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Ask Pinstripe Alley 5/25/17: Brett Gardner, Ian Clarkin, Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge extensions

The answers to your Yankees questions have arrived.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

We sent out our latest call for Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag questions on Sunday morning. In that time, you’ve responded with a dozen questions! I’m going to take a swing at a handful of them this afternoon. Don’t worry if I didn’t make it around to yours this time. Another editor might answer it in a later edition.

repeater1990 asks: What do you guys make of Gardner's home run surge? Is it the result of a changed approach? Will it continue throughout the season, or will he fade like he did in 2014 and 2015?

So far, it’s been a tale of two seasons for Brett Gardner. The Yankees left fielder struggled terribly for most of April. He looked finished, and that’s no exaggeration. Then, seemingly out of the blue, he transformed into the 2003 version of Barry Bonds . The breakdown is striking.

Brett Gardner’s 2017 Batting Lines

April 2nd - 28th 76 .188 0.316 .234 0 61
April 29th - May 24th 98 .349 0.412 .733 9 206

I touched upon Gardner’s power uptick earlier this month. In particular, I noted that he became more aggressive in his approach. He corrected his extreme patience at the plate and the results followed. It’s amazing what can happen when a talented player swings the bat. Plus, he really caught fire the further removed he was from his collision with Rickie Weeks Jr. It’s entirely possible that playing banged up interfered with his performance.

Is this power surge sustainable? Well, no, of course not. He’s not going to hit at a Ruthian clip the rest of the way. There are, however, encouraging signs. His hard contract rate is growing in proportion to a declining groundball percentage. This isn’t just in a small sample size; it’s now a prolonged trend. That spells continued success.

As for health, that’s tough to predict. Gardner has a propensity to wear down as the season rolls on. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if that happened again this year. The optimistic take is that the Yankees have been able to give their outfielders regular rest thanks to the breakout of Aaron Hicks. Perhaps that will keep him fresh down the stretch. If he plays even half as well as he’s doing now, the Yankees would take it.

Fred Slagle asks: Who is the Yankees employee who passes judgement on whether to have Girardi request a play review? Does he have an umpiring background? Where does he review plays at home and on the road. Has he been with the Yankees since the inception of play review?

That would be Brett Weber! He’s been the Yankees video replay monitor since 2014, when the play review system first rolled out. Prior to that, Weber worked in the front office, having joined the organization in an administrative capacity in 2009. He watches the games from the video room at Yankee Stadium. When the team takes to the road, he travels with them. The Yankees have a 75% success rate at overturning calls, so he’s doing a great job.

Fun fact: Weber does not have a background in umpiring. He was actually selected by the Yankees in the 14th round of the 1998 draft. He pitched for a few seasons in the minor leagues before hanging up his cleats for a career in finance. Billy Witz of The New York Times wrote an interesting profile on Weber last year. I highly recommend it.

Pedro Ortiz asks: Would it be a good idea to extend Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge long term now?

On the surface level, this is an easy question. I absolutely think it would be a good idea to approach Sanchez and Judge with long-term contract extensions. These are cornerstone players. It’s not too difficult to imagine a scenario where they lead the team for the better part of the next decade. When it comes to athletes of their caliber, it would be wise to lock them up as quickly as possibly.

That said, will the Yankees do it? Probably not. The team is still planning on sneaking under the luxury tax threshold next season. In order to do that, the club will have to capitalize on players making league minimum. That would offset some of the larger expenditures, making the goal more realistic.

So, yes, it’s a good idea. The Yankees would keep their young stars long-term, and likely at a more affordable rate. It would also make up for some of the goodwill the front office lost during the contentious Dellin Betances arbitration process. It just doesn’t sound like something that would happen though.

HHI_Golf_Guy asks: What happened to Ian Clarkin? Clarkin started off the season great down in Tampa but went on the DL around May 3rd. I haven’t seen anything as to why he went on the DL. Did he hurt his arm again? I was hoping he’d be in Trenton by the end of the year and get a non-roster invite to camp next spring.

I tried hard to find out why Clarkin landed on the disabled list. I really did. The organization, however, keeps that information pretty close to the vest. We might find out someday what what bothered him, but for now that’s still up in the air.

The good news, however, is that Clarkin is healthy now. He actually pitched last night. He did well, too! His tossed three shutout innings for the Tampa Yankees. He allowed three hits, issued one walk, and struck out five. Talk about a solid return.

Clarkin, a first round draft pick in 2013, has battled injuries for most of his professional career. He’s still just 22 years old, however, and ranks as the team’s 20th best prospect. Talent and age are on his side. The Yankees are really hoping he can stay healthy and take a step forward this season.