952.

After taking 1953 off, the Phillies hired Stirnweiss to manage the Schenectady Blue Jays, their Eastern League affiliate. Despite being manager, he did play in seven games that season as a player/manager. However, by then, his playing days were over. The Phillies reassigned him to a roving batting instructor during the 1954 season. In 1955, the Yankees offered him a position as the manager of the Triples, the Binghamton affiliate. After one season, he left and hoped to become the manager of the Richmond Virginians. However, the spot went to the former Yankee ace Eddie Lopat. After that, Stirnweiss decided leaving baseball was best.

The Champ is Gone

With an ever growing family of six, George Stirnweiss felt after losing out of the 1956 Virginians job that things would be better if he stayed home with Jayne and kids. He got a position as the manager of the sandlot baseball program for the New York Journal-American, a job that he retained the rest of his life after accepting in April 1956. Later that year, Stirnweiss became the solicitor of new accounts at the Federation Bank and Trust Company of New York based in Columbus Circle.

However, the years of chewing tobacco and cigar smoking caught up to the 38-year-old Stirnweiss. On June 24, 1957, the former infielder ended up in Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan with what appeared to be a heart attack. While Stirnweiss denied this, the doctors told the NYPD that it was one. He was noted in satisfactory condition and eventually released. However, afterwards, he departed the banking company and became a “foreign freight agent” for Caldwell and Company, also based in Manhattan.

Now working at 50 Broad Street in Manhattan, Stirnweiss was a regular commuter by train from his home in Red Bank, New Jersey. On the morning of Monday, September 15, 1958, Stirnweiss had a luncheon with executives in Manhattan to make. Feeling like it was important to leave early, Stirnweiss left to catch the 9:16 am train out of Red Bank station on the CNJ New York and Long Branch Railroad line (today’s North Jersey Coast Line). In a form of unfortunate justice, Stirnweiss almost missed the train when rushing for the station from his house on 140 Maple Street.

Sitting in one of the front cars of the train, Stirnweiss joined Mayor of Shrewsbury Township John Hawkins, also a stockbroker (who had $250,000 in negotiable securities on his person at the time); Howard Huntington (age 54) of Neptune, a statistician for The New York Times’ financial news department; Elton Clark (age 72) of Mantoloking, a director for Allied Dye and Chemical Company; James Clark (age 30) of Red Bank, an art director for a New York studio and John J. McDonnell (age 38), an attorney from Spring Lake among others on a train heading for Communipaw Terminal on the side of the Hudson River.

The train, run by diesel engines and with at the time, five modern passenger cars, left Elizabethport station as scheduled at 9:57 am on its way to cross Newark Bay for the 8th Street station in Bayonne at 10:03. However, when Lloyd Wilburn (age 63), the engineer, had a heart attack mid-commute, the train blew threw three stop signals because of a drawbridge opening. At 10:02, the locomotive fell off the tracks into the waters of Newark Bay alone, taking the front two cars with it, holding Stirnweiss and the aforementioned people. A third passenger car hung perilously from the bridge, in a picture seen forever in newspapers and newsreels around the country. It also eventually fell into the waters below. Cranes were called in to raise the sunken locomotive and its coaches. It was discovered later that the locomotive did not contain a dead-man’s switch, which would prevent such an incident.

It was a long night for Jayne Stirnweiss, who was in a panic when she did not hear from her husband that night. She called his two jobs: Caldwell and Company and the sandlot program, and was unable to get a hold of him. Jayne waited and waited for her husband to walk through the door or call her back. He never did. Panic that he was gone came when he never made the luncheon of which he was scheduled to make. With every passing minute, it seemed likely that Stirnweiss died in the waters of Newark Bay. Jane Stirnweiss tried the best she could to explain to the couple’s six children that their father was going to come home. However, his body was pulled up with 13 others in one of the cars on Monday night and identified. George H. Stirnweiss was dead at the age of 39. The last person to see him alive was the Red Bank station agent, who saw him board a front car.

On September 19, a funeral was held in Red Bank for the former Yankee. St. James Catholic Church was overflowed with grieving family, friends and fans. Major Joseph F. Sheehan, the chaplain at Fort Slocum in New York sung a requiem high mass. Sheehan and Stirnweiss were good friends before his death. Joe Collins, Phil Rizzuto, Jerry Coleman, Hank Borowy, Buddy Hassett, Allie Clark and Babe Young were the honorary pallbearers for Stirnweiss’ casket. Also attending the funeral was Jack Farrell of the New York Yankee front office and a former teammate at Fordham Prep, Alex Wojciechowicz. More Yankees, including current members, wanted to attend, but could not due to baseball.

Stirnweiss was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Middletown, New Jersey. 35 years after the passing of her husband, Jayne Powers Stirnweiss, the diehard baseball fan who Stirnweiss fell in love with in Newark, died at the age of 71.

The Orphan

It would not be fair to end this piece on a heartbreaking note. Thankfully, the Stirnweiss story has an epilogue. In 1947, the Yankees infielder visited the St. Michael’s Orphanage in Hopewell, New Jersey. He exchanged stories and questions with the kids at the orphanage. That afternoon, a seven-year old kid, Gerard Peter Gonforone, was really inspired by Stirnweiss. In the orphanage since age four, Gonforone became an immediate friend to the Stirnweisses. Living in Lincroft, New Jersey at the time, George and Jayne let Gerard and another girl come visit them on a regular basis.

While having lived in different locations since 1947, from Red Bank to Shrewsbury, young Gerard became a constant presence in the Stirnweiss home. Jayne Stirnweiss noted that he would watch her cook and always was quiet when visiting, an experience he could never have at the orphanage. When the kid was 12, he was fascinated in how Mrs. Stirnweiss would put ice cubes in a glass of Coca-Cola. While his visits from the orphanage dropped as the Stirnweiss family grew, his connection never died. Every Christmas, despite being older than his own boys, Gerard would get Christmas gifts every year. Before Snuffy’s death, the patriarch had begun legal adoption papers to bring young Gerard Gonforone into his family for good. Unfortunately, those plans fell into Newark Bay with Snuffy.

At age 18, Gerard Gonforone severed ties with St. Michael’s Orphanage, the place he called home since age 4. In 1968 at the age of 28, Gonforone and the widow Stirnweiss, having since married Thomas Athans of Lakewood went to the Monmouth County Probate Court and had the adoption made semi-official under the changing of his last name to Stirnweiss. Gerard Stirnweiss was now a post office worker, living on his own in Sea Bright, but Jayne noted that he would be part of the family forever and that “George would be proud of what he’s done.” Gerard Stirnweiss is still alive as of this writing, along with an adopted brother, Edward.

Snuffy Stirnweiss may have been the forgotten champion. He won a batting title in 1945 that everyone has forgotten about because it was “The War Years.” However, his impact on fans around the New York City area was entrenched forever. His charitable events, numbered in the dozens, made him someone to be considered a hero. Gerard Stirnweiss saw him as a hero and took on his adopted father’s name.

The Yankees need Aroldis Chapman closing down the stretch

(Steven Ryan/Getty)
(Steven Ryan/Getty)

Aroldis Chapman improbably pitched poorly enough this season to lose the closer job, but that doesn’t lessen his importance to the team.

His August was pretty dreadful as he allowed 14 baserunners and eight runs (three home runs) in eight innings, proving unreliable and forcing Joe Girardi to take him out of the closer’s role.

But after getting six days off after taking a loss on Aug. 25 vs. the Mariners, Chapman came back with a return to form starting with a low leverage outing against Boston on Sept. 1.

And now he’s back where he needs to be for the Yankees to be successful. You definitely don’t have to like Chapman, but he’s still essential to the Yankees’ postseason chances. While David Robertson and Dellin Betances can capably close, the team needs Chapman as their ninth inning man. Here’s why:

1. The contract: Let’s get this reason out of the way. In terms of the 2017 team, his contract is irrelevant. He’s a sunk cost and Girardi should go to his best relievers without worrying about the future.

But you can’t ignore the $68.8 million he’s owed after this season. With the Yankees aiming to get under the luxury tax, they need their top earners to play at a high level. Before Betances receives a raise via arbitration this winter, the Yankees will have $33.3 million tied up in their top three relievers.

They’ll have at least two openings in their rotation and trading either Robertson or Betances to both save money and fill a rotation spot would make some sense, although it’d be painful to trade one of those fan favorites. However, the front office can’t feel comfortable making that type of deal if Chapman continues to pitch like he did in August.

2. Weaponize the bullpen: Beyond Chapman’s contract, the return of something approximating his 2016 form would make the Yankees a deadly force this postseason.

Picture it: You can turn to Luis Severino in the Wild Card Game and feel comfortable going to the bullpen as early as the third or fourth inning, not that he would. Even without Adam Warren, Girardi can use Chad Green and get innings out of Robertson, Betances and Chapman in any one game, turning any early lead into wins with his cadre of relievers.

And with Severino teaming with Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka, the team has the ability to get relatively deep into games. That means Robertson and Betances can work as firemen and clear the way for Chapman. That’s certainly what Brian Cashman was dreaming up after the trade deadline. It just hasn’t worked out in the last 1.5 months because Chapman and now Betances have had rough patches.

How Chapman performs also could affect how Chad Green is used in the playoffs. He could be a caddy for the No. 4 starter, but he’s probably best used in the same way they’ve used him recently, taking early high leverage situations and then reeling off multiple innings. Warren can do this, too, but with him out, Green is the go-to first reliever out of the pen for any short outing.

If Chapman is August Chapman, that’s irrelevant. The Yankees then likely need Green as a late inning reliever, even with Tommy Kahnle in the pen, and Chasen Shreve could be the one coming in early this October. That’s not ideal.

Green (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Green (Patrick Smith/Getty)

3. Roster flexibility: Chapman in top form also enables the Yankees to carry more position players in a postseason series. Right now, the team appears set to go with 14 position players and 11 pitchers, adding Jordan Montgomery or someone like him as the long man in addition to all the names mentioned above. If Warren is out, then Shreve or Garcia could find their way onto the roster.

With Chapman pitching like he has this September (5.1 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 10 K), the team can worry less about the last reliever on the roster and instead add a pinch runner like Tyler Wade or extra hitter in Tyler Austin, if not both.

The Bombers didn’t maintain much roster flexibility this season, often going with eight relievers. They should buck that trend for a series (Wild Card Game is a different animal), but you may need that 12th pitcher if one of your key cogs is unreliable, thus moving everyone up an inning.

4. Betances and Robertson as dual Andrew Millers: As they’ve proven plenty of times, both Betances and Robertson can close. It gets a little dicey at times with Betances and his 16.9 percent walk rate, but he tends to get the job done, recently outings notwithstanding.

This kind of piggybacks on point No. 2, but can you imagine how these two can be used if one isn’t tied to the ninth inning? Sure, it could end up being a traditional 7-8-9 of Robertson-Betances-Chapman, but Girardi has shown glimpses of a willingness to use his relievers more like Terry Francona has deployed his bullpen.

Take Monday and Wednesday for example: With his pitchers one out from a win, Girardi instead turned to two of his best relievers — Robertson and Green, respectively — to face Evan Longoria in a key situation. That’s not something we’ve seen all too often from Girardi and it’s a welcome sign.

The September roster expansion helped enable him to do that, but Chapman’s resurgence does as well. He’d do the Green move again for sure, but I feel Robertson would have been tied into later innings in a 5-1 game on Monday if Betances is the only other top reliever he trusts at the end.

While there won’t be an expanded roster in October, there will be enough off days to keep nearly everyone fresh. And that leaves Girardi to throw Robertson or Betances into any situation on any night. A flamethrowing and effective Chapman allows him to not worry about who he has left at the end. It also means he can pull either of his firemen if they’re ineffective as he did on Wednesday. Betances’ control problems are, therefore, less of a concern.

It’s tough to say which Chapman we’ll see next outing, let alone next month. Up until this April, he constituted just about the safest bet of any reliever, but that’s been thrown into question with his 3.71 ERA, multiple blown saves and lesser heat.

But if he continues to look more or less like a reliable reliever for the stretch run, even if he isn’t dominating quite the same, it’s worth keeping him in the closer role. And yes, you could go without a closer entirely, using any reliever in any situation, but the Yankees remain unlikely to eschew that tradition entirely. Assuming they don’t, Chapman is the man they need in the job if they’re going to make a run at a 28th title this fall.

Mailbag: Game 162, Warren, Michael, Headley, Avila, Judge

Got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week. Send your questions to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll get to as many as I can each week.

(Elsa/Getty)
Sevy. (Elsa/Getty)

Bill asks: Say game 162 the yanks have clinched a spot in the WC game but haven’t cliched home field and can’t win the division. Your option is Severino in 162 and then Gray/Tanaka in the WC or Monty in 162 and Sevy in WC game which would the Yanks do?

Man, that’s tough. The Yankees are a better team at home than on the road, but are they so much better that it makes up for the difference between Luis Severino and either Sonny Gray or Masahiro Tanaka? Gray and Tanaka are awesome! But they’re not Severino right now. Here are the home-road splits heading into last night’s game:

W-L Run. Diff Runs Scored per Game Runs Allowed per Game
at Home 40-27 +87 5.42 4.12
on Road 38-39 +68 5.10 4.22

Ignore the win-loss record for a second. The difference between the Yankees at home and the Yankees on the road is basically one extra run scored every three games. That’s the big picture way of looking at things. In an individual game, one fly ball into the short porch can change everything. The Yankees are built for Yankee Stadium — their starters get ground balls, their relievers miss bats, and their hitters sock dingers — and you’d like to have that advantage in the Wild Card Game.

At the same time, you have to put your best foot forward in that Wild Card Game, and Severino gives you the best chance to win. And hey, who’s to say the Yankees wouldn’t win Game 162 behind Jordan Montgomery? They’re playing the Blue Jays that day and the Blue Jays stink. They figure to have one foot in the batter’s box and one foot on the plane home for the offseason that afternoon.

Also, shouldn’t the wildcard opponent matter to some degree? If the Angels leap over the Twins in the standings, does anyone want the Yankees traveling all the way out to Anaheim for the wildcard game? That would bite. A trip to Minnesota wouldn’t be too bad. And there’s also the home gate factor to consider. Playing a postseason game at home equals millions in revenue. There’s no guarantee Severino will win the Wild Card Game, but playing that game at home guarantees straight cash, homey.

I’m not sure there’s a right answer here. There’s a good argument for both sides. I think I’d roll with Montgomery in Game 162 and make sure Severino is lined up for the winner-take-all Wild Card Game. I wouldn’t be uncomfortable with Gray or Tanaka in the Wild Card Game, but Severino gives you a better chance to win, and that game is a must-win. I think the Yankees would start Severino in Game 162 and go with Gray or Tanaka in the wildcard game though. I think they’d much rather be at home for that game.

Many asked: Why did the Yankees put Adam Warren on the 10-day DL? What’s the benefit with rosters expanded in September?

There is no benefit other than allowing the Yankees to bring a player back from the minors before his ten days are up, though they didn’t do that in Warren’s case. The Yankees put Mark Teixeira on the disabled list in September 2015 and didn’t call anyone up, before they knew his bone bruise was a season-ending fracture, and Brian Cashman said at the time it was essentially an administrative move. It logs it as an official injury with the league office and that’s about it. It’s a nothing move, assuming you know for the sure player won’t be back in fewer than ten days. In Warren’s case, he’s going to be shut down for at least two weeks, so that’s no problem.

Lou asks: What are your thoughts of some Monument Park honor for Gene Michael? As a builder of the 1990s dynasty, he is as much deserving as some of the recent additions and retired numbers.

Yes, absolutely, and it probably should’ve happened already. I think Stick is absolutely deserving of a plaque given everything he’s done with the Yankees. His front office accomplishments obviously headline things, though he also played and coached and managed. And scouted too. Michael was not the general manager when the Yankees won all those World Series in the late-1990s, though he helped build the core of the roster, and when you build a dynasty, you deserve to be recognized. Stick should’ve had a plaque a while ago, I believe.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Head. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Dan asks: Looking at next year, is it better to keep Headley as a 3B/1B option or trade him while his value is high?

Eh, as good as Chase Headley has been the last three months or so, I’m not sure his trade value is all that high. He’s a corner bat with limited power and a pricey (though not outrageously so) contract. Even if the Yankees pay it down so that Headley is, say, an $8M player next year, I don’t know how many bites they’ll get. Teams are probably going to look for someone better in the offseason. I think the Yankees would unload Headley in the heartbeat this winter if the opportunity presented itself. Keeping him wouldn’t be the end of the world. He’d be insurance for the kids (Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar) at third and insurance for Greg Bird at first base.

Salvatore asks: Hello, 2 part question here. First part, do you think the Yankees chose to use Betances to close over Robertson as a way to increase value to possibly trade him during the offseason, by considering him a closer to jack up the price? Part 2, what do you think of possibly trading Dellin to a team in need of a closer (ex. Nationals, maybe Rangers) for multiple top prospects and in turn flipping those prospects with Yankees prospects for an Ace (Carlos Martinez, Chris Archer)

The first answer: No. I think Joe Girardi used Dellin Betances to close because at times like this, he’s always moved his relievers up one spot in the pecking order. Betances was the eighth inning guy, so he moved up to the ninth inning. That’s pretty much all there is to it. These days teams know better than to evaluate relievers through saves. At least the smart teams. I don’t think a handful of saves will change anything regarding trade value.

The second answer: I’m not opposed to trading anyone for the right package, whether it’s prospects or MLB players. I’m not sure how realistic getting Martinez (pretty much untouchable) or Archer (intra-division trade) is, but someone like that would obviously be a fine addition. The emergence of Chad Green and the return of David Robertson makes it easier to part with Betances, though I don’t think the Yankees would’ve have any trouble trading him even without those two guys. As long as they got quality pieces in return. The same is true now.

Douglas asks (short version): Is it just me or is Alex Avila potentially a good fit for next year’s roster? He’s a lefty swinger in a line-up that looks to be loaded with righties (Judge, Sanchez, Andujar, Torres, Castro), gets on-base at a decent clip (.389 OBP combined between Detroit and the Cubs this season, .351 for his career), potentially could fill in at first if Bird goes down for an extended period again.

The upcoming free agent class is pretty thin on catchers — when isn’t it? — so Avila is probably the best available backstop. Either him or Jonathan Lucroy, if you believe Lucroy can go back to being good at some point. (He’s been brutal this season.) Avila went into last night’s game hitting .270/.387/.464 (127 wRC+) with 14 home runs this season, making it by far his best offensive effort since his breakout 2011 season. He was one of those fly ball revolution guys earlier this year, though his fly ball rate has tailed off as the season has progressed:

alex-avila-fly-ballsDefensively, Avila grades out as an average thrower and blocker, and below-average pitch-framer. Even if you think he’ll revert back to the hitter he was from 2013-16 (95 wRC+), an average-ish all-around catcher makes for a good backup. Austin Romine seems like a good dude, but I have no idea what he brings to the table. Doesn’t hit, can’t throw, pitch-framing stats don’t like him. There’s more to life than blocking balls in the dirt.

The problem with Avila, and I think the problem the Yankees might have looking for a backup catcher the next ten years, is that he’s probably not going to want to sit behind Gary Sanchez. Who would? You’re not going to get much playing time as Sanchez’s backup. Avila’s been plenty good enough this season that he figures to find a starting job, or at least a platoon job somewhere this offseason. Yes, it makes sense to go after him, but this seems like an “Avila is a good fit for the Yankees but the Yankees are not a good fit for Avila” situation.

Paul asks: Chad Green and Dellin are both on pace for 100k from the bullpen. Has that ever been done before from 1 team?

Going into last night’s game Green had 99 strikeouts (42.1 K%) and Betances had 97 strikeouts (40.1 K%), so they should clear the century mark by the end of the Orioles series. Tommy Kahnle (86 strikeouts) and Robertson (84 strikeouts) both have a chance to get to 100 strikeouts as well, though most of theirs came with the White Sox. Anyway, here’s the full list of teams with two 100+ strikeout relievers:

  • 2015 Yankees: Betances (131) and Andrew Miller (100)
  • 2004 Angels: Francisco Rodriguez (123) and Scot Shields (109)
  • 1997 Orioles: Armando Benitez (106) and Arthur Rhodes (102)
  • 1989 Blue Jays: Duane Ward (122) and Tom Henke (116)
  • 1986 Blue Jays: Mark Eichhorn (166) and Henke (118)

Those two Blue Jays teams were back when relievers threw way more innings than they do now. Eichhorn threw 157 innings in 1986! Ward threw 114.2 innings in 1989. They don’t make relievers like that anymore. Aside from the Yankees, the Indians have the best shot at two 100+ strikeout relievers this season with Cody Allen (80) and Miller (79), and they’re probably too far away at this point. Doesn’t look like any other team will get there.

Rex asks: Do you think Judge took the same media relations college course as Jeter — in that he says a lot but reveals nothing much. I’m not being overly critical here but at times he’s seemingly almost goofing w the media by answering all questions by complimenting his teammates. Come on Judge, let us in!

The Yankees put their players through media training every year. Every team has media training, though the Yankees really kick it up a notch because of the whole New York thing. They essentially train players to not say anything controversial. Be respectful and say a lot of words without saying anything of substance, basically. Aaron Judge is unfailingly polite and always defers to his teammates. Judge goes 2-for-3 with two homers and a walk? Great team win. Really proud of the guys for battling. Every single time. On one hand, that’s a good attitude and it comes off well. On the other hand, it’s okay to have some personality! Judge definitely has the same “boring as hell publicly” trait as Derek Jeter. Nothing wrong with bat flipping a monster dinger now and then.

Judge. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)
Judge. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Tony asks: Maybe I am too apologetic to Gary (love those dingers!), but could part of his struggles with blocking balls in the dirt be related to the high-spin rate the Yankees value in their pitchers? It seems like we’re hearing that he’s in decent position but the ball still bounces away a few times. That, coupled with his willingness to continue to call breaking balls in the dirt with runners on, means that a flaw he needs to work on has become a cause for people to try to move him from behind the plate (not that I want that).

Oh, absolutely. The Yankees don’t have an easy pitching staff to catch. A few weeks ago Sanchez was charged with a passed ball when Aroldis Chapman missed on the other side of the plate with a 102 mph fastball in the dirt. I mean, come on. Catching all those Robertson breaking balls in the dirt can’t be easy. Catching Betances in general can’t be easy. Catching all those Tanaka splitters in the dirt can’t be easy. What about Gray, who varies the break on all his pitches and they look like they were thrown in a video game? This isn’t to excuse Sanchez, because his blocking absolutely needs to improve. But it’s important to have context. This isn’t the easiest pitching staff to catch overall.

Julian asks: If Judge finishes the season on the pace he had in the first half, does he go back to being the MVP front runner? Or is his struggles too much to overcome?

It’s too late to win MVP, I think. Judge is still third in the AL in both versions of WAR — he’s behind Jose Altuve and Mike Trout in fWAR, and Altuve and Andrelton Simmons in bWAR — though MVP is generally a performance-plus-narrative award, and the narrative is Judge has come up small down the stretch, when the Yankees needed him most. The fact the Yankees wouldn’t be anywhere near the postseason without his first half is the kind of thing that tends to get overlooked in these cases. Judge will almost certainly finish in the top ten of the MVP voting. Maybe even top five. Or even top three! I don’t think he’s going to win though. He’ll have to settle for being the Rookie of the Year, possibly unanimously (should be unanimous, anyway).

Michael asks (short version): Loved the Hosmer piece, I have a question regarding Greg Bird though. Unless he comes back from his back issue and goes on a 2015-esque hot streak, how can the Yankees possibly depend on him to be the full time 1st baseman next year?

I guess the same way they did this year, after he missed all of last season following shoulder surgery. They’ll absolutely have to bring in some kind of first base insurance. Or maybe Headley is that insurance now that he’s shown he can play the position? Either way, some sort of fallback plan needs to be in place, preferably someone better than Chris Carter. A fallback plan and a fallback plan for the fallback plan, ideally. I think the Yankees will — and should — give Bird next season to show whether he can stay healthy and produce. If he doesn’t, it’s probably time to move on. You can only wait so long after three straight years of injury and/or poor performance.

Michael asks: Whose season has surprised you more this year, Severino or Green?

Severino for sure. A good but not great starting pitcher prospect turning into a monster in relief isn’t all that surprising anymore. Happens a few times around the league each year. Archie Bradley did it this season for the Diamondbacks. The signs were there that Green could be a pretty good reliever. On the other hand, a young starter going from getting smacked around in MLB and spending time in Triple-A one year to being one of the top three starters in the league the next is pretty damn rare. I’m not sure even the most optimistic Severino fans saw this season coming. This is the best case scenario.

Judge goes deep twice in 13-5 blowout win over Orioles

Nothing like facing Orioles pitching to raise morale. The Yankees hammered the Orioles on Thursday night, in the first game of their four-game series. The final score was 13-5, and it was only that close because some September call-up relievers made a mess of things late.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Six Runs In The First
Going into Thursday’s game, the Yankees had scored 120 runs in 15 games against the Orioles this season. No team in baseball had scored more runs against any other team. Nineteen pitches into the game, O’s lefty Made Wiley had to be pulled and the Yankees were sitting on a 6-0 lead. It was the shortest start of Miley’s seven-year career. Six hits, six runs, one out. Yeesh.

The Yankees scored their first run real quick. Third pitch single by Jacoby Ellsbury, first pitch single by Aaron Judge, second pitch double into the left field corner by Gary Sanchez. Three hits and a run within six pitches. Matt Holliday plated another run with a fielder’s choice and Chase Headley lined a single the other way to drive in yet another run. Four hits and three runs within 12 pitches. Pretty great.

The big blow of that first inning was Todd Frazier‘s three-run home run to dead center field, which ended Miley’s start and gave the Yankees a 6-0 lead. I love those home runs to cap off a big inning. Stringing together four hits (and a fielder’s choice) to score three runs surely frustrated the hell out of Miley and the O’s. But man, those home runs that turn a good inning into a great inning are just the best. The entire bench gave Frazier a thumbs down …

thumbs-down

… because that’s a thing the Yankees do now. You can thank that guy who gave Frazier a thumbs down following his three-run home run at Citi Field the other day. The entire team is doing it now. The point into the dugout has been replaced by a thumbs down. I approve. Anyway, Frazier’s homer broke the inning open. Remember, home runs don’t kill rallies. They create an opportunity to start new rallies.

Seven Strong From Tanaka
Kind of a weird ho hum start from Masahiro Tanaka. He needed only seven pitches to retire the side in the first inning, and never again did he take the mound with anything less than a five-run lead. Tanaka mostly did what a veteran pitcher does with a big lead, which is throw strikes, and that led to some hits. It also led to two solo homers, though I’m not going to sweat two solo homers in a blowout win.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tanaka’s final line: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K on 102 pitches. His biggest jam — if you can even call it a jam considering the Yankees led 13-2 at the time — came in the seventh inning, when the Orioles put runners on second and third with one out. Tanaka escaped by striking out September call-ups Anthony Santander and Austin Hays. He generated a ridiculous 27 swinging strikes in this game. Here is this year’s single-game swing-and-miss leaderboard:

  1. Yu Darvish: 29 vs. Rays on July 21st
  2. Max Scherzer: 28 vs. Marlins on June 21st
  3. Masahiro Tanaka: 27 vs. Orioles on September 14th
  4. Jacob deGrom: 27 vs. Nats on April 27th
  5. Ervin Santana: 26 vs. Padres on August 2nd

Tanaka got roughed up by the Rangers last time out, and based on Thursday’s performance, that game against Texas was an outlier. Just a dud. Happens to everyone at some point. Tanaka now owns a 3.34 ERA (3.58 FIP) in his last 14 starts and 89 innings. Go Masahiro.

Insurance Runs From The Baby Bombers
Scoring six runs in the first inning is a wonderful thing. But with nine innings to go and the home run happy Orioles in the other dugout, tacking on insurance runs is never a bad idea. Judge provided three insurance runs with one swing in the fourth inning. He hit a missile out to right-center field that cleared the bullpen and landed in the first row of the bleachers. That’s five homers in the last ten games for Judge.

Two innings later, Judge provided three more insurance runs with another three-run home run. This one landed in the second deck in left field. You don’t see too many balls hit there. Statcast had that one at 448 feet. Judge went 3-for-4 in the game and is now 25-for-53 (.472) with eleven home runs in 16 games against the O’s this season. His second homer felt like a formality. Richard Rodriguez knew Judge had to hit a homer and Judge knew he had to hit a homer, so Rodriguez grooved him a first pitch fastball and Judge took an easy batting practice swing.

That home run was seething with obligation. Everyone was expecting it. Rodriguez had to allow a homer and Judge had to hit a homer. It’s just the way it had to be, so it was done. That’s now six homers in the last ten games for our large adult baseball son. The two three-run home runs gave the Yankees a 12-2 lead. Sanchez made it 13-2 with a solo home run to center fielder because hey, he’s pretty awesome too. Get used to seeing Judge and Gary going back-to-back. Won’t be the last time.

Leftovers
Thirteen runs on 14 hits and six walks for the Yankees, who struck out only six times. The 1-2-3 hitters went a combined 6-for-10 with a double, three home runs, and three walks. They scored eight runs and drove in eight as well. Every starter had a hit except Ronald Torreyes, who managed to go 0-for-4 in the blowout. Clint Frazier went 2-for-3 with a walk and looked real good. Ripped a double off the right-center field wall.

Tanaka allowed two runs in seven innings. Bryan Mitchell and Gio Gallegos allowed three runs in two innings. They kinda stink. Or at least they did Thursday. The good news is all the top relievers got a night off. They’ve all worked quite a bit of late. Erik Kratz came off the bench with a single, so he is hitting 1.000/1.000/1.500 in two at-bats as a Yankee. Greg Bird flew out in his pinch-hit at-bat. It was his first game action since Sunday.

And finally, it sure looked like Buck Showalter had home plate umpire Brian O’Nora check whether Tanaka was doctoring the ball in the first inning, after he struck out Tim Beckham. The O’s dugout got O’Nora’s attention, O’Nora called for the ball, he looked at it, then threw it back to Tanaka and gave the O’s dugout a nod. Hmmm. Buck has been needling the Yankees with nonsense like that for years. I assume that was more of the same.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. FanGraphs has postseason odds and we have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the blowout probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This four-game series is just getting started. The Yankees and Orioles will play the second game of this four-game set at Yankee Stadium on Friday night. Luis Severino and Gabriel Ynoa are the scheduled starting pitchers.