Yogi Berra. Bill Dickey. Thurman Munson. Elston Howard. Jorge Posada. The Yankees have a long tradition of superb catchers that has been utterly kicked to the curb this year by the majesty of Chris Stewart. A career backup thrust into the starting role, Stewart proved to be completely overmatched at the plate throughout the season and he's worn down due to overuse. He never played more than 67 games in a season at the major league level until this year.
The season started off so well behind the plate. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart made the team, and though there was talk of a platoon between the two career backups, Cervelli quickly seized the position with some hot hitting (142 wRC+ in 17 games) and improved defense:
On April 26th though, Cervelli broke his hand on a foul tip and went to the disabled list. He never really recovered from the injury, and a stress reaction in his elbow during rehab combined with his 50-day Biogenesis suspension kept him from ever returning to the team. Stewart was thus thrust into the role as the Yankees' starting catcher, with Austin Romine backing him up. Although Girardi initially said he would "play it by ear" in regards to whether Romine could ascend to the starting role, an absolutely abysmal start by Romine (.321 OPS through 32 games and 71 PA) meant that Stewart stayed the starter, even through follies like this:
Sure, there were the occasional unexpected moments, like a great double play that elicited an "F YEAH!" in Boston:
Stewart even stunned himself four times by hitting a ball over the fence, an amazing sensation often alien to paper-strong players like him:
Scientists are still researching this phenomenon and cannot conclude anything other than the fact that Josh Johnson, Bartolo Colon, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Neil Wagner should all just hang up the spikes. For what it's worth, fatigue likely sapped any power that Stewart had, as after mid-May, he only hit one homer and just three balls (all before August) even near the warning track:
via Texas Leaguers
Romine began to emerge from his season-long slump though. He hit .353/.433/.529 in 19 games from mid-July through the end of August and gave fans a small reason for hope.
And yet even when Stewart did something as horrific as turning a strikeout into a two-run error...
Girardi stuck with "Stewie" as his starter. September came around, and though Romine was concussed, fans retained a slim margin of hope that perhaps catching prospect J.R. Murphy, who mashed Double-A and Triple-A pitching to roughly a 117 wRC+ in 108 games, would have an opportunity to seize the starting reins.
That makes us sad.
Stewart will almost certainly finish the year with the third-worst season by a Yankee catcher (min. 290 PA) in their 111-year history in New York:
It's not every day that the likes of Red Kleinow get namedropped. Even playing in the Deadball Era, Kleinow managed only two fewer extra-base hits than Stewart. What say you, Stew?
Baffled? Need an expert opinion? Let's check with five-time All-Star catchers Tony Pena and Jorge Posada:
That about sums it up. Begone Stew, before somebody drops a house on you, too.