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2017 Yankees Season Review: Greg Bird

It was my understanding that everyone had heard.

MLB: ALDS-Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Bird’s 2017 season was a roller coaster to say the least. He started the season on the highest of notes when he took the Grapefruit League by storm in spring training. Unfortunately, Bird fouled a ball off his ankle at the very end of spring training that would alter the course of his entire season.

The offensive monster that showed up in spring training was nowhere to be found when the regular season got underway in New York. Bird struggled mightily, prompting a lot of people to believe that his spring training success had been merely a fluke. Bird had already missed the entire previous season recovering from labrum surgery, and his immense struggles did nothing to quiet critics who believed he was toast.

Literally, Bird limped into May with atrocious offensive statistics before the Yankees finally sent him to the disabled list with what they called a bone bruise in his ankle. Pain lingered, however, despite the diagnosis being a fairly minor one. Each time Bird tried to return to the field, the pain in his ankle returned as well.

Of course, it couldn’t be that there was something happening in Bird’s body that no one knew. An anonymous source in the Yankees’ front office decided to speak to the media about their disappointment in Bird clearly not wanting to play, as if he was willingly sitting on the sidelines faking an injury. Having your integrity and heart called into question so publicly would be hard for anyone, but Bird was confident enough to handle it with more grace than some might have.

It was only after seeing specialist after specialist that the real problem was found: Bird had excess bone growth in his ankle that was inflamed because of the foul ball. Surgery was performed to correct the problem, and the results proved it was a huge success. Bird said he finally felt healthy again for the first time, and he backed it up with his performance.

Credit goes to Brian Cashman for continuing to believe in Bird instead of going out to get a first baseman at the trade deadline. Bird rewarded that faith by returning to become an important part of the team’s offense down the stretch and into their playoff run.

No moment was bigger, perhaps, than when Bird sent an Andrew Miller pitch into the seats at Yankee Stadium in the American League Division Series late in a scoreless game after Masahiro Tanaka’s incredible performance. Bird’s solo shot was the only run in the game, and it gave the Yankees life in a series they would ultimately end up winning.

Bird’s statistics at the end of the season extrapolated out across an entire healthy year are incredibly impressive, although likely not entirely realistic. Still, if he can provide offense at first base along the lines he did after his return, the Yankees will take that every day. It will save them from having to spend big on someone like Eric Hosmer this offseason.

Bird could be the word in New York for years to come.