One of the most "This Aged Poorly!" pieces of content I've ever written revolved around the contract situation of Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, when it seemed as if there might be a locker waiting for him at spring training in 2022.
The thought process was that if Gardner was the best the Yankees were willing to do in left field, and with the end of their free agency budget, they'd be bowing to complacency. Gardner's presence at spring training -- or, at least, the implicit promise that he'd always have a role in New York -- seemed to signal the franchise's unwillingness to move on and improve as their veteran core aged.
When Gardner remained unsigned, somewhat shockingly, I emitted a sigh of relief. Turns out, though, that I hadn't considered what the Yankees were planning which was, of course, worse than even what I'd feared. They sent Gardner into retirement and replaced him with ... nothing. Nothing at all. Two years running.
Instead of "running it back" with a past-his-prime Gardner, they somehow opted not to address the role or vacancy whatsoever, creating production far worse than Gardner's 90 OPS+ in his final season (not by choice). The team's depth behind starter Joey Gallo (oh yeah) and trade deadline acquisition Andrew Benintendi (oh yeah) often consisted of a combination of Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andújar, and Marwin González, sparking the Yankees' newly minted proud tradition of "starting non-outfielders in the outfield."
Gardner didn't seem like a valuable use of the fourth outfielder spot, especially since he appeared to be the default option, like the U2 album that comes with your iPhone. Unfortunately, the wrath of Gardy that's ensued since the Yankees forced him into retirement counteracts that notion spectacularly. If this was what was always fated to follow, the Yanks should've just stood pat with their de facto "captain."
Yankees' left fielders have been cursed since Brett Gardner was sent into early retirement
The starters at the position haven't fared much better than the backups, of course.
Gallo's tenure in the Bronx started poorly and got worse, ending at last summer's trade deadline amid tales of the lifelong Yankee fan being booed and harassed in the streets. For whatever reason, people are still asking him about his time in the Bronx to this day (probably Gardner's fault).
Benintendi seemed like a Gardner-adjacent solution and a contact-first bat, but his wrist snapped in early September. Turns out, he fractured a small, hooked bone that he thought he'd removed entirely in college. How did the Ghost Bone get back in there? Your guess is as good as ours (Gardner).
The curse even appears to have followed Jackson Frazier beyond the boundaries of the Yankees' purview, but that's what you get for copping Gardner's turtleneck.
Luckily, entering 2023, the Yankees decided not to do that again and shored up the position with -- nah, just kidding, they're very much making it up on the fly, at this point.
Hicks begat IKF, who begat Jake Bauers, who begat Billy McKinney. Franchy Cordero's been around. Greg Allen's been out there. Sometimes, Willie Calhoun flies in and out. Truthfully, everyone's been an option -- except Estevan Florial.
Maybe this ends in less than a week. Maybe Randal Grichuk's the Gardner-approved savior. At this moment in time, though, it feels like the Yankees have to cosmically make amends with the shiny-headed grinder they've wronged. We had no idea what we'd wrought when we begged them to move on.