The inner workings of a baseball team are complicated. It is easy to spot when certain players are unapologetically themselves, often carving out a specific role on a team that fits them the best. When you don’t have to force a persona, meshing with other players and finding your niche happens naturally. These players are often referred to as “glue guys”. The Yankees have pillars in their leadership group: Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, Gerrit Cole. But there is one player whose return has provided energy to a lineup that for most of the season was lacking it. That man is Harrison Bader.
I will say that I had my doubts about the impact he would provide to a struggling lineup after an extended period on the IL. The Yankees were in such a malaise, particularly on offense, in the weeks leading up to Bader’s return that it felt like one player’s return from injury would be like trying to save a sinking ship with a bucket. Plus, while his playoff performance last season was otherworldly, his career numbers indicated a different type of player. I was skeptical.
I was wrong. His impact has been immediate and his presence has altered the feeling of the lineup overall. Esteban Rivera recently wrote a piece highlighting the stats of Bader’s hot start, including an in-depth breakdown of his mechanics and approach on his three-run home run in Tampa. It’s a must-read.
But his impact goes beyond his clutch at-bats. There is something to be said about solidifying a key outfield position like center. With injuries, it felt like a revolving door in the outfield, and I think we have all grown tired of seeing guys like Isiah Kiner-Falefa roaming center field. Bader is rangy and athletic. He makes a difficult defensive assignment look easy. Being able to pencil in Bader into a lineup every day is a luxury, and you can quickly see how more well-rounded this team is when he is on the field.
I don’t want to overhype him as a savior of some sort, able to fix all the flaws of this roster (and playing the Athletics for a series does help as well). But one thing that Bader has never lacked is confidence, and man did this team need some injection of life. His energy is contagious and his success at the plate has only allowed him to build on that confidence. He seems to be doing everything he can to drag this team out of the mud. Bader certainly lengthens a lineup that has felt too top-heavy at times this season, and it’s always good to add power and speed.
It is hard to quantify what a guy like Bader brings to a team and an organization. You may say that his batting average and RBIs would be a way, his WAR another, and I would agree to an extent, as a player’s personality and energy won’t matter nearly as much if they aren’t producing. However, these guys are not robots, they are a team, and a team needs players to fill certain roles. There may not be another player on the Yankees who embraces his role quite like Bader. It is still a small sample size, and I think we are all curious to see how he produces over an extended period of time, but we should enjoy this hot streak.
He may not be a pillar of the team, but he might just be the heart.