Here we are a month from the start of the Major League season and many of the pundits have already predicted a world championship for the New York Yankees.
Hey, it’s easy to understand why: You simply combine the signing of Gerrit Cole with the assumption the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox will be weighed down by sign-stealing and salary-cutting to conclude the Yankees – and the Los Angeles Dodgers – are the cream of the MLB crop.
Well, we would advise everyone to calm down a little bit about the Yankees. Just look at all the unfortunate things that have already happened to them in spring training.
The Yankees have lost starters James Paxton and Luis Severino. And on Wednesday, they announced the oft-injured Giancarlo Stanton had strained his calf and might be doubtful for the start of the regular season.
“He came in this morning and felt better,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday. “But we sent him just to be safe after Dr. (Daniel) Murphy examined him. (An MRI) showed the strain, so it’s going to be a couple of weeks.”
The loss of Stanton is particularly frustrating for the Yankees – and their fans. He played in only 18 games in 2019 because of a variety of injuries and they were obviously counting on him to have a healthy, power-packed return.
Stanton has already earned a reputation as being unreliable and overpaid. And it has been hard to argue with either point of view. Remember, the Yankees managed to win 103 games last season without him and imagine the added payroll flexibility they’d have if not burdened by the last nine years of his 13-year, $325 million contract.
Do the Yankees really need him? Not really.
The funny thing is, Stanton’s muscular frame may be working against him. The guy was just playing around in the outfield during a workout on Tuesday when he did something to his right calf. Couch potatoes are right. The more bulk, the more things there are to pull and strain.
The irony is the Yankees had said they planned on using Stanton this spring exclusively as a designated hitter because they didn’t want to run the risk of injuring himself in the outfield.
“You get the thoughts of it sometimes being a waste of time,” Stanton told The Athletic. “You just did all that work, and now you’re back to square one. Then you did all that again, and you’re back to square one. You can’t look at it that way for long, but those thoughts definitely cross your mind during the bad times.”
Stanton said he altered his usual off-season program to focus on getting himself ready for the spring. He rehabbed his knee and his quad. And then this happened.
“It’s disappointing,” Boone said. “You want to get guys going and built up. But it’s just a little bump in the road, and we’re equipped to handle it.”
And just think, the Yankees probably thought they’d maxed out their bad news quota on Tuesday when they announced Severino, their young and gifted righthander, would need Tommy John surgery because of a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.
“I am extremely disappointed that I will not be able to put on a Yankees uniform and compete with my teammates this year,” Severino said in a statement on Tuesday. “But I promise that I will be working tirelessly during this process to come back stronger than ever to make the greatest fans in baseball proud.”
Much like Stanton, Severino missed the majority of the 2019 season with injuries. And now it’s unlikely he will pitch again until at least the 2021 All-Star break.
This injury likely traces back to some forearm discomfort he began feeling after pitching Game 2 of the ALCS against the Astros last season.
Coming into the spring, the Yankees starting rotation lined up this way: Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, Severino and Paxton. They lost Paxton well before spring training after the lefty had surgery to remove a cyst and repair his lumbar. They don’t expect him to be back until May, at the earliest.
That leaves the Yankees more reliant on veteran J.A. Happ then they’d probably like to be. Another possible solution, Domingo German, is serving the final 63 games of his 81-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy. The earliest he can return is the first week of June.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat the fact that being without Sevy, that’s a blow, but it doesn’t change our expectations and what we’re truly capable of,” Boone said. “So, no, nothing changes.”
Severino, who signed a four-year, $40 million extension before the 2019 season, didn’t pitch in the majors last season until September because of injuries to his right rotator cuff and lat muscle. He was coming off a spectacular 2018 during which he went 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA with 220 strikeouts in 191⅓ innings.
With the losses of Stanton, Severino and Paxton, keep something else in mind. Aaron Judge has delayed the start of his spring training because of shoulder soreness.
All of a sudden, its beginning to look a lot like 2019 when the Yankees set a major league record with 30 different players landing on the injured list.
Who knows, the Yankees may prove deep enough again to overcome all the injuries. But let’s wait until at least June before predicting a 28th World Series title. As we all know, stuff can happen.