Giancarlo Stanton, Injuries, and Team Communication

Sarah Stier

Giancarlo Stanton is such a critical piece to the current composition of the Yankees that management and ownership repeatedly refer to him as a major reason why the organization did not put a full court press on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this winter. I don’t need to detail the value Stanton brings to the Yankees because Bobby captures it really well here.

One avenue worth exploring is how Stanton’s injury-plagued season to date sits at the heart of the clear communication issues between the Yankees, the media and fans when it comes to player health. The success of the team this season allows this to not be a major distraction for the time being, but it is certainly worth mentioning. There are far too many moments this year when Aaron Boone stammers through injury updates only to have those updates proven incorrect later in the night. A considerable portion of the Yankees fan base has grown accustomed to murky injury news this year, but this does raise the question: is it important for the team to be forthcoming with information to the public in regards to player health?

This all starts with the Aaron Judge injury from last year. Originally projected to return three weeks after that fateful hit by pitch on July 26th, Judge didn’t return until September 18th. Last August, Brian Cashman spoke to Joel Sherman of the New York Post regarding Judge’s timeline:


[Yankees team doctor Christopher] Ahmad was optimistic. He recognizes these things take four to six weeks, but for some reason his experience with Judge, [Ahmad] went the most optimistic three weeks. That was a mistake, one he has self-admitted to. In fairness to Aaron, four to six weeks is typical.  Usually, we don’t over-promise. In this case, we missed on the timeline. It is unfair to the player. The optimism and the timeline were inaccurate.

The Judge timeline debacle has clearly influenced the 2019 Yankees approach to providing injury updates. The team is so cautious to avoid last year’s fiasco that they often find themselves in precarious public situations. The Stanton injuries are the clearest example of this.

Stanton suffered his biceps strain on April 1st. The team stated publicly that he wouldn’t be out for too long and the belief was he would be able to return to the squad for the Arizona series at the end of the month. This felt reasonable until the team announced he was rehabbing at a private facility close to his hometown in California while the Yankees were playing in Anaheim.

This could happen more than fans realize, but it does seem odd that the organization would let their highest paid player rehab independent of their own training staff in the same state that they’re currently playing in. Then Aaron Boone announced that Stanton fully recovered from the biceps strain, but wouldn’t return for the Arizona series because he was dealing with “residual issues” from a left shoulder issue and needed a cortisone shot. It was at this point when the team became tight-lipped and cryptic with the nature of Stanton’s new injury.

This frustrating strategy took another odd turn when Stanton did an interview with the YES Network:

Stanton revealing “the bicep blowing out” undermined whatever plan the team had in keeping details of this situation close to the vest. All it did was lead to more confusion and frustration from the fans. And just when you thought that was the tipping point of this poor communication, we get the infamous Aaron Boone presser on May 14th. Bryan Hoch, take it away:

What the hell does any of this mean? This is the best example of honesty being the best course of action. There is value in establishing and maintaining the trust of the fan base. I would argue it is imperative since a very successful manager lost his job because of how he dealt with the media and by extension the fans. It isn’t a good thing when the replacement manager is touted for his ability to deal with the media and then gives comically bad responses to straightforward questions.

So does any of this matter? Do fans really need to get insight on player injuries and recoveries? We should absolutely be privy to this info. We don’t need to cross the line of knowing people’s personal medical history, but when it comes to sharing information regarding potential availability to return to the field, the team should be honest and forthright for one simple reason: fans are a part of this journey. We don’t have the privilege of wearing a uniform, making personnel decisions or writing the checks, but our investment in the Yankees mirrors that of the great players and decision makers fortunate enough to be in those positions. We’ve been on an incredible ride with the 2019 Yankees so far. It shouldn’t be marred by an honest mistake of the past.

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31 Comments

  1. RetroRob

    “I would argue it is imperative since a very successful manager lost his job because of how he dealt with the media and by extension the fans.”

    Girardi? Is that why he lost his job? I actually thought Girardi handled the media better than Boone. I doubt Girardi would have stumbled his way through the Stanton question the same way Boone did. It seems since Girardi left that the Yankees updates on injured players is much worse. Have no idea if it’s coincidental, or something changed.

    Girardi’s weakness seemed to be connecting with the current generation of players, at least according to reports. Connecting with the media seemed to be less an issue.

    As a fan, I don’t demand to know exactly when a player is returning. It does make me uncomfortable, though, when the manager doesn’t seem to be able to clearly state the situation.

  2. JLC776

    I’m thinking there’s a bigger picture surrounding trade / free-agent signing leverage that might play into how truthful some injuries are communicated, but all-in-all I just sit back with a “we’ll get them back when we get them back” attitude. My fantasy league days are over so all I care about now is that players aren’t rushed back too soon.

  3. mike

    There are HIPPA laws that need to be followed. No medical information can be discussed without the persons consent. If Stanton says to not go into detail, the Yankees or the medical staff by law not allowed. We are not privileged to know just because we want. That being said, Stantons case is very squirrely.

  4. Robinson Tilapia

    I get that it’s frustrating, but poor communication with the public does not necessarily correlate to poor understanding of injury.

    Also, whatever Chip said below, ignore it. The man would lie to a nun.

    • Randy

      Sure, I agree with that. I don’t think I was making the case that they don’t understand the injuries. I’m not in any position to do that. It just feels like this could either be streamlined better so we don’t continuously have these Boone moments or just say very, very little like when they talk about innings limits for pitchers.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        In a perfect world, yeah, everything would be readily available for us. Those who say they don’t have to give us all the info are right, though.

        Look at what they do with the minors. We don’t know if half these guys are even alive. Has anyone really seen Wilkerman Garcia lately?

      • Chip

        Ideally, sure, but how would you do that? I mean the reporters are going to ask the questions that they have to ask and Boone is going to answer them per team policy.

        Tilapia’s point about the minor leagues gets back to what I said earlier, while you may represent the exception to the rule, 90% of the people who care about injury updates are coming at it from the position of wanting to know who to pick up in fantasy or which team to bet on. There aren’t any minor league fantasy leagues (that I know of) and gambling on minor league sports isn’t a big thing – thus people don’t really share any information at all about the injury status of most prospects.

    • Chip

      I would, but I’m not a Catholic so it’s OK.

      It’s true, more likely Boone was just trying to remember what it was he was supposed to say.

  5. overseasyankeefan

    I totally get most fans want to know what’s really going on with players they’ve supported and wish every player could be as frank about their injuries as James Paxton was. However, as far as I understand (correct if I’m mistaken), teams are not obliged to reveal the details of an injury (or a potential injury for the matter). They are only required to announce the (general) cause for an injury of the player who is (going to land) in the IL. What’s really going on with why Stanton’s (or whosever) bicep injury leads to his shoulder injury is not really relevant to fans, to be honest. What matters is (approximately) when he’ll likely return and more importantly, if he can perform up to his standard once he is reactivated to the roster. On thing about Giancarlo Stanton is that he’s appeared to be a very private person. He doesn’t like taking about his injuries publicly (not until recently in a non-baseball magazine interview did he open up a little bit about his scary face injury a few years ago). As long as the team’s front office has a good hold on his seemingly mysterious bicep/shoulder injury, that’s good enough from the roster construction’s point of view. The team is not obliged to reveal more than it is required to after all.

    PS: It doesn’t appear odd that Yankees let their highest-paid player rehab independent of their own training staff during the Anaheim series. Giancarlo’s hometown is in California and he actually lives there during off-seasons. It is not uncommon for a player of his caliber to have his own training staff and facility in his hometown. Had he rehabbed with his own training staff in New York, that would have been really odd.

    • Randy

      I would generally agree with this if we weren’t getting multiple moments of confusion. The team clearly doesn’t think it’s just about timelines because Boone keeps trying to give information when he can and often times than not we are left more confused.

      You could be totally right about the rehab. It just seems out of line with what the Yankees generally do with a player. They’re either in New York or in Tampa. Either way, something clearly happened at that facility that led to the shoulder strain unless he had it well before they announced it.

      • overseasyankeefan

        True that leaving fans in confusion is not ideal in a perfect world and it is clear that the team has been vague about not only the returning time but also explanations to the injury details. Not sure if Boone was really unclear of the details (which seems unlikely) or he was not given the green light to give more details (which sounds more possible) but he does have to answer reporters’ questions on a daily basis, barring off days. So, his choices would be: 1). vague terms such as “the shoulder thing” or “the calf thing”, which apparently causes confusion; 2). hide behind “I can’t talk about it” or “I am not ready to give it away yet”, which does not sound good in terms of injury updates and worse, stirs more speculations; 3). ___(insert a possible answer from Boone’s standpoint)___.

        As far as “mystery” injuries are concerned, Giancarlo’s isn’t the first this season that this team doesn’t let known. Severino’s was. The team’s injury report didn’t corroborate what Severino said in an interview back in Spring Training. Cashman at the time said the team would do a thorough investigation into it but not a “Mueller’s report”. So, fans will neither know what was really going on with why his shoulder inflammation led to the lat strain or who/what should be responsible for it. In Giacarlo’s case, we most likely won’t have a better idea of why a hit-by-pitch knee led to a calf injury or a bicep injury led to shoulder strain until he returns and talks about it, if he ever wants to talk about it when asked.

        PS: Yankees do rehabs in New York or in Tampa for the obvious reasons. We dunno what caused which injury, who caused what injury or when which injury occurred in Giancarlo’s case. No point of speculating on his hometown facility.

  6. John

    Hey. Just wanted to leave a quick comment that it is great having you guys back on a new blog. The other blogs are great, and I’ve been enjoying them, but this is like coming home again so far. Keep up the great work.

  7. Chip

    Also, I would humbly disagree with the premise that fans deserve to know about injury status. The fact is that most of this need-to-know isn’t related to concern over the player or the team as much as it is self-interest.

    In all sports, injury reports are released for the benefit of fantasy players and gamblers.

    • Randy

      I don’t gamble. I have nothing personal to gain from getting this information. I do believe this is part of the connection that teams should in good faith establish with the fans. It would also mean that they could realistically keep all information to themselves if they wanted and I’m sure nobody wants that.

      • Chip

        As a rooting fan then ask yourself, what is the benefit to the team to make injury updates public? If anything, it could hurt the team.

        If the Yankees say a player is out until September, for example, then that would only serve to have the price on replacements through the trade market increase.

        Satisfying the fan’s voyeuristic nature isn’t a good enough reason.

        • Randy

          But I wasn’t just talking about timelines. I was also talking about the details given to the public. The Boone presser is an example of this. Either say what it is or just say we don’t want to get into details. Bumbling and stumbling through a response to hide, but then just confusing everyone doesn’t make much sense.

          The timeline point in the article was to show the turning point in how they address things overall. I’m fine with them not giving specific return dates if they don’t want to do that. I’m not cool with “it’s a shoulder. You know a shoulder.”

          • Chip

            I just think we have come to have unreasonable expectations about what the teams share and what they don’t. Injuries are only part of that.

            It doesn’t impact us or the journey (as you put it) if we have this information or not.

            Mike Axisa always would be quick to point out, as much information as we as fans think we have, the team always has more. That’s the way it should be.

    • I Miss Dietrich Enns

      I also respectfully disagree that fans need to know injury status–fans just like to complain when they get bad news.
      So many people mad about Stanton or Hicks legitimately taking longer to heal than anyone expected, but no one seems mad that the Yankees were originally tight-lipped about Didi’s return and that Didi is coming back earlier than any Yankee estimates.
      Can you imagine Randy including in his article “it’s ridiculous that Did was supposed to be out until All Star break or even August, and then all of a sudden he’s rehabbing in May and back in June? WTF Yankees”

      • Randy

        I’m not obsessed with timelines. If they want to keep the timelines to themselves that is fine with me. Didi is the one injury they’ve played out well. It is also a relatively straightforward recovery so what is there really to talk about? Muscles strains and new muscles strains on top of old muscles strains are different. My main thing is you’re either going to give information or keep it as close to the vest as possible. You can say “we’re not going to get into details and we have a timeline in mind, but we won’t share it.” This is what they do now with innings limit for pitchers after the Joba Rules. I don’t think it is in anyone’s interest to have scenarios like “it’s a shoulder. We have a shoulder. It’s a shoulder thing.”

        • overseasyankeefan

          Point taken. Here is the thing though. Inning limits are not the same as injury details. When a team says “we’re not going to get into the injury details or we have a good hold of the injury in mind but we won’t share it,” wouldn’t it stir more speculations? Not sure if it is in no one’s interest to have answers like “it’s a shoulder thing” but at least we know it is a shoulder related injury but not a bicep one, which is clearly two different things. What really matters to these one-after-another injuries is what caused them and in which order they occurred though teams are not obliged to reveal such details but only the injury entitled to the injury list.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Damnit. Here I go agreeing with you.

  8. A Rare Ellsbury Fan

    It’s absolutely crazy what this fan base says about Stanton. All I heard all offseason is how much fans wanted to give out mega contracts to Harper and Machado, meanwhile we actually have someone making that kind of money, and people can’t wait to slander him no matter how he plays.

    • Chip

      Stanton = A-Rod.

      The player that a section of this fanbase is determined to irrationally hate.

      • BigDavey88

        Those people persistently need someone to vilify and are bad fans. They act as if Stanton wants to be hurt or enjoys his striekouts. They also act as if he isn’t a good player. Drives me up the wall.

        • Chip

          Agreed – they bash Stanton because they think (in part) Stanton stopped them from getting Harper. If Harper was here, they would be ripping him too.

          I ignore the noise.

          Good to see you Davey!

  9. Chip

    The Yankees have taken a lot of grief over optimistic timetables for injuries lately (see Judge last year, Hicks this spring training) so it makes sense for them to now take a more closed-lip approach.

    Players will be back when they’re back.

    • Your a Looser Trader FotD

      Closed lip would be fine. It’s this sloppy loose lipped stuff that’s annoying. I mean, I get it. But it’s still annoying.

      Anyway, I just want the guy back.

      • Chip

        Agreed. Whenever he gets back it will be a good thing.

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