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If George Were Alive, This Would’ve Killed Him Again

BOSTON, MA - JULY 22: Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox is congratulated by Matt Barnes #32 after his game-winning sacrifice fly in the 10th inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on July 22, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Winslow Townson/Getty Images

There’s a saying among the worst Yankees fans, or at least the most impatient or most nostalgia-bound. It goes, “This wouldn’t have happened if George were alive.” It gets deployed whenever literally anything is unsatisfactory. A missed postseason, a substandard (or even just league-average) lineup, a big free agent or trade target going elsewhere (uh-oh), botulism at the concession stands, etc. The logic holds that former owner George Steinbrenner, who died in 2010, would have spent the money necessary to address any shortcoming, or at least fired someone over it—probably both.

It’s silly and rose-colored. George Steinbrenner oversaw plenty of shitty teams, and when he did spend money, often as not it was an ill-advised panic move that involved overpaying for someone that George had heard of when they made their last all-star team 10 years earlier. It is almost certainly not a coincidence that the core of the Yankees’ late-’90s dynasty was built during the years George was suspended from baseball and not involved in front-office decisions.

Anyway, if George were alive, Brooks Kriske would not have been pitching with a lead in the 10th inning of a game against the Red Sox, and Rob Brantly would not have been catching.

Brutal! The Red Sox stole a 5-4 win by scoring two in the 10th without a hit, as a pair of Kriske wild pitches plated the ghost runner, then a walk, two more wild pitches, and a sac fly finished things off. Anywhere from one to three of those wild pitches could fairly be pinned on the catcher, not that it’s much consolation for Kriske. “[I]t sucks to be the one to blow it for the team,” he said.

Kriske, 27, had all of nine and two-thirds big-league innings under his belt before coming on for this one, and sported a career ERA over 12.00. He’s a triple-A pitcher. Brantly, 32, was appearing in just his second game of the season, and his 129th spread over 10 years. He’s got a subzero WAR both this season and for his career. He’s a quadruple-A catcher.

The two are on this roster, and were in this game at a crucial moment, because the Yankees have been wracked by injury and COVID and just general not-very-goodness, and the bullpen has been ineffective and overworked. Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman were on rest days and Justin Wilson was only available for “emergencies” and Chad Green—pick on him instead of poor Kriske, maybe!—had just given up two runs to blow the save in the ninth.

For reasons various and sundry, the 2021 Yankees have a knack for blowing games in spectacular ways. But they’d won nine of 12 coming into this one, giving hope that they could perhaps finally make a dent in Boston’s division lead (New York is now 2-8 against the Sox this year). So this is a particularly harsh way to kick off a four-game series. But it feels a little cruel to pin it all on Kriske, who simply shouldn’t have been in there, instead of blaming the team’s all-around failures and flaws that made putting him in the only option.

If George were alive he would’ve demoted everybody, even somehow the players out of options.