Spring Cleaning: Rob Manfred Can’t Protect the Astros in the Batter’s Box

Thoughts on the Yankees a week into spring training

We’re a week into spring training and that means we’re a week closer to Opening Day. Six weeks from Thursday is Opening Day in Baltimore when Gerrit Cole will pitch a complete-game, two-hit shutout of the Orioles in his Yankees debut. (No big-name Yankees pitcher seems to do well in their debut, so it will probaly be a grind.) The Yankees are already down a starting pitcher and now their best player has been shut down from hitting for a week. The injuries need to stop and the investigation about the Red Sox’ cheating needs to be released.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees as usual.

1. Yes, I’m worried about Aaron Judge’s shoulder. How can I not be? I don’t care that there’s video of Judge running around at spring training on Wednesday and fielding balls in the outfield. He’s been shut down from hitting and really throwing, and whenever your best player is shut down from hitting, even if it’s 37 days before Opening Day, it’s not good. Not good at all.

Judge has been in the majors for three-plus seasons and has suffered injuries in all of those seasons. He was shut down for the final two weeks of the 2016 season with an oblique injury. In 2017, he battled a second-half shoulder injury which cost him the AL MVP (along with Jose Altuve and his teammates knowing which pitches were coming). He missed one third of the season in 2018 after getting drilled by a pitch on his wrist, which certainly was a freak injury, and then he missed two months last season after suffering another oblique injury. Overall, Judge has missed 25 percent of his three full seasons in the league.

Aaron Boone led us to believe the injury is “minor” but how many times did Boone do the same last season only to have the Yankees set the single-season record for most players on the injured list?

2. It’s not so much that Judge has to be shut down in the Yankees’ conservative effort to make sure whatever this is doesn’t turn into somehing more the way every injury seemed to last season that has me worrying so much. It’s more the way Boone has explained and reacted to Judge’s inury that has me worried of Mike Tauchman or Clint Frazier now being an everyday player to begin the 2020 season with Brett Gardner already once again thrust into a season-opening everyday role because of Aaron Hicks’ latest injury.

Boone was very nonchalant in speaking about Judge’s shoulder and I can’t help but have flashbacks to spring training of last year when he talked about Luis Severino’s shoulder or Dellin Betances’ shoulder or Aaron Hicks’ back or during the regular season when he talked about Miguel Andujar’s shoulder or Giancarlo Stanton’s bicep, shoulder and calf. Most likely this is nothing and Judge will be fine in a week, but it’s going to take a long time for me to trust the Yankees when it comes to injuries. A long time.

3. Seeing Dellin Betances in a Mets uniform is disgusting. Seeing him on an actual field with the whole uniform on is much different than it was seeing him put on a jersey at his introductory press conference. There was no reason for the Yankees to not sign Betances. Believing they don’t need him because they have Aroldis Chapman, whose declining velocity and control and inability to put away hitters is frightening, Zack Britton, whose control is a real problem and isn’t who he once was, Adam Ottavino, who helped ruin the ALCS, Tommy Kahnle, who is a year removed from spending the season in the minors, or Chad Green, who was demoted last season for the worst stretch of relief appearances possibly ever, is more than risky. I will never get over Betances not being a Yankee.

4. Seeing Didi Gregorius in a Phillies uniform barely fazed me. Gregorius was already a Red and Diamondback before becoming a Yankee, so him wearing other colors isn’t anything unusual. Betances was only ever a Yankee, a New York native and homegrown Yankee and the best reliever in baseball for five straight years, and now he wears blue and orange. Gregorius was a nice player, but it was time to move on from him and it doesn’t make me sad to see him with another team.

5. Seeing Joe Girardi in a Phillies uniform was a little weird. It wasn’t as weird as Betances or not weird at all like Gregorius, but it was weird. Girardi was a Cub, Rockie and Cardinal aside from being a Yankee as a player and managed the Marlins before the Yankees, so he’s been in other uniforms. It’s not like he’s Don Mattingly wearing a Dodgers or Marlins uniform. For all of the critcism I directed at Girardi in his 10 years as Yankees manager, and I feel like he got screwed over at the end of his tenure. Boone has been OK, but I wish there was a way to see or know how 2018 and 2019 would have played out with Girardi.

6. Add Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton to the ever-growing list of players speaking out against the Astros. Each day it seems like some new big-name player has an opinion on the Astros and the story seems to be gaining traction the more removed we are from the initial release of the investigation. That’s not usually how it works. The commissioner’s embarrassing press conference in Florida was only made worse by his press conference in Arizona, and I have no idea when this story will begin to fade.

The Astros have dealt with their own contingent of beat reporters and national reporters, but they have yet to travel and be asked questions by other team’s media, and they have yet to travel to opposing stadiums. I think MLB believes eventually when real games begin and there are actual games to watch and talk about that the story will slow down, though everything that has happened over the last month suggests differently. I think the regular season is going to be worse for this story than spring training has been despite there being actual games to watch and talk about it.

7. There’s no protecting the Astros players once games start and the commissioner knows it. He protected them in terms of suspensions and fines by granting them immunity in the sign-stealing investigation, but he can’t protect them once they step into the batter’s box. Pitchers who want to throw at the Astros are going to throw at them. The commissioner can’t give out a warning to anyone who throws at the Astros since that would take away the inside for pitchers and that would be advantageous to the Astros, and they have been playing with enough of an advantage over the last few years. I think we will see beanball issues as early as Opening Day. I know teams want to win and get off to a good start, but the backlash from all of baseball (aside from loser J.D. Martinez) makes me believe the Angels are going to answer the bell on the first day of the season.

8. I don’t like Martinez because of the team he plays for, but now I don’t like him because of the team he plays for and because of his Astros-related comments earlier this week.

“I understand players’ frustrations and stuff like that, but I think, in my opinion, it’s already getting a little bit too much,” Martinez said. “We have to move past it at some point. We can’t continue to talk about it.”

In a time when nearly every star player in the sport, including the sport’s biggest name in Mike Trout, has spoken out against the Astros, Martinez has become the first non-Astros player to speak out against the backlash against the Astros. Martinez is the first Red Sox player to openly speak about the subject since the investigation into the Red Sox’ own cheating has yet to be released, and as the first Red Sox to talk about the Astros, he chose to side with the Astros.

9. I’m excited for the Red Sox’ investigation to be released the same way I get excited for the release of a TV show, movie, album or the MLB schedule. The Astros have to be wondering where the Red Sox’ report is since it will take some momentary heat off of them, but it’s only going to keep cheating at the forefront of baseball. Normally, I would be sick and tired of a story which didn’t happen on the field getting this much attention, however, when it involves a team that eliminated the Yankees in two of the last three postseasons and is about to invole the team that eliminated in the other of the last three postseasons, I can’t get enough of it.

10. The Yankees didn’t play a single game in 2019 with their entire expected lineup. As of now, they’re going to begin 2020 without their starting center fielder, so there’s a chance they don’t play a game in 2020 with their entire lineup for a single game either. Is it too much to ask for the Yankees to not lose any other players or pitches between now and Opening Day? James Paxton is already going to miss at least the first month of the season and Judge is working through a shoulder issue. Let’s not have 2019 be a repeat of 2020 both in terms of injuries and the end result of the season.


My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!