As the 2021 season ended, Yankees brass assured fans they agreed with their unified sentiment: that team was unwatchable as constructed, and that lack of watchability fell on the players.
That didn’t stop the staff of hitting coaches from being gutted, but Aaron Boone returned and major upgrades were promised across the board.
Have shakeups occurred since then? Of course. Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela are in Minnesota now. The Yankees are eyeing the A’s pitching staff. Josh Donaldson is a Grade-A, all-caps “CHANGE.”
But we’ve always said the clearest indicator of the Yankees’ lack of a plan/inability to break away from their recent mediocrity would be the assured return of Brett Gardner in 2022, given an entire offseason — and a whole lockout! — to come up with something better.
Alas, on Wednesday and Thursday, Yankee fans were given a double relevant gut punch (no, Aaron Judge, we didn’t mean “shot in the arm”).
Joc Pederson, eternally a power-hitting outfield upgrade on whom the Yankees passed in 2020, 2021, and now in 2022, went to the San Francisco Giants on a cheapie deal. Concurrently, it was revealed that Gardner still has an open locker at Yankees camp.
No plan. Just … waiting.
Yankees keeping Brett Gardner’s locker open at Spring Training
Meet the new Yankees, same as the old Yankees. Same skeleton.
Can’t believe we have to keep repeating ourselves here, but considering we’re in eternal stasis mode with Gardner’s status, we might as well get used to it: yes, you could do far worse than Gardy, even at this stage of his career. Yes, he’ll put up a month where he looks downright 34 years old. Yes, the Yankees — the supposedly-contending Yankees — should’ve moved on by now, or at least gotten better insurance for Aaron Hicks, who can’t be counted on, relegating Gardner to the 26th man spot.
Nope. Just Tim Locastro and an empty locker.
This might not make linear sense, but the Empty Gardner Spring Training Locker feels like the physical embodiment of Hal Steinbrenner’s Wednesday statement that he’s financially struggling because he’s still paying off stadium loans.
“I don’t get it,” Hal’s subtext seems to be saying. “Brett Gardner’s fine. What are all you people crying about? I’m trying.”
As much as it felt like the Gary Sánchez Era needed to end, and as much as Gio Urshela felt squeezed off the roster before he was dealt … giving Gardner carte blanche and an open invitation to return when he was just as mediocre as either of those two feels like the eternal sign that this team will never understand again where it’s supposed to fall in the baseball hierarchy.
Like with seemingly every move the Yankees make these days, you could absolutely do worse than Gardner — but you could also do better.