The New York Yankees’ offense, supposedly their calling card entering the 2021 season, has looked both frustrating and bare-minimum satisfying throughout the campaign.
At this point, the Bombers have dug out of a 6-11 hole to sit at 18-16, putting just enough pressure on bullpens like the Astros and Nationals to break through close games right before the proverbial buzzer had sounded.
It sounds gauche to complain about a winning team amid a fairly substantial run, but, well … the same issues that have plagued the Yankees for years are still present, and they’ve been magnified, considering the team doesn’t hit quite as many home runs as they used to.
Well … about that …
After years of MLB denying that they’d tightened the seams on their balls (among other things) to make the 2019 version fly further and easier than the previous vintage, the league outright admitted the difference this offseason, choosing to change the balls’ construction yet again in an effort to make things “fair.” When they did this, however, they squeezed a good degree of the offense left in the game back out again.
The Yankees’ team offense, which looks bleak every which way in triple slashes, is actually slightly above MLB average, even with all sorts of unsightly and powerless lines mixed in.
That’s not fair to anyone.
Based on what we’ve seen so far in 2021, what we watched take place in 2019, and the experiences of a few people who, ahem, aren’t here anymore, it’s clear the changing baseball has completely altered the career paths of a few beloved Yankees.
Some Bombers are currently stuck in the doldrums, hoping the change isn’t permanent.
These 3 Yankees were most affected by the changing baseball in 2019 and 2021.
3. Brett Gardner
Veteran fourth outfielder Brett Gardner has a semi-permanent contract with the Yankees for leadership purposes until he desires a change to that routine.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem likely to be nearly as productive as he was in 2019 … well, ever again, thanks in part to the shifting mechanics of the equipment, as well as his aging curve.
Much of the justification for Gardner’s ability to leave the Yankees on his terms comes from the ’19 campaign in which he turned back the clock (side note: can you “turn back the clock” to something that was never really there before?) with a remarkable and uncharacteristic 28 home runs in 141 games, a career high by a wide margin.
Always known as an above-average defender, solid OBP guy, and above-average hitter (in terms of OPS+) about half the time, Gardner leveled up in 2019, only to watch a difficult August and slow start color his numbers in 2020. He batted just .223 in the shortened season, but with a .354 OBP, and found himself starting playoff games thanks to a potent close to the campaign.
2021, though, has been a different story, as Gardner has been one of many powerless Yankees, still sporting a 0 in the home run column and only recently inching his average back to .200. The most emblematic swing of his power drought is the one pictured in the featured image, a rip to right against Jose Ureña that went for a sac fly to the wall instead of a porch shot like viewers have become accustomed to.
Gardner remains a serviceable part-time player, even in his later years, but his reputation has definitely been temporarily inflated thanks to the 2019 juiced ball.