(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstriped Bible)
“No Hard Feelings.” In his return to the Bronx, that’s how Nick Swisher described his departure. With most players, such a magnanimous response might seem like a poorly veiled cliché, but not so with Swisher. Hard feelings are not a part of his ebullient emotional repertoire.
Just because the Yankees former right fielder doesn’t feel resentment toward the organization doesn’t mean fans of the team have to feel the same way. After all, what the Bronx Bombers need most – a patient, switch hitter with power and the versatility to play both outfield and first base – is exactly what the Yankees lost when they opted to let Swisher go.
There were 56 million reasons why the Yankees said good bye to Swisher, just not any good ones. For four years, the right fielder was a model of consistency in pinstripes, posting an OPS+ ranging from 120 to 129 and playing in just about 150 games each season. Considering the current state of the Yankees, the latter was no small accomplishment. What’s more, despite sticking out like a sore thumb on a regimented Yankee team, he also seemed to fit just like a glove.
We’ve run five out of six or six out of seven lefties, sometimes, in a row, and he was very good at splitting them up. You could hit him anywhere, really – second to seventh in the lineup. He gave you a lot of flexibility.” – Joe Girardi, quoted by the New York Times, June 4, 2013
If Joe Girardi sounds a little wistful, it’s easy to understand why. This year’s Yankees roster doesn’t have the same quality or depth as in the past. There is no Nick Swisher to help balance out the lineup and provide flexibility in the field because those qualities were deemed expendable this winter (or, more aptly, too expensive). The Yankees have rarely made a distinction between luxury and necessity, but this time around, they chose to draw the line at Swisher. Unfortunately, by focusing on the cost, they ignored the benefit side of the equation.
It was fitting that on the night Nick Swisher returned to the Bronx, Lyle Overbay was asked to make his professional debut in right field. If it wasn’t clear how much they missed him beforehand, the Yankees’ desperate attempt to squeeze an extra bat into the lineup was an exclamation point. As it turns out, Swisher wasn’t really much of a luxury after all. And now, when they need him more than ever, all that’s left are “no hard feelings”, except, perhaps, regret from the Yankees.