The Major League Baseball season is meant to be played over 162 games. The ups and downs, the storylines, the accumulated stats all lend themselves to the marathon, not the sprint.
But with 60 games on the docket for 2020, each game will be that much more crucial for teams as they try to make a push towards the playoffs and the World Series, if one is even played.
Although the dynamics of the season have changed, the goal for Aaron Boone and the Yankees has not, and that is to capture title No. 28.
On Wednesday afternoon, Boone spoke to the media on a conference call as “Summer Training” officially began around the league. Boone said that he’s planning to address the team several times, both as a whole and in smaller groups, on Saturday when the first full squad workout takes place at Yankee Stadium. He hopes to instill in the players that they have a responsibility to be safe and adhere to safety protocols at the ballpark and away from the field.
Boone also said he wants to reiterate what the organization’s ultimate goal is.
“The bottom line is we have 60 games to go out and try to prove our worth and prove to the world how good a club we think we are. [The season is] certainly different, but the goal and the focus does not change,” Boone said.
“With the team that we’ve gotten together here, with a team that’s been on the brink, with a team that’s knocked on the door now for a few years, with a team with some unfinished business… I do feel like we’re still a very hungry group and we want to climb to the top of the mountain,” he continued. “We want to be champions, and I know our guys feel the same way.”
With no fans in the stands, at least as of now, and with strict guidelines on social distancing and coronavirus testing in place for players, Boone said teams will have to dig deep to stay focused on the task at hand.
“I do think one of the separators this year is going to be the teams that are able to find that energy, to find that focus, to find that edge on a daily basis in what’s going to be unique and challenging circumstances,” he added. “I do feel like we have a group that’s cut out for that. I feel good about the conversations I’ve had with guys, and where they’re at and what their frame of mind is. We’re looking forward to getting started on that.”
Summer Training is expected to last about three weeks before the regular season begins. Along with Yankee Stadium, the team is expected to use PNC Field in Mossic, Pa., the Railriders’ ballpark, to get ready for the 60-game schedule.
Pitchers will have to build their arms up, and Boone said the organization has done “a pretty good job” in staying in contact with players and logging the work they’ve done in quarantine over the last few months.
“I feel like we have a pretty good understanding of where these guys are coming into camp. I feel like most of our starting pitchers are in a position to come in, and from jump street face live hitters,” Boone said. “We certainly don’t push anyone. We’ll build them up safely and smartly as best we can to be in a position to hopefully gradually get to a point where they’re in a good spot heading into the regular season.”
Boone anticipates that the team will have to get creative in how they use Yankee Stadium, since the sprawling facility of George M. Steinbrenner Field and the minor league complex is off limits. He’s confident in the team’s ability to get ready for a baseball season unlike anything anyone has ever seen before.
“We’ll try to take advantage of the entire facility, and take advantage of some outdoor situations. We’ll try and set up as many areas where guys can safely distance, and guys can be in some open air situations. We’ll have to get creative with how we communicate,” Boone remarked.
As for Boone himself, he said he has “no fear or trepidation” about returning to work amidst a pandemic. Boone has had health issues in the past, most notably a heart problem which required open heart surgery in 2009.
“I’m excited to get back at it, and we’ll do all we can for our players and the organization to do this as smartly and as safely as possible. Right now, my mindset is that I’m really excited to get back with a group of guys I have a ton of respect for. I know how bad they want to win a championship, and we’re all working hard to be a part of something special,” Boone said.