We all knew the New York Yankees would be turning it around after a terrible three weeks to start the season. It was only a matter of time.
Many fans just didn’t expect that turnaround to promptly begin after the moment Jay Bruce announced his retirement shortly before the team’s April 18 game vs the Tampa Bay Rays.
Since then, the Bombers have been an MLB-best 11-5 and completely flipped the script after their miserable 6-11 start.
Was Bruce’s performance to start the year adversely affecting the team? Definitely. But he certainly didn’t play a role in every other Yankees hitter absolutely sucking eggs.
Bruce was an outfielder playing first base, because the geniuses in the front office couldn’t figure out a better plan. For some reason, signing Mitch Moreland for, like, $1 million earlier in the offseason wasn’t an option.
The veteran slugger was also slashing just .118/.231/.235 across 39 plate appearances. He couldn’t hit balls down the pipe. He was whiffing at an alarming rate (33% of the time).
The Yankees have been dominating ever since Jay Bruce retired. Sorry, big fella.
Even more bizarre was that this came right after a spring training in which it appeared Bruce could be a valuable, experienced bench piece on a World Series contender. He’s been around the game long enough to at least give us some player-manager vibes.
At some point, fans were even talking about trading Mike Tauchman in the offseason to make room for Bruce! (That was before Luke Voit’s injury, by the way). And then the Yankees went ahead and traded Tauchman after Bruce retired!
The crazy part is that this team didn’t really get better. The Rougned Odor acquisition happened on April 6. In fact, you could argue the team got worse, since Tyler Wade is now the last guy on the bench (and Mike Ford is the backup first baseman) with Bruce and Tauchman gone.
The bottom line? While Bruce’s retirement certainly didn’t light a fire under the Yankees, he also wasn’t bringing anything unique or valuable to the team. With him out of the picture, DJ LeMahieu has been starting most of the games at first base, which has made for a much more promising infield with Odor at second, Gleyber Torres at short, and Gio Urshela at third.
The end of Bruce’s career is nothing to celebrate. He’s a decorated player and his contributions will be remembered among his generation of ballplayers. But it’s really odd that the Yankees seemingly flipped a switch ever since that series finale against the Rays, and it’s something that can’t be swept under the rug.
This just may have not been a good fit for either party.