The news that David Robertson has left the Yankees is upsetting to many fans. But sometimes, mitigating circumstances prevail, and that’s the case here.
For nine seasons, David Robertson has been a stalwart in the New York Yankees bullpen. Called on in any number of roles, whether as a set-up guy, set-up guy to the set-up guy (it gets complex these days) or closer, Robertson has always answered the bell, performing without any griping, and almost always successfully.
With Aroldis Chapman now and Mariano Rivera before him, David Robertson has never been “The Guy,” in the Yankees bullpen, though. Once before, in 2014, when the opportunity arose to skip town as a free agent, Robertson chose to do so, signing with the Chicago White Sox.
He stayed until July 19, 2017, when he was traded by the Chicago White Sox with Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees for Ian Clarkin (minors), Tito Polo (minors), Blake Rutherford (minors) and Tyler Clippard.
From there, he’s been a Yankee for the remainder of 2017 and all of 2018, with no hiccups or downgrading of his contributions to the team as a trusted reliever by both Joe Girardi, and now Aaron Boone.
Always practical, David Robertson’s “jumping ship” is different on this second go-around with free agency, though. When he went to the White Sox, he took with him a raise of $5 million, from $5 million with the Yankees to $10 million. Mind you, he was 30 at the time, and like any person with a family to support taking the best deal offered at the time, and not knowing what might lie ahead in the tumultuous profession of baseball.
With Robertson’s move to the Phillies, however, we see something else. Now at the age of 34, symbolizing practicality again, Robertson took a pay cut of $3 million from last year’s $13 million with the Yankees when he signed with the Phillies. The contract is loaded with incentives, though, and based on performance; he could reach his previous level.
Of equal significance is that David Robertson negotiated this contract solo, without the services of an agent. This might cause shudders within the players union and the agents themselves when word spreads that Robertson saved himself about $1.1 million by going it alone.
But looming beneath the surface of everything is the fallout David Robertson incurred when acting as the leader of a committee charged by the Yankees to divvy up “shares” of playoff money earned in 2018.
Reportedly acting behind the scenes, Robertson ignored tradition, encouraging votes excluding coaches and other support personnel. Adding complexity to the ballot is that it was taken before the Yankees even played a game in the playoffs, leaving open the amount of money on the table, which in turn is dependent on how far the team would advance in the playoffs.
We’re not talking about a ton of money here, and if we use the sum earned by the Indians when the Yankees knocked them out in the first round in 2017, the figure would be around $36,000 per person.
Whether intended or not, though, Robertson’s actions at least gave the appearance of greed and snobbery, which in turn fostered the impression of a divided Yankee clubhouse on the brink of entering the playoffs.
Adding to the mix of reasons why Robertson “defected” to the Phillies is a report indicating that Gabe Kapler, the Phillies manager, plans on occasionally using Robertson as their closer, sharing time with Seranthony Dominguez. As we know, Robertson was blocked from this duty by Aroldis Chapman, and even Dellin Betances at times, during his time with the Yankees.
A complex individual, David Robertson has always gone his own way. As a diminutive 5’11”, 185 lb pitcher in a world of today’s giants, Robertson went to the point of wearing his black socks almost up to his knees, giving the perception of being taller and more fierce in his presence on the mound.
For many Yankees fans including myself, the departure of David Robertson strikes one player off the list of favorite players on the team. But as we know in other avenues of life, sometimes the only thing to do, whether desired or not, is to file for divorce.
David Robertson did that, and at least we can be grateful he found his way to the National League, out of sight, and for the most part out of mind.
Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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