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Yankees “Mailbag”: Looking back at 2021

The mailbag dips back into old waters for a spinoff edition.

Wild Card Round - New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Throughout the year, we received plenty of questions submitted to our Yankees mailbag. I traditionally answer about three to four of them in each edition, leaving many waiting in the wings. Sometimes, this is because the question is similar to another one that did get answered, sometimes it’s because the question requires a deeper dive than can be done in time and would be better served as its own article — and sometimes, the question is just a hot take or too vague to respond to.

Everything becomes clearer with the benefit of hindsight, and the concerns of Yankees fans throughout the year is no exception. So let’s dive back into the mailbag and dig up some of the questions that didn’t get the limelight during their time for a bit of fun.

Ruff Trade asked: So, how much playing time are we expecting Brett Gardner to accrue now that Boone has his guy back? Will Clint Frazier be given a fair shake this year or be benched at the first sign of slump? (March 15th)

Oh, far too much. To be fair, Clint did struggle massively and almost immediately this year, so its hard to argue he didn’t get a fair shake, but it feels like we all knew the universe was aligning to give Brett Gardner more playing time than expected when he returned right before spring training kicked off. Gardner did wind up playing a significant part in the stretch run, but prior to that he looked very much like the 38-year-old that he is.

The Gregorius B.I.G. asked: Watching those old replays again, Don Mattingly looked pretty solid over at 3B. If he had been a plus defensive 3B instead of a 1B, what do you think his hall of fame chances would be/would have been? If he had been a righty thrower, would that have been his defensive home? (April 6th)

This is a question that I think could be expanded into an article all of its own (perhaps it still will be given the state of the lockout right now), but to give a summarized answer: better, but still difficult. For whatever reason, the Hall voters are particularly stringent with considering third basemen for the Hall — so even though Mattingly would assumingly have a better defensive resume from being a third baseman, it’s far from guaranteed. His offensive stats align or surpass some of the older inductees, but not the more modern ones.

Erick25 asked: When are the Yankees going to go after Christian Yelich and Hader and forget Clint and Hicks? Seems like a trade should soon be in the works. (May 3rd)

Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that they didn’t ever consider this trade, but the good news is that they never looked to make this move. Yelich and Hader are two of the biggest names that Milwaukee has on their roster, but the previously rock-solid Yelich nosedived this season. He hadn’t played much at the time, but his decline came mostly right after this question was submitted, so it’s not like this was a proposal to get nothing. Given Yelich and Hader’s contracts though, it was unlikely even if they were performing.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asked: Why do the Yankees suck so bad? They suck in so many ways. Offense, defense, hit for power, base running, staying healthy, laying down a bunt. It’s much easier to state all the things the Yankees have done well this year than things they’ve done poorly – Pitch. That’s it! Nothing more to see. And even the pitching is showing signs of trouble. (May 31st)

This question could’ve been timestamped from almost any point in the season. It was that kind of year.

CANL asked: Does a hitting coach really make that much of a difference? If yes, should Thames be shown the door? (June 7th)

I still don’t know how much influence a hitting coach actually has, but this year’s atrocious offensive performance was in fact enough for the Yankees to not renew Marcus Thames’ contract. It’s possible that this was a bit too reactionary, since Thames’ performance wasn’t questioned in the other years where the Yankee offense ranked near the top of the ladder, but given the particulars of this past season and the fact that his contract was up, it isn’t too big of a surprise.

greeneny asked: Is there enough upside? (June 24th)

I’m afraid not, friend.

Renz John asked: Cashman gets a bum relief pitcher from the pirates for Hoy Park and Diego Castillo two shortstops having great years in Triple and Double-A (July 26th)

Ah, trade deadline hot takes. Cashman ended up doing more than trading for “a bum relief pitcher,” but said pitcher was also Clay Holmes. Holmes ended up being one of the most consistent members of the bullpen after putting on pinstripes, helping to rebuild the relief corps into one of the best in the league. Not too shabby.

the idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asked: If this team were to go on to win the World Series, wouldn’t it be one of the strangest winning journeys in MLB history? They constantly looked for ways to lose games early (pick your favorite bullpen implosion). They’ve won games in some strange ways as well (triple plays). Even on this recent winning streak, it appears they’re almost trying to give away games. (August 20th)

I was convinced for most of the season that this year could only end in one of two ways — the Yankees going on a title run, or flaming out in the Wild Card. Unfortunately, it was the latter. It was comical how almost predictable it was that they would follow every poor stretch of play with hopeful performance and then follow those with tailspins, and it felt like the final week or two of the season encapsulated this perfectly.

MSP Giant asked: Rizzo or Voit? Who is the starting 1B next year? (September 28th)

As we get closer to the current date, the questions start to return to relevancy today. This is still very much up in the air, since Voit’s future is murky but Rizzo is still a free agent at the moment. There’s really not much more to say here, other than to note that it is interesting how quickly this debate formed.

That’s about it for this stroll down memory lane. A big thank you to everyone who submits questions for the mailbag every week, and to those of you who engage with these discussions. We’ll have one more mailbag for you around the holidays, and then we can put 2021 to bed and look forward to the future.