Over the past 16 months, I’ve heard every excuse under the sun to describe the Yankee injury problems. It’s the trainer’s fault. The medical staff sucks. They don’t stretch. The short season threw everyone off.
At what point do we just admit the Yankees have a toughness problem?
Gary Sanchez plays catcher. Aaron Judge played six weeks with a fractured rib. Everyone else is fair game at this point.
Consider Gleyber Torres. He’s 23 years old. Last week, he somehow strained both his quad and his hamstring while running at about 60% down the line. He wasn’t even sprinting full speed! It’s flat out embarrassing at this point. To make matters worse, Gleyber described himself as “100% pain free” just three days later! Despite this, he’s still 2-3 weeks away from returning. How is that possible?
Next, we can look at everyone’s favorite punching bag, Giancarlo Stanton. Giancarlo strained his hamstring running from first to second on a routine passed ball. At the time, we were told he’d be out 3-4 weeks. It’s been 2.5 weeks and the latest update on a timeline was that “there’s nothing imminent.” Stanton was actually able to hit and run on the field on Sunday. So he’s able to hit, he’s able to run, but he’s not able to DH? Okay.
To cap off the trifecta, we’ll look at Zack Britton. Britton strained his hamstring (what else!) jogging over to first base on a routine ground ball to cover the bag. He left the game and was immediately put on the IL. Then, just two days after the injury, he was running on the field pain free. I’m sorry, but if you are able to run on the field without pain, what’s the point of spending 10 days on the IL?
There are two main observations here, and neither of them are good. The first issue is that this generation of Yankees is conditioned to ask out of the game immediately if everything isn’t 100%. This is not good! Part of being a championship team is to be able to fight through aches and pains and stay on the field. Nobody broke their arm or tore their ACL here. These are very minor grade one strains. Plenty of guys in the MLB still play 155 games a year. Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are two classic examples. I can guarantee you these guys have had minor strains and simply played through them.
If you want to keep it in the family, can you imagine Derek Jeter or Tino Martinez going on the IL with a grade one calf or hamstring strain? I’m cracking up at just the thought of that.
The second observation is that the Yankees keep jumping the gun with their IL stints. Judge, Torres, and Britton were all put on the IL and then immediately running at full speed on the field within two days! Maybe give it a day or two and see how the body responds before immediately pulling the plug for three weeks. Judge is the perfect example. They jumped the gun with a very minor injury and then he was out of commission for the Rays series, leading to an embarrassing sweep at home.
Come playoff time, not everyone is going to be feeling 100%. If these Yankees are going to be champions, they’re going to have to learn how to play and win when they are feeling 80 or 85% — there’s a difference between playing hurt and playing injured. In sports, rarely is any athlete at 100%, especially at the end of the season. In short, some of these guys are simply going to have to suck it up.