Clint Frazier must learn to tune out noise before it’s too late
TORONTO — Let’s go back in time to March 10, 2017, the day Clint Frazier — in his first Yankees spring training — cut his hair after much scrutiny over his locks’ length. In my column for The Post that ran the subsequent day, I cited the anonymous sentiments of another team’s front-office executive who knew Frazier well:
“If there’s one concern I have with him, it’s that he’ll be very aware of everything going on around him. He’s not the type of guy who can just come to work and block out all of the noise.”
Wow. That turned out to be one hell of a scouting report. Unfortunately for Frazier and the Yankees, it remains deadly accurate.
While Frazier’s defense has transformed into a major concern in this mostly magical Yankees season, the team should hold a bigger-picture worry about the 24-year-old: whether he’ll ever sufficiently manage his roller-coaster personality to allow him to thrive in the fishbowl that is this franchise.
To his credit, Frazier, starting at designated hitter Tuesday night, launched a two-run homer and walked in the Yankees’ 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. He now owns an impressive .273/.323/.533 slash line in this, his best big-league opportunity to date.
Even though he disputed such a notion, defiantly saying, “I don’t need motivation through articles that are written” as he engaged in a staring contest with the writer of such an article (OK, it was me), Frazier’s plate promise offered promise that perhaps he can turn what sure sounded like a persecution complex to his benefit. For before the game, Frazier held a raw, emotional, eight-minute news conference to clean up the mess he created on Sunday night, when he committed three terrible plays in right field to significantly help the Red Sox post an 8-5 victory at Yankee Stadium and then refused to discuss his bad night with the media, violating the team’s standard operating procedure.
And he bared his soul that showcased, inadvertently, how dramatically bothered he gets by all that noise.
“The way that I’m perceived by people is not how I think I really am,” Frazier said. “Stories that shouldn’t have been stories have been stories.”
He then enumerated his grievances, starting with Hairgate, which took place long enough ago that current Yankees manager Aaron Boone worked for ESPN at the time and current MLB Network commentator Joe Girardi managed the Yankees.
If he truly doesn’t want to turn real and perceived criticisms into fuel, then Frazier must find a way to let stuff go. He can’t afford to worry about how others regard him. Alex Rodriguez could get away with that because he possessed better talent and (presumably) better illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and in time, A-Rod learned to shrug off such silliness as well as the sort of boos that stuck with Frazier on Sunday. Maybe, in his role as Yankees adviser, A-Rod can counsel Frazier on how to follow his lead.
I write all this with sympathy. Frazier’s insecurities were tough to witness, and how can you not feel for someone who endured the horrors of a concussion as Frazier did last year? What a shame it would be if his mindset held him back from realizing his obvious gifts.
Another March 2017 moment sprung from the memory after listening to Frazier’s media session: I wrote a column on Yankees outfield prospect Dustin Fowler, a quiet young man who said his family didn’t even know he had made Baseball America’s prospect rankings. Frazier, who gladly showered praise on his teammate when I asked him for a quote, expressed awe over Fowler’s laissez-faire attitude about his positive coverage. He could never be that way, Frazier acknowledged.
Can he be determine how to be Red Thunder without creating a storm every time he hits adversity? That might very well determine Frazier’s professional future. It’s just as vital as, if not more so than, his glovework.
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