When the New York Yankees traded for Harrison Bader, their intention was to deploy him in October and revolutionize their defensive alignment. Anything he was able to contribute during the regular season would be a bonus (further calling into question the team’s decision not to replace Jordan Montgomery).
As September begins and the close of the regular season approaches, the Yankees still seem likely to make it to October, an almost unfathomable sentence to write about a team that led the AL East by 12 games entering August and led the Rays by 15 games as play ended on Aug. 1.
Still, the foot came off the gas pedal, the injuries began to chip away at a strong lineup, and the regressions hit certain players named Gleyber Torres hard, and the Bombers have arrived in the season’s final month fighting for their playoff lives and attempting to reignite visions of World Series contention that once danced in fans’ heads.
That means extra (and probably unfair) pressure falls on Bader’s shoulders, replacing the pressure of his now-shorn hair.
According to Bader himself, he’s now likely to return from plantar faciitis on or before Sept. 15, giving him three regular-season weeks to showcase his skills. This comes just three days after Aaron Boone claimed Bader was in the midst of a “10-day ramp up” towards playing live rehab games, which aligns with the outfielder’s claim.
The thesis of the Bader deal was that those three weeks would not matter whatsoever, but they appear quite likely to have an impact — both on the Yankees’ fate, and the fans’ perception of their new acquisition.
Yankees Harrison Bader to return by Sept. 15
The fact that the Yankees dealt Montgomery is nearly irrelevant; his most recent start with the Cardinals featured some regression to the mean, and Bombers fans know deep down he’s a good-not-great option who can battle, but rarely dominate.
What remains relevant is the fact that the Yankees cleared his roster spot and added only Bader, not another arm who could reasonably replicate the rest of Montgomery’s regular season (Jose Quintana, perhaps, who also went to the Cardinals). Therefore, Bader — no matter how electric he may be — will end up getting blamed for Brian Cashman’s lack of foresight. In order to alter the discourse, he’s going to need to be the fan favorite that many Cardinals fans keep warning he absolutely can be.
Bader’s Yankee tenure will extend beyond 2022 (he’s under control for next season as well), and his game is the kind that tends to resonate with old-school fanbases (flair for the dramatic in the field, good hustle paying off, etc). Odds are, if he doesn’t hit the ground running, he’ll get a chance to hit the reset button in 2023.
But for 2022, if the team’s spiral ends up depending on Bader outrunning the lack of pitching, the bullseye could find him during this tough three-week ramp-up period.