Yankees manager Aaron Boone always backs his players. But he missed an opportunity yesterday to educate rather than excuse them in an area where the team is delinquent.
The Yankees are dropping like flies again and Aaron Boone, whose main job these days is to provide the “official” update on the status of each player’s readiness to rejoin the team.
Here’s one of those we’re doing just fine episodes:
The only trouble my friends, and if it sounds eerily familiar, it’s because the media session occurred on April 12, 2019. Regrettably, not much has changed since then.
Aaron Boone: “Explainer” In Residence
Presumably, Boone is “briefed” each day, and a company line is developed as to who says what and when. Occasionally, GM Brian Cashman will enter the fray as will the player himself.
Each has a role to play, and they tend to perform well. Boone supports his players telling the media how hard these guys are working – every day – to get themselves back on the field.
Next up is the Yankees player who always is two to three weeks ahead of any timeline that Boone just presented for their return.
Cashman is there to reinforce fans by highlighting the depth the Yankees have on their roster, with versions of “We can weather the storm” used on alternate days.
Yankees: Who’s Minding The Offseason Store?
But no one in the Yankees organization appears to be interested in the root of the Yankee’s injury pandemic (yes, in this case, the word applies).
Uncharacteristically, the organization remains in a reactive rather than proactive in the face of a problem that is not apt to go away by itself. Let me explain.
The root of the Yankee’s mishandling of injuries stems not from when they are “working” but when their players are idle during the offseason.
Aaron Judge, for example, looks back on the work he did during the offseason as a mistake, explaining, “I think the consistent swinging and weightlifting throughout the whole offseason really didn’t give it (rib stress fracture) the chance to heal.”
James Paxton (out till May), Gary Sanchez (out till Friday), and Luis Severino (out for the season), all of whom were diagnosed with assorted injuries after reporting for Spring Training, but with symptoms that arose during the offseason – a pattern of concern.
Aaron Boone’s enabling defense of Sanchez, who is out with something going on in his back? – “I think that’s kind of normal wear and tear [after] first back-to-backs kind of thing.”
Wear and tear? It’s freakin’ March, not August, Aaron. Stop with the enabling. What’s he been doing all winter? Anyone on the Yankees who knows, please step forward.
Yankees: The Parent Versus The Child
But, and here’s the key, the Yankees are paying the price now because they were derelict in monitoring and directing the offseason workout program for each player.
Here’s Aaron Boone lamely explaining and defending what his players do or don’t do during the offseason:
“But you also understand as an athlete, you try to work through things, and sometimes you don’t think something is that big of a deal. You are not going to run in every opportunity, especially when you are away from the club. Trying to create that environment where hopefully our guys almost overcommunicate as far as exactly what is going on.” George A. King III
Wait a minute – who’s in charge here? Who is the parent, and who is the child?
Does the parent (the Yankees) adopt a reactive approach relying on their child to say, Mommy, I’m sick? Or does the parent stay in touch with the child (the player), ensuring they eat right, sleep right, always vigilant to catch anything that appears “off”?
Prognosis, Prescription, Diagnosis, And The Injured List
The Yankees handling of injuries is under scrutiny this spring, not just because of last year’s record number of players who went on the injured list.
“Three players have been diagnosed and have lost time this spring because of injuries suffered at the end of last season.
Recall in January when Cashman announced a complete overhaul of the Yankees medical staff in mid-January. The point man, as Cashman explained, would be Eric Cressey, who would take over as the club’s new Director of Player Health and Performance.
Ironically, the main reason Cressey was hired is because of his past reputation for providing offseason training regimens, working with more than 100 professional baseball players in his career.
With a $26 million investment in Giancarlo Stanton this year, might it not be a good idea for the Yankees to “keep in touch” with him over the winter. From Cressey, he receives a player-specific training program with a direction not to deviate from the prescription.
Cressey, or someone on his team, is dispatched once a month to the player’s winter whereabouts for a checkup, proscribing tests as needed for all key players. First-class airfare and a couple of days at the Hyatt might yield a solid return.
This is proactive – not reactive as the Yankees have been.
Yankees Offseason Intervention
Technically, the player is under no obligation to the Yankees as his contract with the team ended on the day the Yankees concluded their season. Team control resumes the first day of Spring Training. By then, all the damage has been done.
It’s hard to imagine this group of Yankees objecting. In fact, someone like Judge, who admittedly felt lost during the offseason, would jump at the chance for positive intervention by the team.
It’s all, as they say, water under the bridge now. The Yankees may or may not have players who are prone to injury.
But are they doing enough, especially during the offseason when players are most vulnerable, to protect their investments and the well-being of their players?
Yankees DNA Normally Isn’t Reactive
The reactive “carwash” of tests, as Brian Cashman described it, given to Aaron Judge to formulate a diagnosis, came too late.
The offseason for any GM is the busiest time of the year. Cashman, for instance, must decide on the players he’s protecting for the Rule 5 Draft, consider free agent signings, tender qualifying offers as required, entertain possible trades, and deal with arbitration-eligible players.
Good job on all that, but the Yankees get a big “F” on taking care of their key players during the offseason. It can’t happen again.