It was on this day in 1925 that the legendary Lou Gehrig replaced Wally Pipp in the Yankees’ lineup, beginning Gehrig’s then-record streak of 2130 consecutive games played. While both Pipp and the Yankees themselves were slumping at the time, Gehrig’s insertion into the lineup wasn’t only meant as a way to give a promising youngster some at-bats. Pipp was given a day off due to a headache, which according to some reports was suffered after being hit in the head with a pitch from a teammate during batting practice. Since that fateful day, Pipp’s name has become synonymous with being replaced — whenever a player goes on a hot streak replacing an injured teammate, you can count on an announcer mentioning that the injured player might “be Wally Pipp’ed” out of a job. This unusual legacy has overshadowed a very solid career from Pipp, who hit .281/.341/.408 over 7838 plate appearances with the Yankees, Reds, and Tigers from 1913-28, including serving as the starting first baseman on the Yankees’ first World Series championship team, in 1923.
The latest from around the AL East…
- The Red Sox re-signed Steve Pearce on a one-year, $6.25MM contract last November in the wake of Pearce’s epic performance as the World Series MVP. The deal looked like a solid move at the time, though as the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham notes, now looks like a misstep given Pearce’s rough 2019 season. Pearce has slashed just .180/.245/.258 over 99 plate appearances, and is currently on the IL with back spasms. Considering that many comparable first base/DH types of free agents signed for considerably less than Pearce’s $6.5MM guarantee last offseason, the contract now looks like an overpay in hindsight. A few million dollars normally wouldn’t be a big issue for a wealthy team like the Red Sox, though with the Sox wanting to stay under the $246MM maximum penalty luxury tax threshold, Abraham notes that signing Pearce to a smaller deal (or letting him go altogether) would have freed up more money for Boston to pursue some needed bullpen help, either in the offseason or at the deadline.
- Could Justin Smoak go from trade candidate to extension candidate? As Ken Rosenthal opines in his latest FOX Sports video update, the Blue Jays’ efforts to deal Smoak at the deadline could be hampered by the fact that teams have been increasingly hesitant to give much up for veteran first base/DH players. Smoak’s age (32) and status as a rental player could also work against the Jays in netting any significant return for the first baseman. With this in mind, Rosenthal suggests that Toronto could explore retaining Smoak as a veteran leader to help the club through its rebuild, perhaps on a one- or two-year extension to split first base and DH duties with Rowdy Tellez. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s ability to stick at third base will factor into such a decision, of course, and I’d also add that the Blue Jays might not want to return to a fairly inflexible first base/DH situation so soon after parting ways with Kendrys Morales.
- While the Orioles have suffered from disastrous pitching, their everyday lineup has featured some unexpected bright spots, the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck writes. Names like Renato Nunez, Dwight Smith Jr., Pedro Severino, and Hanser Alberto were all acquired in unheralded fashion over the last year, yet all four have delivered decent to above-average production at the plate. Some of this could stem from a simple increase in playing time, as all four players are getting the chance at regular at-bats for the first time. Severino, whose .268/.351/.474 slash line through 112 PA dwarfs his previous output as a member of the Nationals, noted that “My job over there [in Washington] was to have the mentality to win the game and call a good game and not think about my offense….It was tough to play once a week and take one at-bat in the ninth inning against a good closer. That’s really tough.” It remains to be seen if any of this quartet will develop into long-term pieces for the rebuilding Orioles, though if nothing else, the O’s could have some extra trade chips to consider for the July 31st deadline.