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The Yankees and the risk of clubhouse picks

Having an edge is a plus, as long as it’s the right kind of edge.

Division Series - New York Yankees v Cleveland Guardians - Game Four Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Clubhouse chemistry is a slippery thing. The Bronx Zoo makes for a good story, but most of the time, good teams end up having good chemistry. The effects seem to be endogenous — does winning just make everyone feel good and get along, or do players that create those feelings actually help you score a lot of runs while not allowing many?

The Yankees, over the past couple of seasons, seem to at least put a little bit of value on the idea of clubhouse leadership. CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner were retained partially for their on-field contributions, but also at least a little because they were seen as the elder statesmen of the clubhouse. Anthony Rizzo is well-known to be a real leader, and Brian Cashman admitted that part of the appeal of Josh Donaldson was bringing an “edge” to the roster.

How’s that working out so far?

Gardner, by the end of his career, seemed to establish this reputation as a prankster that didn’t quite know when to knock it off. One of the last things he did as a Yankee was butt heads with Gerrit Cole over a joke that one guy found funny and another guy felt crossed a line...which sounds similar to the most charitable interpretation of Josh Donaldson’s “snafu” with Tim Anderson in 2022.

Sabathia and Rizzo, those two seemed to have worked out well from a leadership standpoint. Donaldson’s been — again, as charitably as possible — an annoying little twerp. Both he and Gardner, more to the point, just weren’t good enough to make up for how many headaches they seemed to cause. John Gibbons credited Donaldson’s “edge” as an asset when he was a Blue Jay, but it’s easier to get away with being a twerp when you’re putting up seven wins worth of production.

All of this brings me to Carlos Rodón, a guy that I’m excited to see in the Yankee rotation, and another guy that Brian Cashman lauded for bringing an “edge” to the team. I’m optimistic that Rodón is the “right” kind of edge, but he’s already had issues with striking players and coaches in the dugout:

Now look, both times the Giants circled the wagons around their ace, and these kind of displays can cut two ways. Rodón is obviously an extremely competitive guy who holds himself to a high standard. That’s a good thing, it’s the kind of thing that can push other players to improve and gives confidence that the couple times a year Rodón doesn’t have it, he’s going to push himself to find out why and fix it.

But here’s the thing; there’s a good edge and a bad edge, and you really only know what you got after the fact. We only really knew how problematic Donaldson was going to be once Aaron Judge and the rest of the team didn’t really back him up after the Anderson incident. We only learned that Gardner had a penchant for taking things too far after he took things too far, with a player that had the status and clout to stand up for himself.

I’m excited for April 1st, the likely first start for Rodón in pinstripes. I think he’s going to be a star for the Yankees, and if I were betting I’d put money on him bringing the “right” kind of edge to the club. The Yankees just don’t have that great of a track record over the past couple seasons when evaluating swagger, edge, or what have you. I tend to think that winning brews good chemistry, but I also don’t want to spend another summer rolling my eyes because an edgelord on the team I cheer for took things too far again.