For Yankees fans, this four-day break from games has seemed interminable. No box scores to check, no breaking news about this player or that player, and even no reason to check the standings. It all ends tonight in Kansas City though, with a chance to view the layoff’s consequences, good and bad.
If major league ballplayers are anything, they are creatures of habit. For the Yankees, patterns, and routines have suffered a setback this week due to scheduled off-days on Monday and Thursday with two rainouts against the Nationals in-between. Beginning tonight against the Royals, we’ll start to find out who’s better and who’s not due to the layoff.
But first, because it can’t be underestimated, let’s consider the role routine plays over the course and grind of a 162 game regular season spread over six months. Routine and habits create a sense of comfort and familiarity, especially when you consider a ballclub plays half its games on the road with players away from their families.
The Yankees, for example, make an effort to book the same hotel in each city they play in, while the clubhouse manager tries his best to ensure each player gets the same locker he had when the team was in that city last year. The veteran player’s familiarity with restaurants bonds the team together as well and affords the opportunity for someone like Brett Gardner to take the rookies to Arthur Bryant’s BBQ Restaurant, the best-known gathering place for ribs in Kansas City.
And tomorrow morning, CC Sabathia or Aaron Hicks might offer to lead an excursion to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, also in Kansas City, packed with baseball lore and history (selected too as the featured image for this story).
It was impressive to be there in 2009 when George Hendrick, then the first base coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, led a delegation that included Evan Longoria through the museum when the team was in town. The wide-eyed looks of appreciation (me too, as I tagged along) among the younger Ray’s players as Hendrick orated along the way was noticeable.
In brief, anything to keep a team busy and bonded, especially while on the road. Where the Yankees have been for the two postponed games before traveling to Kansas City is not known, at least to me. But there’s been a break in the pattern and routine of moving from city to city.
Update: (May 19 6:00 AM ) Come to find out, the Yankees were forced to spend the night at Dulles Airport in Washington when their flight was canceled due to weather conditions. Think that might have some effect on the team?
For someone like Didi Gregorius who has been in hell recently with a slump that won’t go away, even to the point of reigniting stories about the Yankees pursuing Manny Machado to replace him (ain’t gonna happen), the four days off might be just the thing that sets him back on track.
Negative or positive, who knows, but Aaron Boone has also needed to reset the starting rotation. And then you have a bullpen which is used to pitching nearly every day, and suddenly Boone needs to find a way to get all his pitchers in the line of fire again in a real game, which is unlikely to happen as well.
Looking at the cup half full though, Clint Frazier is on tap to get at least two starts this weekend with two lefties going for the Royals. Frazier has earned this tryout and based on the results, could begin the process of sneaking his way into the Yankees crowded outfield, with Aaron Hicks being the most likely casualty if that happens.
In all likelihood, many Yankees were “in the cage” beneath the stands at Nationals Park before or after the postponements. But nothing is the same as facing live pitching, and that begins tonight.
For once, the Yankees don’t need CC Sabathia, tonight’s starter to pitch until his arm falls off, and the bullpen is locked and loaded to carry the team through. On the other hand, though, the expectation still needs to be the bullpen will not be required for more than three innings.
There’s always intrigue in baseball, and although this one is different, it merits our attention as the Yankees get back into the swing of things. The Royals are a team the Yankees should beat, as are the Texas Rangers, the final stop on this road trip before coming home to face Shohei Ohtani and the Angels.
One step at a time though. Let’s see if the Yankees can get back in the groove tonight.
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