The very first thing Yankees fans were told about Clint Frazier was that he was going to be good. Upon his acquisition from Cleveland in the Andrew Miller trade, Frazier was immediately ranked as the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect.
The second thing Yankees fans were told about Frazier was that he requested to wear No. 7, which is retired for Mickey Mantle. This was false, and Frazier received an apology from the team broadcaster who first made the claim.
The third thing Yankees fans were told about Frazier was that he had no respect for the franchise, because his trademark long, red hair violated the team’s weird retrograde grooming policy. It didn’t actually run afoul of the policy—the club later confirmed that—but in spring training in 2017, then-manager Joe Girardi suggested he cut his hair short because it was becoming a “distraction.” He did so.
Things have generally not gotten easier or calmer for Frazier since. He struggled in limited action in his rookie year, and his 2018 was ended at just 15 games by a serious concussion. Concussion recovery can be a dark, frustrating time, but while he was out, a Yankees broadcaster (a different one than made the false Mickey Mantle story) said on-air, “shame on Clint Frazier for not getting healthy.”
Frazier thinks he’s been treated unfairly by the local media, and he’s sure got an impressive body of evidence in his young career to prove it.
Now in his third season and healthy, and with a series of injuries to outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart, the 24-year-old is finally getting at-bats, and is starting to put it together at the plate, slashing .273/.323/.533 and hitting 11 home runs in 42 games. But Frazier’s bat is being overshadowed by his league-worst outfield defense, and it’s led to another media imbroglio. This time, for the first time, Frazier’s feeling confident enough to fire back.
On Sunday night, Frazier had a nightmare of an inning in right field that ultimately cost the Yankees the chance to sweep the Red Sox:
After the game, Frazier declined to speak to reporters. He knew what they were going to ask about, and frankly, he’d had enough. (He did later text an ESPN reporter.)
This unsurprisingly became A Whole Thing. No local teams were in action on Monday, so Frazier found himself the center of coverage for nearly two full days. The usual shit—cranky beat reporters and self-serious columnists decrying Frazier for ducking questions and wondering if he has What It Takes To Play In New York™.
Frazier took the initiative. Before Tuesday night’s game in Toronto (you tell me if it was more poetic that Frazier homered again in the game, or that he served as the DH), he invited the entire assembled media to his locker, and he started off by saying he wasn’t sorry for not answering questions on Sunday—and explaining why not.
“I don’t regret it. To be fair, I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation, because it’s not a rule that I have to speak,” Frazier began. “I know that it came out that I was ducking the media, but that wasn’t what I am trying to do. I have owned up to my mistakes in the past, saying it shouldn’t happen. You know, since I got traded over here there have been stories that shouldn’t have come out, have come out. And it’s difficult, because the way I am perceived by people is not how I think I really am. Stories that shouldn’t have been stories, have been stories.
“It started with the hair. Then it started with me asking for a number that I didn’t ask for. Then it started with another guy saying I should be out on the field playing through a concussion. It’s been difficult and I don’t feel like it’s been fair at times. I don’t owe (an) apology for not talking.”
You can read a full transcript of Frazier’s remarks here. It’s heady stuff, and it’s easy to see where he’s coming from. The media-player relationship is supposed to be a symbiotic relationship with both parties benefiting, but in Frazier’s view, reporters have mostly just made his life worse. If they’re not going to treat him fairly, why should he give them what they want?
There are counterarguments to that. One is that talking to reporters is just part of the job. (The CBA language isn’t entirely clear on whether it’s actually mandated, but the Yankees specifically make a point of having their players wait around and talk.) But it’s extremely human and relatable to not feel like doing your job sometimes, especially immediately after a professional low point. Would anyone really have been better off if Frazier had fired off some clichés before getting on the bus?
Unfortunately, Frazier probably would have been. Wouldn’t you know it, here’s a concern-trolling column in the Post musing on whether Frazier’s sensitivity is going to keep him from ever becoming a great player. By showing even a whiff of emotion and honesty, Frazier may find himself a target for this stuff for the rest of his career—unless the groupthink decides that a narrative in which he “matures” is a better one.
Being a ballplayer sucks sometimes. They fuck up, where everyone can see it, and then they have to talk about their fuck-up. No matter how much they’re making, that’s unpleasant. But Frazier’s beef with the New York media goes deeper. It’d be one thing if he merely had to answer questions about his real mistakes, but in a very short time, he’s been made to answer for things he hasn’t actually done wrong. Is it any wonder that he doesn’t think he’s been treated fairly? If part of playing fair is giving quotes, Frazier can still blow reporters off a bunch more times before things are close to even.