Facts and whodathunkits from the world of baseball, September 18, 2021.

Home run inflation: Before 1998, no team had ever had ten or more players hit ten-plus home runs in a season; that year, the Orioles and Yankees had exactly that many players do it. Since then, it’s occurred 38 times—with 14 of the instances happening in 2019 alone. Remember the powers that be were adamant that there totally was not a juiced ball that season. The 2019 Yankees hold the record for most players with ten-plus dingers with 14. Get ready, here’s the list: Gleyber Torres (38 home runs), Gary Sanchez (34), Brett Gardner (28), Aaron Judge (27),  DJ LeMahieu (26), Luke Voit (21), Gio Urshela (21), Didi Gregorius (16), Mike Tauchman (13), Edwin Encarnacion (13), Aaron Hicks (12), Clint Frazier (12), Mike Ford (12) and Cameron Maybin (11). The 1952 New York Giants were the first team to feature nine ten-dinger hitters.

Ten game winners: Which team’s pitching staff featured the most ten game winners? It’s a tie between three clubs with seven, each. The 1914 Philadelphia Athletics were the first, with men like future Hall of Famers Eddie Plank and Chief Bender toeing the rubber. They won the AL Pennant that year but lost the World Series to the Boston Braves. The 1939 Yankees, with the likes of Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez among their number, achieved the feat; they beat the Reds in the Fall Classic. The ’76 Reds did it without any future Hall of Famers or anyone winning 15 games. They avenged their 1939 loss to New York, beating them in the World Series.

Shipke hit just .177 against right handers. (Wikipedia).

The power of placebo: Bill Shipke was a weak-hitting third baseman who batted .199 in a career that spanned from 1906 to 1909. At one point in 1908, a fan gave Shipke, then of the Senators, a piece of paper with “magical properties” with instructions to tape it to his bat. Shipke did and had an excellent month after beginning the experiment. No date was specified for when he used the paper, however I surmise it was late May to late June. He rattled off a stretch in which he batted .300 in 42 at-bats.

Just one? The only woman to manage full-time in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was Bonnie Baker. She led the Kalamazoo Lassies to a 36-73 record in 1950. She was a more successful player, earning a couple All-Star selections.

Family affair: The AAGPBL’s Jean Faut pitched for the South Bend Blue Sox from 1946 to 1953. Her manager the final three seasons? Husband Karl Winsch. Faut was one of the best pitchers in the league’s history, tossing two perfect games and two no-hitters. Winsch played in the minors from 1942 to 1944. He managed the Blue Sox through 1954, leading them to a 232-187 record.

Grand slam for the old lady: From the Baseball-Reference.com Bullpen: “On September 14, with Bill Robinson and Ed Ott aboard, John Milner was intentionally walked by Bob Forsch to get to [Phil] Garner, who took him deep to center for a grand slam in the 7th inning. Phil’s wife rarely missed a home game but had not been there and got mad—’How could you hit the only grand slam of your career the one night I don’t come to the game?’ Garner told her he would hit one the next day. On September 15, Omar Moreno, Robinson and Willie Stargell were on base in the first inning, when Garner homered off of Woodie Fryman. It was the first time in 77 years, since Jimmy Sheckard, that a National Leaguer had hit grand slams in consecutive games; Brooks Robinson had done it in the AL in 1962.”

Won the most: The winningest manager in Negro league history was Candy Jim Taylor, who finished with 955 victories, three pennants and two league championships in 27 seasons.

Random autograph of the day: Ross Ohlendorf

Ross Ohlendorf was one of those pitchers that never seemed to go away. You’d forget about him, because he was toiling on the farm, then he’d resurface with a big league club, post a few solid—or disastrous—appearances, then he’d disappear again.

Originally in the Diamondbacks system, he was part of the trade that sent Randy Johnson from the Yankees back to Arizona. His tenure with New York was mostly rocky, but after a trade to the Pirates, he posted a laudable 2010 line of 11 wins, 10 losses and a 3.92 ERA in 29 starts (no superstar names were involved in that deal [though Jose Tabata was a superstar-to-be when it went down]).

Two-thousand-and-eleven was a foil campaign, as he went 1-11, but with a still respectable 4.07 ERA. The wheels fell off in 2011 and 2012 (5-7, 7.94 line between Pittsburgh and San Diego), before he had a nice renaissance with Washington in 2013 (4-1, 3.28 in 60.1 innings). He did not appear in the majors in 2014, then like the journeyman he was, found himself with a new club in 2015 —the Rangers, with whom he had a 3.72 ERA in 21 relief appearances.

He finally found a stable role in the Reds bullpen in 2016, making 64 appearances and averaging 9.3 strikeouts per 9 innings, but his ERA of 4.66 enthused no one and his big league career was over after that. He finished in Japan in 2017, posting a 5.50 mark in 4 starts.

Article from the archives—31-year-old Amaury Sanit makes major league debut

I wrote this back in 2011, when 31-year-old pitcher Amauri (then spelled Amaury) Sanit made his big league debut with the Yankees. The hurler spent only four games in the majors, but after an escape from Cuba and a rocky road up the minor league ladder, he finally made it.

***

Following his big league stay, Sanit played in the Mexican League. (Wikipedia).

It always tickles my tailbone whenever an “old” career minor leaguer makes his major league debut. These grizzled veterans are the epitome of dedication, never giving up long after many of their younger, fresh-faced counterparts have been promoted to the big leagues and established themselves at that level.

New York Yankees pitcher Amaury Sanit is one such “old guy.” At 31 years old, he was one of only a few tricenarians still toiling in the minor leagues—most guys his age, if they haven’t had a taste of the majors, stop playing by then. But not Sanit.

He made his debut on May 12 against the Kansas City Royals and pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief after starter Ivan Nova struggled. He allowed three runs on four hits and two walks, while striking out two batters (including the very first man he faced, Jeff Francoeur) and though he did not pitch particularly well—he left the game with a 5.79 ERA—he still accomplished what every minor league baseball player dreams of accomplishing—he played in the major leagues.

His story really begins in Cuba, where he was born in 1979. In his native land, Sanit pitched seven seasons, going 25-25 with 58 saves and a 4.11 ERA in the Cuban Serie Nacional. He was a solid pitcher who was one of the better closers of his era.

 In 2003, he made the perilous trek from Cuba to the United States. The Yankees signed him in 2008 and he pitched two games for their Dominican Summer League team—a group comprised of teens and young adults…and one 28-year-old Cuban defector. He moved stateside in 2009 and pitched for three teams and performed well with each—combined, he posted a 3.16 ERA with 10 saves.

Then he got in trouble with the law—the laws governing baseball, that is. During the 2010 season, Sanit was caught using much-maligned performance enhancing drugs, which earned him a 50 game suspension. For a 30-year-old minor leaguer, such an event can be the death knell for a professional career.

Not for Sanit, however. He bounced back from his transgression and pitched well to start the 2011 minor league season, winning two games and striking out 24 batters in 16 1/3 innings.

And then he got the call that 100 percent of all minor leaguers yearn for, but only a small percentage receive. Amaury Sanit, after years of playing baseball in various countries all over the world, is now a major leaguer.

***

Sanit allowed 10 earned runs in 7 big league innings, giving him a 12.86 ERA.

Random autograph of the day: Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes was a Yankees uber-prospect coming up, a former first round draft pick out of California that rocketed through the team’s farm system. He was named Baseball America’s 39th-best prospect going into the 2006 season, and #3 going into 2007; Baseball Prospectus ranked him #2. Through his first four minor league campaigns, including a five-start stint at Triple A, he was 25-8 with a 2.09 ERA; In 275 innings, he had 311 strikeouts and just 171 hits allowed.

But the major leagues is a far cry from the minors, even Triple A. Though his debut campaign, 2007, wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t what fans were expecting—in 13 starts, he went 5-3 with a 4.46 ERA. After an awful sophomore campaign, when he went 0-4 with a 6.62 mark in 8 starts, he was relegated to the bullpen for 2009, where he had some success. In 51 appearances (7 starts), he posted a 3.03 ERA with 96 Ks in 86 innings.

Back in the rotation for 2010, he went 18-8 in 176.1 innings to earn an All-Star nod, before falling to 5-5, 5.79 in 2011. That pattern would define Hughes’ career—a good year, then a bad year, then a good year. He went 16-13, 4.19 in 2012, then 4-14, 5.19 in 2013. 16-10, 3.52 in 2014, 11-9, 4.40 in 2015. The wheels fell off in 2016, and from then on, he was a combined 5-10, 6.01 in 145.1 innings.

While he didn’t live up to his billing, his career was solid—he went 88-79 overall—and he had some noteworthy highlights. His postseason career, especially, had some excellent games, such as his 2010 ALDS start against the Twins. In 7 innings, he allowed no runs on 4 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 6 batters. He last played in the majors in 2018.

He’s a future star! Just look at his first season! (Or, maybe not.)—pt. 3.

In part three of this series on 21st century what-might-have-beens and what-never-weres, let’s take a look at a couple sluggers who are still playing and hoping to regain their former glory, as well as a couple others who flamed out just a few years after reaching the majors.

Miguel Andujar slugged .128 in 2019. (Wikipedia).

Yankees left fielder Miguel Andujar is currently on the 60-day disabled list, riding a .253/.284/.383 line in 45 games this season, and coming off two years in which he batted a combined .193 with a 30 OPS+ in 33 games.

Not quite what the Yankees were expecting after his 2018 rookie season. After a brief cup of coffee in 2017 wherein he had four hits, including two doubles, in seven at-bats, the then-third baseman smashed 27 home runs with 92 RBI in 144 games for New York the next year. He knocked 47 doubles, good for second in the American League, and slugged .527, good for seventh.

Finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Shohei Ohtani, Andujar looked poised to be a dominant one-two punch with fellow young infielder Gleyber Torres—who finished third in the ROY vote—for years to come.

As the days pass, that’s looking more and more unlikely, as Torres has struggled since his first two incredible seasons, as well.

But at least he had more than one good campaign.

Andujar, who began his professional career at 17 and was in the majors at 23, hasn’t even managed that.

And that’s despite his high pedigree. Major League Baseball and Baseball America both named him a top prospect going into 2018, as he hit .316 with 16 home runs and 82 RBI in 125 games—about half played at Triple A—the year before.

Even the experts seem to get it wrong a lot, don’t they?

Andujar might still rebound, of course. He’s only 26. But his current career trajectory is not a positive one.

The same year Andujar was tearing it up in New York, Daniel Palka was doing the same, though more quietly, with the White Sox.

The 26-year-old rookie cranked 27 home runs and had 67 RBI in 124 games in 2018, leading the club in big flies and finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year voting.

Palka was a beast in the minor leagues, hitting 20-plus home runs three times, including 34 between two clubs in 2016. But he was more or less a pure-power hitter, offering little offensive skill outside of clobbering home runs. Sure, he had an aberration of a campaign in 2015, when he stole 24 bases in addition to his 29 dingers, but his minor league batting average and on-base percentage were just decent—nothing extraordinary.

That might explain why the White Sox were Palka’s third professional team. Drafted by Arizona in the 3rd round in 2013, he was traded to Minnesota in 2015 for catcher Chris Herrmann, then was selected off waivers by Chicago in 2017.

And by 2018, he was the White Sox top home run hitter. But his .240 average and .284 on-base percentage were not inspiring.

So after he began 2019 in an 0-for-32 skid—not getting his first hit until April 17—he was demoted to the minors, making only a couple return stops along the way. Chicago called him up in late June; he was 0-for-10, making him 1-for-45 on the year, and sent back down. A September promotion didn’t help much, as he began his third try by going 0-for-11.

That’s correct, Daniel Palka spent most of his 2019 season with 1 hit; by the time he managed his second, he was 1-for-56, a 0.018 batting average. From September 12 onward, he hit .267 in 30 at-bats, but still couldn’t bring his season mark to .100. He finished at .097.

On the bright side, he hit another 27 home runs in the minors.

And that is where he remains today. After a season in Korea in which he batted .209, Palka is toiling away in the Nationals system in 2021. With 16 home runs and a .283 average at Triple-A Rochester, he might earn a call up this year.

He sure wants to redeem himself.

Reimold’s .365 OBP led the 2009 Orioles. (Wikipedia).

There will be no redemption for Nolan Reimold, unfortunately. Another former top prospect, twice so-named by Baseball America, the former Orioles outfielder slugged his way through the low- and mid-minors. With Double-A Bowie in 2008, he had 25 home runs and 84 RBI; in his first taste of Triple-A the next year, he hit 9 home runs in 31 games for a .743 slugging percentage.

He was ready for Baltimore.

On May 14, he made his debut. On May 20, he slugged his first home run, an ultimately inconsequential shot off Yankees Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera. He finished the year with 15 dingers and 45 RBI in 104 games.

Though shades of his 2009 self cropped up later in his career, Reimold never stayed healthy enough or played enough to match his early potential. In 2011, he managed a 111 OPS+—just five points lower than his ’09 mark—but he played only 87 games and hit .247. In 2010, he hit .313 and slugged .627 … in just 67 at-bats.

From 2010 on, Reimond batted just .234 with 41 home runs and 129 RBI in 376 games. He last played for the independent Long Island Ducks in 2017.

Clint Robinson might be stretching the parameters of this piece, but since he did have an initial full season that was substantial better than the rest of his career, I threw him in here.

Robinson, was a minor league slugger who finished his career with 159 dingers on the farm, but his big league career was just 243 games over four seasons.

After a couple largely uneventful cups of coffee in 2012 and 2014, Robinson—already with his fifth major league organization and third big league team—latched on with the Nationals in 2015 … as a 30-year-old rookie.

And he did well for that 83-79, second place club. In 309 at-bats, he slashed .272/.358/.424 with 10 home runs and 34 RBI as the team’s top bench guy. But he was painfully slow-footed, stealing only 14 bases in his professional career and none at the major league level.

Such a player works with a perpetually short leash, and after another full season on Washington’s bench in which his batting mark fell to just .235 in 196 at-bats, he was sent packing.

But not away from the Nationals organization. They brought him back to play at Triple-A in 2017. And after 18 home runs and 74 RBI there, they sent him packing for good.

While major league success sometimes seems easy to achieve, it is exceedingly difficult to hold on to.

And for those who can’t keep it, well, they don’t end in Halls of Fame, they end up footnotes, profiled on some random guy’s blog.

Jorge Posada: Is former New York Yankees catcher Hall of Fame worthy?

Jorge Posada is most similar to Brian McCann, per Baseball-Reference.com’s similarity scores. (Wikipedia).

Always overshadowed by bigger names like Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez during his career, one still has to wonder—did Jorge Posada do enough to earn eventual Hall of Fame induction? His performance on the ballot (3.8% in 2018) suggests he didn’t, but there’s always two sides to every story …

I debate myself to find out.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Over the course of his career, Posada hit 275 home runs, drove in 1,065 runs and made five All-Star teams. He won five Silver Sluggers and even finished in the top-ten in MVP voting twice, placing as high as third in the balloting.

His 275 home runs are eighth-most among catchers all-time, while his 1,065 RBI are 11th.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

While his home run and RBI totals are impressive, there are other catchers who had greater totals who are not yet in the Hall of Fame. Lance Parrish, for example, hit 324 home runs and had 1,070 RBI and he received only 1.7% of the vote in his only year of eligibility.

And Brian McCann, he finished with 289 home runs and only slightly fewer RBI, at 1,018. Even with his seven All-Star selections and six Silver Sluggers, is anyone clamoring for his induction?

Ted Simmons had slightly fewer home runs with 248, but he had over 300 more RBI—and he eclipsed the 2,000 hit milestone, which is something Posada never did. Yet Simmons received less than 4% of the vote in his lone year on the ballot. Though he was was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee in 2020, his long wait indicates Posada and Posada-esque backstops are pushed to the back of the line in Hall of Fame circles.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

That may be true, but every other catcher with at least 275 career home runs is in the Hall of Fame. The club includes Ivan Rodriguez (311 home runs), Gary Carter (324), Yogi Berra (358), Carlton Fisk (376), Johnny Bench (389) and Mike Piazza (427).

And outside of Parrish and Simmons, every other catcher with at least 1,065 RBI is in the Hall, or will be heading there, too. That club includes all the aforementioned catchers, plus Gabby Hartnett (1,179 RBI) and Bill Dickey (1,209 RBI).

In addition, Posada has the accolades to his name. Five All-Star selections and five Silver Sluggers is nothing to sneeze at.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

Good point, however you might notice one thing about all those home run hitting catchers you just mentioned—they each eclipsed 300 home runs, which Posada did not do.

I know in this advanced world of sabermetrics, milestones don’t mean as much, but there are still milestone-minded voters out there and not reaching a mark like 300 home runs (or 2,000 hits) will hurt Posada’s chances of election.

To counter another point, I’m going to invoke the “if X is not in the Hall, then Posada should not be in the Hall, either” argument again.

You mentioned that Posada was an All-Star five times. That’s very good. But what if I said that Elston Howard was an All-Star 12 times and is not in the Hall? Or that Bill Freehan and Del Crandall were All-Stars 11 times each, and have yet to be enshrined?

Fellow Yankee catcher Elston Howard made 12 All-Star Games and isn’t in the Hall of Fame. (Wikipedia).

And, I might add, Lance Parrish won six Silver Sluggers, one-upping Posada.

Yes! Posada Is a Hall of Famer!

Pardon my multi-faceted response here, see if you can keep up. I recognize that Posada never reached any major milestones, however like you said—we are in a more sabermetric era, rightly or wrongly, which means milestones seem to have less and less bearing. By the time Posada is eligible for the Veterans Committee, they may be lent even less credence than they are now.

And in regards to Howard, Freehan and Crandall—while they were All-Stars frequently, they were never the offensive force Posada was. Each of them had offensive Wins Above Replacement less than Posada, per Baseball-Reference.com.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

What about the point about Lance Parrish? I’ll rebut the rest in a moment.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

You bring up Lance Parrish again—I recognize that Parrish was a great player, but even though he had total statistics higher than Posada, does that necessarily make him better than Posada? Or did Parrish just acquire those extra counting numbers because he played longer than the Yankees catcher?

Look at their 162-game averages. Posada averaged 24 home runs and 94 RBI per 162 games, while Parrish averaged 26 home runs and 87 RBI. Plus Posada had a better batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. And OPS. And OPS+.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

All right, all right. This isn’t an argument about whether Posada is better or worse than Lance Parrish, it’s an argument about whether Posada is a Hall of Fame-caliber player.

Let’s look at Posada through a sabermetric lens, real quick, since you brought that point up earlier. You said that Posada had higher offensive WARs than Howard, Freehan and Crandall, which is true.

Posada’s total WAR, per Baseball-Reference, is 42.7—a number that is relatively low … and that is bested by fellow catcher Gene Tenace, someone I have rarely seen on anyone’s Hall of Fame radar.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

First, Gene Tenace spent almost half his career at first base.

More to the point: Yes, his WAR would be relatively low if he hadn’t spent his career as a catcher. But among catchers, his WAR is the 14th best all-time. And once again, while he is bested by a few non-Hall of Famers, all the rest of the players than are better than him are in the Hall of Fame.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

You keep using Posada’s career statistics as the baseline, the bottom limit, that catchers have to meet to be “Hall of Fame worthy.” But unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean Posada is a Hall of Famer—it just makes him the worst of the best.

Which basically means that if Posada were to be elected, he would be among the bottom-rung of Hall of Fame catchers, with guys like Rick Ferrell (who, by the way, was an All-Star two more times than Posada).

Would Posada be any better a choice than, say, Rick Ferrell—often considered the worst catcher in the Hall? (Wikipedia).

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Going by raw counting stats that may appear to be the case, but looking at more sabermetric values like WAR and OPS+, that is clearly not so. (Plus, Posada was a better power hitter than Ferrell and also bested Ferrell in slugging percentage and OPS).

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

You also mentioned earlier that Posada was a better offensive force than Freehan, Crandall and Howard, but that point can easily be countered by the fact that those three were better defensively than Posada. Combined, they won 11 Gold Gloves. Posada won zero. And catcher has historically been a defense-first position.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Accolades, while helpful, don’t mean everything. You must also take into consideration Posada’s postseason performance. He appeared in 125 playoff games and won four World Series rings. He hit .333 or better in five series and hit 11 home runs in his postseason career.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

World Series victories are very team-dependent—while the number of rings looks nice, it really isn’t a great way of determining someone’s Hall of Fame worthiness.

And, as a whole, Posada hit only .248 and slugged .387 in his postseason career.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Okay, well, Posada also has the benefit of playing for one team his entire career—and what a team it was! The New York Yankees! It’s not often a player sticks around with a single team anymore, and to play so long for the Yankees helps his case too—there is something of an allure to the “Yankees mystique.”

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

Is that all? He played for a popular team? While a pro-Yankee bias might have helped players earn election into Cooperstown, it doesn’t mean they were good enough for the Hall, it’s just that the writers had an affinity for them that extended beyond those guys’ playing abilities. The voters’ inability to judge past players unobjectively shouldn’t effect whether a player should get into the Hall of Fame.

Therefore, I can say with certainty now:

NO! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

Aroldis Chapman saves 300th game.

Aroldis Chapman‘s 300th save ties him with Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter and Jason Isringhausen for 29th all-time. (Wikipedia).

In this whirlwind season of milestones, with Miguel Cabrera walloping his 500th home run and nearing 3,000 hits, with Max Scherzer nearing 3,000 Ks and Jon Lester drawing closer and closer to 200 wins, a pretty incredible feat slipped by and I didn’t even note it.

On August 26, fireballing Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman earned his 300th career save.

Against the Athletics that night, with less than 9,000 fans in attendance, Chapman faced four batters and, after a few hiccups, managed to sit the necessary three of them down to preserve a 7-6 victory.

Number nine hitter Elvis Andrus flew out to start the bottom of the ninth inning, then Mark Canha whiffed. How apropos, Chapman K-ing someone in this historic game. Starling Marte singled, then stole second. It became a little dicey, as Matt Olson, a Most Valuable Player candidate, was the next man up. No worries, he grounded out to second base.

The crowd thundered uproariously at Chapman’s majestic feat—in his dreams that night, I imagine—as he joined a club of now 31 men, headed by the likes of Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.

It was a milestone that Chapman seemed almost destined to reach from the day he defected from Cuba in 2009. As far as defections go, it was pretty bland. Playing in the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands, he walked out the front door of his team’s hotel into a waiting car—and away he went.

Hardly an unknown, he had wowed the baseball world during his years under communist rule and fetched a pretty penny once major league teams came knocking. The Reds inked him to a contract worth more than $30 million; his bonuses alone totaled more than $10 million.

And from there, it was gravy. Before even playing a professional game, Baseball America ranked him the sport’s 22nd-best prospect going into the 2010 season. The Reds sent him straight to Triple A—as a starter—and he responded by striking out 125 batters in 95 2/3 innings. By year’s end, he was in the majors as a reliever, striking out 19 batters in 13 1/3 frames.

Going into 2011, Baseball America elevated him to #7 on their top prospects list—ahead of Manny Machado, Chris Sale, Freddie Freeman, Nolan Arenado and fellow future star finisher Craig Kimbrel.  

With Francisco Cordero holding down the closer’s job, Chapman made 54 relief appearances in 2011, surrendering just 24 hits and striking out nearly 13 batters per nine innings. That K rate would be his lowest total until 2017.

On April 11, he threw a pitch of 106 miles per hour. Aroldis Chapman had arrived.

Seizing the closing role in 2012, Chapman embarked on a—dare I say—legendary run that lasted until 2016. Saving 181 games, he had a 1.84 ERA and 217 ERA+ in those five years. In 313 2/3 innings, he allowed just 168 hits—and had 546 strikeouts. That’s 15.7 per nine innings. In 2014 alone, he averaged nearly two per frame. He was an All-Star each year from 2012 to 2015; in 2012, he finished 8th in Cy Young voting and earned MVP support.

2015 was his final season with Cincinnati. On December 28, they traded him to the Yankees for infielder Eric Jagielo (never reached the majors), pitcher Caleb Cotham (7.40 ERA with the Reds), pitcher Rookie Davis (8.63 ERA with the Reds) and utilityman Tony Renda (.183 average with the Reds).

Cincinnati has been around since the dawn of major league baseball; that still has to be one of the worst trades they ever made.

He wasn’t long for New York, spending about half a season there before being shipped to the Cubs on July 25 to help in Chicago’s playoff push and eventual World Series run. And boy did he help—in 28 regular season games, he had a 1.01 ERA and 418 ERA+, then he had 22 Ks in 15 2/3 postseason innings.

The Yankees re-signed Chapman on December 15, 2016, thereby recouping their losses from the trade to Chicago (with infielder Gleyber Torres to show for it, as well, as he was part of the initial deal).

Since rejoining New York, Chapman has stepped down from superhuman to merely superb. Admittedly, his numbers have taken a dip.

But it’s kind of like a fire dropping from 10,000 degrees to 8,000 degrees—it’s still really freakin’ hot.

From 2017 to 2020, he posted a 2.64 ERA and a 168 ERA+, making two more All-Star teams and averaging over 14 strikeouts per nine innings.

Even this year, with his walk rate double what it was in 2020 and his ERA sitting at 3.77, his numbers are still downright killer. 15.1 K/9 IP. 6.3 H/9 IP. Through May 21—that’s 18 games—he hadn’t allowed a single run. He was stung by three particularly abhorrent appearances, two of which he surrendered 4 and 3 runs, respectively, without recording a single out. Since his last bad showing on July 6, his ERA is 1.88. Remove those three appearances, in which he allowed a combined 11 earned runs in 1/3 of an inning, and his season mark is 1.48.

And it is his hot pitching, not just for most of this year but for his whole career, that has gotten Chapman to the 300 save mark.

He joins a club that now has 31 members—one less than the 3,000 hit club, just three more than the 500 home run club, and seven more than the 300 win club.

But it’s not as illustrious as it sounds. The evolution of the game was such that the conditions for 300-save closers to even exist didn’t begin coalescing until the late 1970s and early 1980s.

So, once every season or two, a new member is added. Kenley Jansen joined in 2019, Craig Kimbrel in 2018, Fernando Rodney in 2017.

While the other clubs are represented by only the very best, Chapman’s less distinguished group contains among the legends and the greats some goods, some decents, a couple mediocres.

Yes, Chapman now stands among Rivera and Hoffman, Fingers and Gossage and Sutter, Wilhelm and Eckersley and Smith. But right there with him, as well, are Jason Isringhausen and Jose Mesa, Todd Jones and his former teammate, Francisco Cordero.

But Chapman is no Isringhausen.

When all is said and done, his face might be carved into a plaque hanging in Cooperstown. He has a way to go—it’s hard to get behind someone with less than 600 career innings pitched—but if he keeps throwing gas and closing games and K-ing batters at rates we might never see again, who knows.

Chapman, that flamethrowing kid who walked out of a hotel into superstardom, might one day, after he retires, get to hear his name called once more.

Not to the mound, but to the Hall of Fame.

***

Chapman might be the last man to reach 300 saves for a few years. Mark Melancon is the next closest at 239, but he is 36 and coming off a decent but underwhelming 2017-2020 run. Joakim Soria (229) and Greg Holland (219) haven’t managed a 20 save season since 2015 and 2017, respectively, so their chances are slim. Edwin Diaz is fourth-closest at 167, and though he’s just 27, he’s been wildly inconsistent since his breakout 2018 campaign. Who knows what the future holds for him.

The next closest are Zach Britton (154 saves), Alex Colome (147), John Axford (144), Wade Davis (141), David Robertson (137) and Sergio Romo (135).

The Crazy Story of Conklyn Meriwether

It was November 20, 1955 in the small Florida town of Tavernier, on the Florida Keys. Conklyn Meriwether was eating his lunch at his in-laws’ home when suddenly he spoke to his son of just seven years evil words that quickly formed into an atrocious act of horror. He arose, walked to his car and grabbed his hatchet. He returned and the bloodbath began.

First, he attacked his brother-in law, Paul Mills, a mere teenager of 16 years. The youth survived the assault, but with a fractured skull and a four-inch gash on his head, neck and arm. He then went after his father-in-law, Paul’s 55-year-old pa, Charles, who initially survived the multiple skull fractures delivered by the crazed lunatic behind the axe—but who would, days later, succumb to his injuries.

Then it was his paralysis-stricken, immobile mother-in-law Ellen Mills’ turn, fearfully stuck in her wheelchair, unable to thwart the steel blows raining down upon her. She was the first to die, perishing instantly.

The attacks eventually ended, with Meriwether throwing the bloodied hatchet into a nearby bush. The officers arrived, finding him pacing back and forth in front of the bungalow in which the crimes took place. He was taken into custody. His wife, Ruth, who along with her three children was with Conklyn when the rampage began, had fled.

***

Before the amnesia-afflicted Conklyn Meriwether brutally murdered his paralyzed, wheelchair-bound mother-in-law and before he smashed his 55-year-old father-in-law’s skull in, and before he tore a gaping wound into his teenaged brother-in-law and even before he said to his seven-year-old son, “now, would you like to see me kill everybody?”, Conklyn Meriwether was a pretty good baseball player.

Though he never played in the major leagues—he appeared on the St. Louis Cardinals’ roster in 1946, but did not get into a game—the six-foot, 210-pound future killer held his own against those whom he played. He spent 15 seasons in the minor leagues, including four in the New York Yankees farm system. He hit .307 in his career and displayed great power, slugging 280 home runs—an average of nearly 20 a season.

He could even twirl the pill with great acumen—he started out his career as a pitcher, one who would enter the ballgame doing cartwheels towards the mound—winning as many as 13 games in a season.

In 1951, the 33-year-old slugger walloped 44 home runs, while batting .327. “Conk,” as he was known, hit 33 home runs the next year and 42 the next. Despite his successes, the man was aging—and following the 1954 season, after he tallied 1,463 hits and 268 doubles and a slugging percentage over .550 in his career, Meriwether was out of baseball.

Perhaps he was missing the game especially so on that late-autumn day. Perhaps, the ballplayer-turned-carpenter felt he could still swing a mighty stick, but lacking a bat he reached for the hatchet instead. Or perhaps, the husky Conklyn Wells Meriwether—a crazy name to fit a certifiably crazy man—was just nuts.

After the World War II veteran was taken into custody, investigators and family members and neighbors tried to piece together what just happened.

Though reports conflicted—some claimed Ellen was attacked first, then the father-in-law, then Paul, what unfolded was a murderous tragedy, one in which three people were attacked by an ax-wielding man.

That much they knew. But why? Meriwether’s wife said he was prone to fits of rage. His mental stability was in question.

Despite his potential cerebral disturbance, Meriwether, held without bond, was charged with first-degree murder in the attack on Mrs. Mills and attempted murder in the attack on the other two victims. When Mr. Mills passed, the charges were upped to two counts of first-degree murder. Meriwether waited in the Key West jail for his time in court.

At the behest of his sister, Mae Gibbs, in December 1944 a commission of two doctors and a layman was called to investigate the mental condition of the killer. A sane man could not do what he had done, it was thought. In his mind there was a glitch, an error, a miswiring of the synapses.

A month later, Judge Raymond R. Lord heard the findings. The sanity commission, after examining Meriwether and developing its report on the homicidal man, declared him insane and Lord had him committed to the State Mental Institution at Chattahoochee, warding off a possible death sentence.

The Protestant Conklyn Meriwether was born on July 18, 1918 in Island Grove, Florida. He would gain fame as a star minor league baseball player and infamy as an axe-wielding murderer. The criminally insane man, despite his horrid crimes, fought off the penalty of death and was paroled in 1975. He lived to be 78 years old, dying on August 11, 1996 in Bartow, Florida.

Works Cited

Bedingfield, Gary. “Those Who Served.” Gary Bedingfield’s Baseball in Wartime. Baseball in Wartime, 7 Feb. 2008. Web. 12 Feb. 2012.

“Consider Mental Quark Cause of Tragedy.” The Times-News [Hendersonville] 21 Nov. 1955: Four. Print.

“Ex-Ballplayer Who Allegedly Killed 2 Is Declared Insane.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune 19 Jan. 1956, sec. 2: 13. Print.

“Hatchet Killer to Be Examined.” Sarasota Journal 20 Dec. 1955: 2. Print.

“MERIWETHER-L Archives.” Rootsweb. Ancestry.com, 19 Nov. 2006. Web. 12 Feb. 2012.

Pietrusza, David, and John Thorn. Baseball’s Canadian-American League. McFarland, 2005. Google. Web. 10 Feb. 2012.

“2nd Victim of Tragedy on Key Dies.” The Miami Daily News 6 Dec. 1955: 2A. Print.

“Uses Hatchet to Kill His Mother in Law.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal 21 Nov. 1955: 2. Print.

Random autograph of the day: Matt Drews

Matt Drews was the Yankees’ 1st round pick in 1993. He might be known as the guy taken between Billy Wagner and Derrek Lee, or the guy taken ahead of Torii Hunter, or perhaps the Yankees’ first round pick the year after they snagged Derek Jeter. Or perhaps, maybe, as the first of many Yankees first round duds in a long line that lasted nearly 15 years. Drews had promise, going 15-7 with a 2.27 ERA in Single A in 1995, but he contracted Steve Blass Syndrome and went 1-14, 5.56 the year after that, then 9-13, 5.59 after that, then 5-17, 6.57 after that, then 2-14, 8.27 after that. Apparently, his big league clubs had faith in his ability through it all, as he spent 5 of his 7 seasons at Triple A.