The Yankees entire starting outfield will miss Opening Day. Injuries are part of the game, but the real problem cuts deep into the heart of the organization.
The Yankees, and in particular, Brian Cashman, knew something had to change after New York’s 2019 record-setting season of injuries.
The mood was upbeat 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.
It was noted that Cressey is well known for his offseason training regimens, working with more than 100 professional baseball players in his career.
Yankees: Too Late – Dysfunction Had Already Set In
Well, as it turns out, the Yankees are four months late and $45 million short as they look at their entire starting outfield injured and out of action when the season opens in Baltimore.
Following Aaron Hicks ($10 million – Tommy John elbow surgery) and Giancarlo Stanton ($26 million – Grade 1 strain of his right calf), Yankee’s right fielder Aaron Judge ($8.5 million) is diagnosed with a stress fracture in his first right rib.
While the injury suffered by Hicks dates back to last season, the ones to Judge and Stanton have a tint of mystery surrounding this question – how is it that both injuries occurred before either player took one swing in a game?
Especially in the case of Judge, where it seems probable, he was he already injured when he reported to camp? And as soon as he attempted to re-engage in baseball activities, the rib became only more aggravated.
According to Physioworks, this happens when there is muscular pull across the bone exerting considerable repetitive forces. Such as maybe swinging a bat with significant and repetitive force?
Who can say? What we do know is there was no one on the Yankees staff encouraging, or if necessary, forcefully directing Judge to tone it down during the offseason.
Remember, and unbeknownst at the time, Judge suffered the injury when he landed on his shoulder making a diving catch.
In science and medical terms, muscle weakness followed the dive, resulting in the shock absorption capabilities of the muscle being decreased and consequently, an increased level of stress at the selected focal point of the rib(s).
Yankees Lose Control
It’s at this juncture where things get pointed directly at the Yankees. Aaron Judge is not a doctor. He’s a professional athlete who engages in daily training as surely as he eats three meals a day and brushes his teeth before bedtime.
Consider then what Judge told the New York Daily News, following his disappointing diagnosis (out a minimum four weeks with surgery a possibility):
“I think the consistent swinging and weightlifting throughout the whole offseason really didn’t give it the chance to” heal, Judge said.
“If somebody breaks their leg and they’re In a cast, they’re immobilized for a couple weeks or months … You give the bone a chance to heal.
Recall what we said earlier about Eric Cressey being well known for his offseason training regimens, working with more than 100 professional baseball players in his career.
The Yankees can only rue over the fact that if Cressey had been on board sooner, Aaron Judge’s offseason program would have been cut back, and he’d be on the field today.
Therein lies a problem. In the Employment Section of a player’s contract with a team, it clearly states the contract is only active from the required reporting date for Spring Training, up to and including the end of the World Series, or when his team’s season has officially ended.
Translation: The Yankees or any team loses control of the player during what is commonly called the offseason. This is asking for trouble when it comes to the potential for injuries sustained during offseason workouts.
Without Guidance, Players Resort To “Self-Medication”
Every player, including Stanton and Judge, has their own workout program during the offseason. Although with good intentions, that is insane.
In effect, each player is allowed to self-medicate themselves by choosing which “drugs” (workout exercises), the dosage (how often they workout), and so on.
Brian Cashman picked the right man in Cress as someone who sees the offseason as the critical time to avoid injuries when a player reports back to work.
The process needs to be a twelve-month endeavor – and most importantly – the player specific program must be led and monitored by a trained person like Cressey – and for God’s sake not by the player.
Along the same lines as Judge and Stanton, the Yankees can ask themselves to what degree they monitored the throwing and workout programs of others.
James Paxton (out till May) and Luis Severino (out for the season), both of whom were diagnosed after reporting for Spring Training and beg the question of the Yankees – where were you in November and December?
Dysfunction is usually not a word associated with the Yankees organization. But here we are, and more and more it’s looking like they have no one to blame but themselves for the rain of injuries striking the team – again.
Of course, the overriding question remains. Will Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton ever be injury-free?