Barbs aside, the unfiltered Fraziers have livened up the lineup, the clubhouse — and reporters’ stories — since they joined the Yankees weeks apart in July. And while the Yankees are the only team in baseball that does not place names on the back of its home and road jerseys, a program is not necessary to tell one Frazier from another.
Todd, 31, a third baseman, is the buzz-cut bro from down on the Jersey Shore, an incessant chatterbox who was once dubbed Smalls because the bill of his cap is perpetually tilted up like the character in the movie “Sandlot.” Clint, 23, is a swaggering Southerner, an outfielder with a quick-trigger bat who plays as if his flaming-red hair is indeed on fire.
They make for an intriguing pair.
“When we got Todd, I said, any relation?” first baseman Greg Bird said. “I was kind of joking. He said, ‘no, no, no.’ But it’s like big brother, little brother.”
“They’re like long-lost brothers,” outfielder Brett Gardner said.
They are also not the only two Fraziers in Yankee history. There was a third — George — a reliever who is basically remembered for losing three games in the 1981 World Series.
Clint Frazier and Todd Frazier, however, seem to be carving a more zest-filled path in New York than George did, even if Clint appears uncertain to make this year’s postseason roster and Todd — soon to be a free agent — appears uncertain to return to the Bronx in 2018.
Already, each of them has stirred it up when it appeared they might be interested in wearing Yankee uniform numbers that are out of commission — Mickey Mantle’s retired No. 7 for Clint and Paul O’Neill’s unofficially retired No. 21 for Todd. Clint settled for No. 77, Todd for No. 29.
Clint, before he had even played a game in the big leagues, created attention last winter for his social media exchanges with Bryce Harper, whom the Yankees have long eyed, and for his flouting of the Yankees’ policy prohibiting long hair. (Clint’s hair is now neatly shorn.)
Then, when he did arrive in New York, the younger Frazier homered in his first game and played well enough that Jacoby Ellsbury, despite his $155 million contract, was sent to the bench. But Clint injured his oblique in early August, missed a month and has played sparingly since returning on Sept. 12.
Meanwhile, Todd has been an everyday presence since his trade from the Chicago White Sox, hitting 11 home runs, giving the Yankees improved defense at third base and lately finding himself — sometimes unwittingly — in the middle of story lines.
It was Todd Frazier who picked up on the disgruntled Mets fan flashing a thumbs-down sign while the Yankees were beating Tampa Bay in a series relocated to Citi Field. Frazier made the gesture into a team ritual and now, whenever a Yankee delivers a hit, protocol calls for the player to flash a thumbs-down sign to the Yankees’ dugout. The players in the dugout return the gesture.
More seriously, it was also Frazer whose line drive struck a small girl in the face last week at Yankee Stadium. He has been speaking regularly with the girl’s father to check on her progress in the hospital, and he has urged the Yankees to extend netting further down the field to protect fans — something the team has not yet done.
Then, rather comically, Frazier fell victim to the hidden-ball trick last weekend in Toronto, being caught off base while infielder Ryan Goins faked throwing the ball back to the pitcher.
“I don’t know what it is,” Frazier said. “The thumbs-down thing is the only good thing that happened. I don’t really sit there and ask myself why. Some stuff tends to find me, but at the same time I’m not afraid to do stuff. A lot of people don’t like being in the spotlight. I don’t mind. I’ve been doing it my whole life — ever since Little League.”
Indeed, if many players who arrive in the major leagues have grown up in the shadow of great expectations, it has been especially so for the two Fraziers.
Todd starred for the Tom’s River, N.J., team that won the 1998 Little League World Series. He homered to lead off the championship game, closed it out with a strikeout on the mound and then stood next to Derek Jeter during the national anthem when his team was later honored at Yankee Stadium.
Todd said that whenever he felt entitled at a young age, his two older brothers, Charlie and Jeff, each of whom played professional baseball, would intervene.
“If I got out of line, my two older brothers would kick my butt,” he said.
But while one Frazier had to learn to live with early fame, the other had to handle an early fortune. When Clint, the fourth pick in the 2013 draft and a national high school player of the year, signed with Cleveland, he was awarded a $3.5 million signing bonus — the largest, at that point, the Indians had ever agreed to.
The money was a salvation for Frazier’s family after his father, a building supplies salesman, had been laid off twice and was struggling to keep up with the mortgage for their home in Loganville, Ga., outside Atlanta. But the bonus came with complications when Clint arrived in the minor leagues.
“There was a lot of bitterness that came with that from some kids because some kids were performing better than me,” said Clint, who was traded to the Yankees in July 2016 along with three other prospects for reliever Andrew Miller. “I was young and I didn’t know how to maybe handle having the signing bonus that I did, the attention I had. I might have over-crossed my boundaries with older guys so then I became an easy target to mess with.’’
He added: “My whole life I was treated like I was better than everyone else, so you start to believe it, you start to act that way and the next thing you know you’ve got guys testing you. It took some getting picked on by older guys to realize that.”
Clint has also been chastened by the Yankees’ button-down way of conducting themselves. He has toned down his provocative presence on social media and cut his hair — which was the subject of considerable attention during spring training — shorter and shorter, the latest trim last week earning him repeated plaudits from reliever David Robertson.
“I needed to do some things to fit in,” said Clint, who is the second youngest Yankee behind Tyler Wade. “The way the media wrote about my hair, it was insane. There’s times when I really want to something, but I know it’s going to bring some attention to me. Maybe over the winter when I’m bored — I’m not sure if I can keep this up.”
Bird, who made his debut two years ago, like Clint Frazier, in the heat of a playoff chase, said he has seen a great deal of growth in him.
“New York City is a great place to learn, but it’s also a tough place to learn — on and off the field,” Bird said. “We have a lot of veterans and good people beside the players, who are here to help and lead you in the right direction if you’re willing to listen and learn.”
One of those has been Todd Frazier, who despite his short time as a Yankee needed only a few days to become a voice in the clubhouse. “He’s loud, he’s in your face, he’s energetic — but in a good way,” first baseman Chase Headley said of Todd Frazier, smiling. “You can definitely tell he’s from Jersey.”
Todd Frazier pulled Tyler Austin aside earlier this month for not hustling out of the batter’s box and reminded the rookie, whose future may be in another organization, that someone’s always watching. He is not shy about letting other young players know when they’ve done something savvy or senseless. (It’s unclear who gave Todd Frazier the worst time about getting suckered by the hidden-ball trick only because there are so many candidates.)
But Todd Frazier has especially counseled Clint Frazier, letting him know that he reminds him of his younger self, brash and full of confidence.
“He’s got a little New York in him, that little cockiness, that little swagger that you need to play up here in the Northeast,” Todd said. “He’s a natural at it. But he’s smart as a whip and he works on his craft. To have a guy at his age with the work ethic, you’ve got to praise him for that.”
Todd Frazier smiled.
“I’m just here to bust his chops and bring him back to earth a little bit,” he said. Like a father might talk to a son.
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