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.