DJ LeMahieu
Jay Biggerstaff | USA TODAY Sports

DJ LeMahieu made Yankees history again and won the first-ever utility player Gold Glove in the American League on Tuesday. It’s a great accomplishment in what’s been a successful career for him, but this one feels a bit shallow. Perhaps even hollow.

It’s not that LeMahieu is a bad player. He’s a .297 career hitter and this Gold Glove was the fourth of his career and first as a Yankee. This also marked the second time LeMahieu made history in a Yankees uniform. In 2020, he became just the second player to win batting titles in both leagues.

Rather, it’s hard to enjoy LeMahieu’s latest accolade because, to be frank, the honeymoon is over. No more anticipation and bated breath over an almost automatic base hit whenever he steps in the batter’s box. The man once called “The Machine” has been anything but since signing a six-year, $90 million deal in January 2021.

Consider the following numbers:

  • 2019-20: .336/.386/.536/.922
  • 2021-22: .265/.353/.368/.721

To be fair, this doesn’t seem to be any sign of decline in LeMahieu, even if he is already 34. MLB used juiced baseballs in 2019 and in part of the shortened 2020 season, but that’s not why he’s taken a step back. LeMahieu famously played through a sports hernia in 2021 and a toe injury this past season. Not to mention, he hit .344 in July before the injury took hold and he hit .211 the rest of the way.

And for those wondering, only four years and $60 million left for him to prove he’s not just a contact-hitting Mark Teixeira.

Above all else, it’s hard to enjoy LeMahieu and this latest victory lap. He’s popular, but still an enigma. Fans and media alike don’t have the same attachment to him as they do Aaron Judge, who embraces the spotlight with a demeanor reminiscent of Derek Jeter. Or Anthony Rizzo, whose North Jersey roots make the Bronx pinstripes a natural look on him.

Even the equally enigmatic Gerrit Cole tips his hand more than LeMahieu, be it by keeping a sign he brought to Yankee Stadium or wife Amy’s social media presence.

Not LeMahieu. He’s all business, all baseball, all the time. A less tough player might have noticed their toe wasn’t right, said something to the training staff, and probably gone on the injured list. LeMahieu was an everyday player even as the Yankees struggled as much as him, maybe even worse.

So yes, his winning his first Gold Glove as a Yankee doesn’t feel special, nor disappointing. It’s simply par for the course. There’s also probably still some residual sadness from getting swept by Houston in the ALCS, a series (and postseason) LeMahieu missed with his injury.

At the end of the day, LeMahieu will be a Yankee on Opening Day 2023. All we can hope for is this historical Gold Glove marks his true comeback and not the start of his career’s endgame.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.