For the last two seasons, wondering where Jacoby Ellsbury went was like playing the baseball version of “Where’s Waldo”.
The difference was it was easier to spot Waldo than it was to spot Ellsbury.
Ellsbury’s injury prone history left the New York Yankees with no choice but to release him from his contract on Wednesday night, ending what was known as ‘The Ellsbury Era’.
The Yankees releasing Ellsbury was a popular decision among fans, but it left others wondering what could have been had Ellsbury stayed healthy for all seven years of his $153 million deal.
Ellsbury’s contract was supposed to take him into the 2020 season, with a club option for 2021. The problem was, Ellsbury played for only four of those seasons. While he put up decent numbers, he wasn’t the same player he was from his 2011 All-Star season with the Boston Red Sox.
From the beginning of his Yankees tenure, many examined why Ellsbury was needed for $153 million. He was essentially an inch-up from Brett Gardner, a player the Yankees already had on their team for a fraction of the cost. However, former Yankees skipper Joe Girardi believed having both Ellsbury and Gardner on the team would improve the team’s speed at the top of the order.
Truth be told, it made very little difference.
After four productive but underwhelming seasons, Ellsbury suffered an oblique strain during Spring Training in 2018. The injury caused him to miss Opening Day, but it was expected he would return at some point during the season. Then came the hip ailment, which he underwent surgery for on Aug. 6 that year. Ellsbury missed the entire 2018 season without contributing in a single game.
Many hoped Ellsbury would bounce back in 2019, but once again he started the season on the disabled list with foot injury. He was later diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and a shoulder injury which kept him out for another season.
With another season of no Ellsbury in the books, the Yankees decided to eat the uninsured final year of his contract and release Ellsbury into the void that is known as free agency.
With the Ellsbury era officially over, what was Ellsbury’s legacy?
It’s simple; he had exceptional talent but couldn’t stay on the field. If someone were to ask what they remember most about Ellsbury’s tenure with the Yankees, the first thing would be the countless injuries he had; the second would be his contract.
Ellsbury’s contract will go down as one of the worst contracts in Yankees history, but that doesn’t mean Ellsbury is to blame. With a $153 million payday, it would have been almost impossible for Ellsbury to live up to the seven-year deal. Essentially, he was doomed from the start.
The Ellsbury contract should be a lesson to the Yankees front office; don’t offer a player ridiculous amounts of money based on one All-Star season. Not only does it cause immense pressure on the player, but there’s no telling what can unfold over the course of their tenure. In Ellsbury’s case, the Yankees got four productive seasons out of him before he never wore pinstripes again
It’s a shame Ellsbury’s Yankees career ended the way it did — in obscurity.