David Hale and George Kontos were relievers that pitched for the 2018 Yankees. This is a fact that you will forget soon after reading this article. You will probably never even try to recall their names, except maybe when you’re working on a “Name the 2018 Yankees” Sporcle quiz.
And why would you? They didn’t do anything that would stand out - they were summoned from Triple-A to the big league club, they pitched low leverage innings in order to preserve the Yankees’ more valuable arms, and then they were gone, either released or stashed in Scranton once again. Yet, even if it was for a precious few innings, they took the mound for the New York Yankees, which is something that you and I could only dream of doing. This article is but a humble tribute to their time in the majors this past season.
2018 statistics: 3 appearances, 10.2 innings, 5.06 K/9, 0.84 BB/9, 1.69 HR/9, 2.53 ERA, 5.04 FIP
2018 statistics: 1 appearance, 1.2 innings, 10.80 K/9, 0.00 BB/9, 0.00 HR/9, 0.00 ERA, 0.76 FIP
Hale, 31 years old, made his major league debut in 2013 with the Atlanta Braves. Since then, Hale has bounced around quite a bit, pitching for the Rockies, Orioles and Dodgers across four seasons and three levels (Double-A, Triple-A and the majors) before finding himself on the Yankees in 2018.
2018 proved to be another good year for Hale’s airline miles. He made his first appearance for the Yankees on April 23, pitching 2 scoreless innings against the Minnesota Twins. The Twins must have really liked what they saw, as they acquired Hale via waiver claim three days later. However, Hale failed to live up to expectations in his first appearance for Minnesota, surrendering four runs on four hits in three innings against the Reds on April 27. That was all the Twins needed to see before designating Hale for assignment. Such is the life of a reliever on the fringes of Major League Baseball.
Yet Hale found work again when the Yankees signed him to a minor league contract on May 1. He served up another clunker, and subsequently was designated for assignment for the second time in two months. The Yankees, desperate for arms during the summer months, re-signed Hale to another minor league contract and called him up for one final appearance on July 6, where he went 5.2 innings against the Blue Jays and held them to just one run. But that Herculean effort was not enough to keep Hale in the majors, and he was DFA’d for the third and final time on July 7.
Kontos, 33 years old, has enjoyed considerably more major league success than Hale. Originally from the Yankees’ farm system, Kontos made a name for himself in 2012, when he posted a 2.47 ERA and struck out more than a batter per frame over 43.2 innings for the World Champion San Francisco Giants. Kontos has had some ups and downs, but he was an effective arm as recently as 2017, recording a 3.39 ERA in 65 appearances for three teams.
That success did not carry over into 2018. Kontos’ strikeout rate was nearly halved, while his HR/9 skyrocketed to a career-worst 1.69. His terrible performance was reflected in the way he was treated by teams, as he was DFA’d by the Pirates in late May, picked up by Cleveland in early June, and DFA’d again a month later. The Yankees acquired Kontos from Cleveland for cash considerations, and called him up on August 13. Kontos pitched 1.2 scoreless innings that day, with two strikeouts and only one hit allowed. That strong performance notwithstanding, the Yankees designated him for assignment two days later.
Neither Hale nor Kontos had any discernible impact on the Yankees’ 2018 season. Nor do they have any significance for the Yankees’ future plans. The “I” of their grades stands for “Incomplete”, but for our purposes it may as well be “Impossible”. How can you grade their performances when virtually nothing was expected of them to begin with? What could they have done to deserve an A? What could they have to deserve an F?
Yet the Yankees needed them, just like every other major league team needs interchangeable relief arms like them. The sheer quantity of innings which need to be handled over the course of a 162 game season cannot be understated. The Yankees, in their time of need, called upon Hale and Kontos to shoulder a tiny portion of that workload. It didn’t have to be them, but they were available, and they did their job. Their appearances came and went without any fanfare, but they served their purpose. Quietly, they did what they had to do.
David Hale and George Kontos pitched for the Yankees in 2018. That is a fact that you will soon forget, but that is also a fact which no one can ever deny.