Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Red Thunder makes the first cut, but it's crowded out there.

In the absence of Sir Didi Gregorius, Clint Frazier has ascended to the vaunted-yet-perilous throne-perch known as "My. Fave. Yank." It's never been his defense, which still hovers between early Neanderthal and late Manny Ramirez, or his timing, which remains terrible. It was the narrative, his story line, that hooked me. And like Sir Didi, whose unbridled joy made him such a pleasure to root for, Frazier's over-the-top personality pulled me into his corner, even as it may have alienated him within the Yankees corporate/media jury pool.

In September, so-called "Red Thunder" - was there ever a worse nickname to hang on a kid? - turns 26. He's no longer a prospect. His great potential now looms as a "never-was." In the outfield, he's a cross between Chris Farley and Gerald Ford, crashing into walls like a bug on a windshield. But damn, the guy always hit, even when hitting his way out of a hole, and I still believe if the Yankees ditch him, they will long regret it.

It's now been four years (July, 2016) since they acquired Frazier from Cleveland - with Jonathan Feyereisen (now of Milwaukee), Ben Heller (Scranton) and Justus Sheffield (in Seattle, converted into James Paxton) - for the great reliever, Andrew Miller. At the time, the Indians had a full-on, 48-hour, world series erection, so they gave up both Frazier and Sheffield - keys to the deal. Frazier, a high first-round pick (drafted 5th overall in 2013) was immediately touted by Brian Cashman for his "legendary bat speed" - whatever that means - and whisked off to Scranton, now his second home. 

Twice, he seemed on the verge of breaking into the Yankees. Two years ago, he hit .305 with 11 HRs in the minors, seemingly ready for NYC. But two concussions, both chasing fly balls - an amazing blitz of bad luck - crushed his chances. 

Last year, he came up in April after injuries crippled the Yankee lineup. In the first half of the year, he hit .283 with 11 HRs, carrying the stricken team with big hits. Then the starters returned, and his playing time shrank. After one horrible night on national TV - he was playing RF, a rarity, and botched several fly balls - he was cruelly exiled to Scranton, where, in a depression, he tanked, before finally turning it around.

And here he is, once again, knocking on the door. Will it open? Maybe a crack. Maybe not. There have always been whispers that Frazier's hair is too long, that his personality is too dominant, that his Nick Swisherish ways don't fit the team's monochromatic robot ideal. These days, he's one of the few Yankees to wear a mask in the field. I find it refreshing, a Yank who doesn't want to spread or die from COVID. 

With today's 30-man roster, Frazier apparently has made the team. In a few weeks, when it drops to 26, who knows? The outfield is jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive: Judge, Stanton, Hicks, Gardy, Tauchman, Andujar and maybe Zach Granite, for defense. Barring injuries - ha, fat chance of THAT, eh? - Frazier will be soon be dining outside in Wilkes Barre (where COVID cases, by the way, are low and dropping.)

Wait... did I mention COVID? The virus remains the true Wild Card of 2020. At any moment, an entire lineup could go into quarantine, requiring a fresh busload from Scranton. For all the bullshit of MLB - and my God, there is plenty - it's the narratives that bring me back. And something tells me Frazier's story has only begun. 


Anonymous said...

If we go by the metric of, "Do we watch the at bat?" Frazier is easily one of the most entertaining Yankees.

Here's a list that I am pulling out of my butt right now that shows this.








Kyle H. (I ain't gonna try to spell it)

YOU DO KNOW (Time to hit the Fridge)


Doug K.

Anonymous said...

Yup. Except I'd switch Gardy and Tauchman.

HoraceClarke66 said...

I agree, Doug. Though I might put Tauchman in the "Always Worth Watching" group as well.

Local Bargain Jerk said...

I would put Stanton in the "Always Worth Watching" group just for the pleasure possibility of being able to say, "I knew it!"

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