I have seen a lot of things in my time as a sports fan. However, I have never seen fans of a team remain so angry at a player after he left the team as a certain subset of Yankees fans have been at Clint Frazier. I'm married to a Yankees fan and casually followed Frazier's time in New York and still don't understand all the ire, which is why I wanted to do a deeper dive on his career and figure out the reason behind the immeasurable butthurt. Let's take a look at Clint's journey to and through the Bronx and see if we can find out what is making all those New Yorkers just SO FREAKIN' ANGRY, shall we?
And yes, I will tag CC on the tweet when this post goes up.
Getting to the Yankees
You might remember that in 2016, the Yankees weren't actually all that good. They missed the postseason that year with an 84-78 record and traded two lock-down lefty relievers for a spate of prospects. You might recall one of those trades--the deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for Gleyber Torres. The other was a deal with the now Guardians that sent 2 1/2 years worth of Andrew Miller to Cleveland for Frazier, Ben Heller, Justus Sheffield and J.P. Feyereisen. Not one of those four players is still in Yankee pinstripes. Frazier was the headliner of the deal, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft (yes, just three spots behind Kris Bryant). In 89 games for Cleveland's AA affiliate in 2016, Frazier showed both slugging and on-base potential with a .276/.356./469 slash line, 13 HR and 48 RBI, making him an attractive candidate to stick in the corner outfield in Yankee Stadium.
"Frazier had his chance!!!11!!"
The claim thrown around by many a Yankees fan over the last few weeks that Clint Frazier had his chance in New York is, shall we say, suspicious, so I wanted to check it out for myself. On the surface, Frazier's numbers in New York, outside of 2020, aren't spectacular.
Sometimes numbers don't tell us EVERYTHING, though, and I say that as someone with a math degree. If you take a deeper dive into 2017, you'll see that after spending the first half of the season in the minors, Frazier slashed a respectable .270/.298/.539 with a 117 OPS+ before going down with an oblique strain on August 10. Even though he came back off the injured list later in the season, he would only play in 16 more games and was left off the postseason roster. For a developing player, this is maybe not ideal?
The following season was not only complicated by a concussion that left Frazier on the injured list to start the season, but also by the fact that the Yankees made a little trade that offseason for another outfielder who kind of had to have playing time.
Remember this guy?
When Frazier was activated in May 2018, he was immediately sent to the minors and shuttled up and down all year. Note he only played in 15 games in 2018 which, again, is not ideal for a developing MLB-caliber player. Frazier was again sent to the minors to start the 2019 season, called up when all of Stanton, Aaron Hicks and perennial injured list resident Jacoby Ellsbury were hurt in early April, and then got the boot to AAA once again when the Yankees traded for Edwin Encarnación in June. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?)
Once again in 2020, when Frazier was told he made the opening day roster, he saw no playing time and then was sent to the alternate training site on July 26. That's right... he hadn't appeared in a single game. Finally he was called back up in mid-August when, you guessed it, Stanton went down with another injury and he put up an excellent .267/.394/.511 with 150 OPS+ in the COVID-shortened season. Oh--he was also a finalist for a Gold Glove after working on his outfield defense.
So what happened in 2021?
There are a ton of questions surrounding Clint Frazier's 2021 season, when he started the year as the Yankees' starting left fielder. Yes, Frazier's numbers look bad, but the more important thing is his health. Neurological issues suck, and I say that as someone who has them. I am a chronic migraine sufferer, meaning I can have up to 12 days a month where I have varying degrees of migraine symptoms. Sometimes I'm unable to function. Even getting to a diagnosis where I could manage them with medication has been a years-long slog, so whatever Frazier was dealing with in 2021 that impacted his vision, balance, and caused him to ultimately remove himself from the season is probably more important than his performance on the field.
I also would be loath to paint his 2021 season as a true "shot" at being a major league starter. It's more akin to a player needing to have surgery on a nagging injury, it impacting their play until they finally acquiesce to it and having to work their way back. It seems that because it wasn't an "injury" we could see, Frazier's physical issues were never properly discussed or prioritized. And it's a shame.
Welcome to the Cubs!
I'm not going to say the Yankees necessarily mishandled Frazier. HOWEVER, even Aaron Boone admitted that Frazier should've gotten more chances than he did, but that he was blocked by an overcrowded outfield. His development as a young player was certainly hurt by much more than any injuries he suffered. As for why Yankees fans seem to hate Frazier so much, well, that seems to be simply because he didn't keep quiet about his frustration with his development (or lack thereof) with the organization. (Although it seems like this was mostly hyped up by the NY media?) Should they have traded him before it ended up the way it did? Yeah, probably. They didn't, though, and the Cubs got a player with a ton of potential for a steal.
The Cubs and their fans are also a much better fit for Frazier. We like guys who are online! And who speak their minds! We enjoy sarcasm! We love a giant, ginger flow! Bring on the beards! Our tradition is if you look hot, wear it! We love a guy in a COVID mask! Bring it all on! And we also love guys with potential, which Frazier has. Here's hoping he'll take full advantage of a situation where there's less pressure and a lot more opportunity. Then it's a win-win-win for him, Cubs fans, and Yankees fans who don't have to have him on their team anymore.
U still mad, CC?