TAMPA — A day in the life of the Yankees, in the age of coronavirus:
At 10:55 Tuesday morning, Aaron Boone departed George M. Steinbrenner Field in his silver Mercedes, off to his Connecticut home. The Yankees’ manager had nothing to do here.
About an hour and a half later, Boone’s boss, Brian Cashman, touched base with the media present at The George to deliver the exact opposite message. The general manager will be staying in town, leaving only “if things are OK” — which they definitely are not, currently. Cashman had much to do here.
With each turn of this unprecedented break in the action, baseball moves further away from the field, with uncertainty and fear encroaching on the state of things. And the Yankees, now having taken two direct hits, find themselves unwittingly, unwillingly leading the way.
“I’ve certainly never gone through anything like it. I don’t think any of us have,” veteran left-hander J.A. Happ said. “Again, it’s starting to hit home a little more every day, it seems like. Just preparing and trying to be as smart as we can, paying attention.”
You couldn’t disregard the latest news: A second Yankees minor leaguer has tested positive for coronavirus. It’s believed he’s a younger player, like the first such announced Yankees case, 17-year-old pitcher Denny Larrondo.
“You feel for him and his teammates and the organization,” Happ said of the second player. “You hope that can be an isolated thing. From what I’ve heard, he hasn’t been on this [major league] side at all, so that means there’s a chance it won’t spread here.”
Yup, there’s a chance of that. Yet this pandemic humbles us daily. On Friday, Yankees player representative Zack Britton triumphantly announced that he and his teammates had voted unanimously to stay together in Tampa. By Tuesday morning, following a Sunday meeting with Cashman held at the behest of Major League Baseball, Britton was among those who showed up to gather some belongings before heading home. Among the other Yankees believed to have taken off are Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle, Jordan Montgomery, Adam Ottavino, Mike Tauchman and Gio Urshela.
Some intend to stay. As Britton said, “Most guys wouldn’t have a workout alternative in Tampa, maybe even not at home, so guys are in a tricky spot.”
Heading to New York, a coronavirus hotbed compared to the Tampa Bay area, couldn’t sound less appealing for those without family in the area. International players can’t realistically head home given the questions about future travel restrictions. And some guys, like Happ and hitting coach Marcus Thames, live in the area. Yet you also can appreciate MLB’s concerns about sizable group gatherings. Talk about a true no-win situation.
With baseball, like all sports, not starting anytime soon — MLB formally kicked the can down to mid-May on Monday, and only a cockeyed optimist could see it starting by even June 1 — and with the coronavirus curve not appearing close to flattening, we surely face more dark days. More positive tests. More concerns and setbacks. Fewer guys, you’d think, finding sanctuary at their teams’ complexes.
It’s consistently mind-blowing.
“Everything seems to be changing … daily,” Happ said.
“If things are not OK,” Cashman said, “I’m here.”
It sure seems as if Cashman and his attendant worries will be here a while, his club pacing the industry in a most undesirable category. It’s one in which, at the same time, he wouldn’t want to see anyone rally and take the top spot.
“There’s a lot of unknowns,” Britton said, and much of the information we do know is discouraging. Has a day in the life of the Yankees ever seemed less enjoyable?
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