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On Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s resurgence in the mind of Yankees fans

Last year’s starting shortstop and punching bag of the fanbase has turned into somewhat of a fan-favorite in 2023, and that’s awesome.

MLB: New York Mets at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Since Isiah Kiner-Falefa was traded to the New York Yankees, he has been looked at to fulfill a multitude of roles on the team. Last season, he was the everyday shortstop, and in 2023, he has been used as a utility player all around the field and as a usual contact-first bat in the lineup. With that change, there has been a significant change in the attitude of Yankees fans (myself included) towards Kiner-Falefa, and his attitude towards the organization and his teammates, along with less responsibility, has been a huge reason for that.

It’s hard to find any Yankees fan that would say they were a fan of Kiner-Falefa as the starting shortstop last season. It wasn’t a good plan then, and it wasn’t a good plan now, no matter how much Aaron Boone tried to defend it with the “internal metrics are showing he has been great defensively” talk. Heck, you could find one ESPN analyst that still isn’t a fan of Kiner-Falefa even being on the team despite not even being able to pronounce his name correctly ...

As much as Stephen A. Smith might still not like IKF, there has been a change in the hearts of the fans that put their all into rooting for the team, and part of the reason why is because of the undying loyalty to the organization, even though last year was a really rough ride. No matter what happened, IKF was respectful to the media, he made sure to take full responsibility if he made any mistakes that may have cost the Yankees the game, and he knows how important winning is to this fanbase.

There were talks around the trade deadline that Kiner-Falefa might be moved, and given the current state of the Yankees, that wasn’t a surprise to anyone. However, he wasn’t, and by the time the deadline had officially passed and he didn’t get a call from anyone, he was rejoicing. If that doesn’t make you a fan of him off the field, I don’t know what will.

It’s very obvious how much IKF loves being a Yankee. No matter what role he is put in, he is willing to play it, as long as he's wearing the pinstripes when he jogs onto the field. And it doesn’t matter where the team sits in the standings either, he is going to do everything in his power to win games. And since being put in a position that isn’t as far in the spotlight as “starting shortstop for the New York Yankees,” his performance on the field has been better too. His walk rate is at a career-high, he’s two homers away from tying his career-best, and his 94 wRC+ is also a career-best currently.

At the end of the day, it’s better for everyone that IKF has worked himself into the positive part of the ever-changing world of strong opinions that Yankees fans have. It’s good to see a player that wants to be here be rewarded with the support of the fans that were once all over him for errors and poor approaches at the plate. Some may even argue that most of that backlash was misguided, and instead should have been directed at the people who threw IKF into that position in the first place, which is an opinion I tend to agree with.