Did the Yankees do a double-take when they saw Clint Frazier’s name as a Gold Glove finalist? How wonderfully ironic this is for Red Thunder.
All signs pointed upward when Cashman gushed with enthusiasm with those words about Frazier just after bringing him to the Yankees on July 31, 2016, in a trade with the Cleveland Indians along with J.P. Feyereisen, Ben Heller, and Justus Sheffield for Yankees reliever Andrew Miller.
Fast-forward through the next four years, though, and all you’ll find are an excruciating series of false starts, empty promises, indecision by the Yankees, and a history of Frazier shooting himself in the foot with immature behavior that repeatedly delayed his spot in the Yankees lineup.
Along the way, when the Yankees ran out of reasons to explain why Frazier’s bat wasn’t needed in a faltering Yankees lineup, their fallback position was – “It’s his defense.”
The caricature “evidence” was there for all to see. 4,800 YouTubers took delight in sharing videos like this one, digging the knife deeper:
Yankees Respond In Kind To Clint Frazier
Frazier’s teammates never gave up on him, though, as exemplified in this comment from Luke Voit: “You’ve just got to stay positive. The guys got his back. Everyone is going to make those mistakes.” (NJ.com)
But that brand of support from your peers is commonplace in major league ballplayers’ tightly-knit culture. In fact, almost the same words were being used to prop up Gary Sanchez not once – but numerous times.
In the end, though, it has to come from within the person, and unlike Sanchez who struggles even to this day to “get it,” the Yankees were pleasantly surprised by the Clint Frazier who reported to camp earlier this year.
There we no words or press conferences announcing, “Hey, look at the new me.” There was only a mask that Frazier insisted on wearing when almost no one else was as a response to the spreading COVID virus.
In its own way, the mask said all there was to know about Clint Frazier and what had transpired in his life during the offseason.
In two words, Clint Frazier had decided it was time to Grow Up and to take things (like the virus) more seriously, and most importantly, to seize control of his floundering career with the Yankees.
Finally, The Yankees Give In
Despite Frazier’s eye-opening Spring Training with the bat, the Yankees refused to give in, placing Frazier on the newly created taxi-squad, where he (quietly – a keyword) labored to keep in shape.
Fast-forward again to just before the postseason when the Yankees announced that Clint Frazier would be joining the team, and it wouldn’t be to ride the bench.
“It’s just going to make us deeper,’’ said Boone when Frazier was promoted, adding that “Clint’s earned a significant role on this team.’’
Albeit in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, Frazier came through, batting .333 with a home run. Nothing to write home about, but the message was clear. Clint Frazier had earned a spot with the Yankees.
Moreover, Frazier is being penciled in as the Yankees starting left fielder, whether or not Brett Gardner is re-signed for 2021.
But That’s Only Half The Story
But that’s not all. Here’s the rest of the Yankees Clint Frazier story. Major League Baseball announced the finalists for this year’s Gold Glove Awards – and Frazier is listed for right field.
Who would have guessed? And no, it’s not a misprint. Naysayers are already poo-poohing everything about baseball awards, given the shortened season, and there may be a nugget of truth there.
But for Clint Frazier, this is monumental, and Yankees fans should applaud him. Just watch…
So what are the numbers? Frazier played the outfield in 34 of the Yankees 60 regular-season games, handling 62 chances while making only a single error.
The good stuff comes when you drill a bit deeper, though. In an analytics category, they call Total Fielding Runs Above Average (R-tot/yr), with zero being an average score, Frazier has always had negative ratings (example: -41 in 2019).
This year, the Yankees outfielder zoomed to +35. In another category labeled Defensive Runs Saved, Frazier also hit a positive number for the first time in his career.
Small sample or not, all right fielders played the same schedule in 2020, and when you view the Gold Glove Finalists for 2020, as selected by Rawlings, this is what we see:
As the saying goes, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Now, will the Yankees (finally) play Clint Frazier every day – pretty please?