Clint Frazier’s silence is loudest alarm in growing Yankees problem
Now Clint Frazier, normally chattier than a candy-stuffed kindergartner, has nothing to say?
In that case, now the Yankees have a situation on their hands. One that will require an apology, at least, and a trade, at most.
(I wouldn’t trade Frazier just yet. Nor would I tolerate much more of this conduct, however.)
In a Yankees season that often has felt magical, Frazier put together enough terrible looks in one night to create considerable unease and bad will. That the Yankees suffered their first 2019 loss to the Red Sox Sunday night, 8-5 at Yankee Stadium, could be tolerated well enough, given that the team nonetheless registered its ninth straight series victory and lead the defending champions by 8 ½ games (and the Rays by 2 ½) in the AL East.
The Frazier fright show on national TV, however, set off multiple alarms. After playing absolutely awful defense in right field, clearly unraveling via three separate plays that helped the Red Sox total five runs in the seventh and eighth innings, the 24-year-old refused to face the media to discuss what went down. He instead sent word through Jason Zillo, the Yankees’ vice president of communications and media relations, that he would not be talking.
On-field meltdowns hurt the team’s bottom line. Clubhouse malfunctions hurt the team’s culture. And the Yankees’ overall superb culture, one promoted by veterans Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia and reinforced by youngsters like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, has helped them overcome their wave of injuries.
The Yankees undergo considerable media training while they’re preparing for their season in Tampa, and they know the drill: When you mess up, you own up. When you don’t honor that credo, you’re not only letting down the public. You’re letting down your teammates as well. While Frazier has previously expressed discomfort about discussing his defensive woes, Sunday night — with multiple mishaps followed by an official blow-off — represented a new low for the 24-year-old.
To think, through six innings, this appeared to be a pretty low-energy night. That changed in the top of the seventh, first when Frazier let former Yankee Eduardo Nunez’s single go under his glove for a two-base error, then when he tried and failed to make a diving catch on Andrew Benintendi’s line drive and made an off-line throw home, giving the Bosox more bases. In the top of the eighth, Frazier capped his miserable game by allowing Michael Chavis hit to roll past him for a triple.
“Maybe pressing a little bit,” Aaron Boone said, displaying his standard generosity of spirit. “He’s working his tail off. As I talked about, he’s making strides out there. Obviously there’s been some mistakes along the way, too, and that’s part of continuing to develop as a young player. That’s an area of his game that isn’t as far along necessarily as his offensive game.”
With two singles in four at-bats Sunday, Frazier lifted his 2019 slash line to .272/.319/.517, a pretty good showing. There’s every indication that he possesses a bat that will produce value at the major league level. Yet the defense at both corner-outfield slots has been so terrible that it mitigates much of what he brings with his bat.
His teammates expressed support and sympathy for him in light of what went down.
“That’s just a time when you’ve got to slow the game down,” Aaron Hicks said. “Know the situations going into it, what might happen before the play even starts and just kind of control the moment and do your best to get clean innings after that.”
“It’s part of the game,” Luke Voit said. “We still trust him.”
These same supportive teammates surely were (or will be) disappointed to learn of Frazier’s postgame decision to plead the fifth, one contrary to the franchise’s values.
First, Frazier must apologize to his teammates. Then, Boone should limit Frazier to designated-hitter duties for the short term, and have him work on his outfield play before games. Eventually, Frazier should get another chance out there, for his trade value as much as the team’s benefit.
He has to improve his defense on and off the field, though. Just as this city rewards big personalities like Frazier’s, it devours those who can’t stand the heat.
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