The Yankees are giving players any number of options as to how they spend their time during this season’s intermission. That could be a mistake.
The Yankees, like every other major league team, are flying by the seat of their pants as they attempt to adjust to the sudden interruption in the 2020 season.
Essentially, the word from the front office to their players is – the choice is yours.
Yankees: Eeny Meeny Miny Mo
Remain in Tampa, use the facilities as you wish. We (the Yankees) will ensure a full medical and conditioning staff is on hand.
Go to the beach. Go home, spend some time with the family. We’ll let you know as soon as we know what’s next.
Well, that works fine for the “upper echelon” of the Yankees roster with contracts that say, “Yeah, I’ll take you up on that.”
But it doesn’t work as well for the numerous non-paid non-roster invitees to camp.
That is unless the Yankees agree to forego what they are obligated to do, they will not be receiving the per-diem pay they’re entitled to have. (Note: The Yankees are bound to change that)
Yet, while the Yankees can be seen as being understanding and benevolent toward their 25-man roster players, they might want to rethink their stance.
Routine Lost? – And So Much More
Major league ballplayers are creatures of habit and routine. When the Yankees take away that routine – the one that was building momentum before the cancelation of Spring Training – and you have no idea how your players (individually) will react.
Yeah, they’re all “professionals” earning the big buck, and they should be able to come up with a plan on their own to meet this sudden disruption.
Judge, in particular, has a two-week clock ticking, after which the Yankees will determine whether or not he goes under the knife.
But what about Gary Sanchez, who is nursing a sore back? What if he decides it’s a good time to return to the Dominican Republic for a week or two?
Can the Yankees afford to lose sight of a player like Sanchez who has a trail that lacks self-discipline before this – and simply hope he’ll be ready wh Opening Day arrives? I wouldn’t bet the house on it.
My Routine? It’s Gone. What Am I Supposed To Do Now?
Lose the routine, and you lose just about everything. Exhibit A. If you’ve seen one Derek Jeter at-bat, you’ve seen all 12,602 of them. Not the outcome, only the prelude.
Circling the umpire and catcher, there’s a pause and then two practice swings and a glance towards the pitcher. Step-in to the box, another pause.
A single tap on the plate with his bat and then a raise of his right hand. The umpire acknowledges with a wave and a signal – okay – play ball.
Jacob deGrom, in another example, counts every one of the 25 pitches he might throw in a bullpen session. Targeted low and outside on the corner of the plate, he expects every pitch to hit its mark.
Noah Syndergaard will stand idle on the mound if the clock reads 1:09 pm for a game scheduled to begin at 1:10 pm before he makes his first pitch.
These are not superstitions. Instead, each action or inaction is part of a choreographed routine, which, in most cases, is unrecognizable to the player. It’s just something “they do.”
Yankees: Families That Play Together Stay Together
As we said at the outset, these are unchartered waters for the Yankees and all professional sports teams.
The manual has yet to be written for pandemics, and hopefully, this will be an impetus to avoid the indecisiveness that engulfs us now in the future.
But the Yankees are a cohesive team that exists as a family away from home for six+ months a year. You can’t risk losing that.
The Yankees need to be together as a unit, and preferably in Tampa, where facilities exist that can be controlled in terms of access.
“Control” is generally a bad word, no matter in what context it is used.
But the $260 million investment the Yankees are making in this year’s team payroll should speak for itself.
The Yankees, after all, are not the Baltimore Orioles (example only) who can give two s___s what their players do during this interlude.
Restore, and more significantly, ensure the routine and (yes) monotony of distinct ways ballplayers go about their business.
You may not wish to but rein ’em in Brian. They belong as a unit.