It has been a pretty good year to be a Yankee fan. The youth movement is in full swing, Aaron Judge is playing like one of the very best in baseball, and it looks as though the team could make a run at the playoffs if everyone can be healthy. That last part is obviously a big if, and no injury has been more harmful to the team’s production than Greg Bird fouling a ball off his ankle on the last day of spring training.
Bird hit like the player many knew he was after returning from a shoulder injury that kept him out all last season. Then the foul ball happened and he could barely hit at all. The Yankees finally sent him to the disabled list at the beginning of May after he’d played on the injured ankle for nearly a month. Bird hasn’t made it back yet, which has forced the team into an army of bad players at first base.
As a result, the Yankees front office has now set their sights on Bird. A “Yankee insider,” which is code for “front office coward” heavily implied to the New York Daily News that Bird is just faking it.
You really have to wonder what’s with this guy,” a Yankee insider complained to me earlier this week. “You’d think with Judge and Sanchez, the guys he came up through the system with, doing so well up here he’d want to be a part of this. Apparently not.
Really? You really said out loud that a kid who has played baseball nearly all of his life suddenly looked around and said “things are fun around here, but I’m not interested?” That’s the angle you’re going with? I can’t begin to describe how misguided that is.
It’s not the first time someone in the Yankees front office has decided to take pot shots at players, of course. It seems to be a growing, disgusting trend. Say what you want about Dellin Betances’ arbitration case, but there was absolutely no reason for Randy Levine to basically go on a victory tour after the fact and slam him the way he did.
Dellin replied in a way that made absolute sense: he’ll remember that interaction when it comes time for free agency. You can bet Bird will too. Players like Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez, or others who may consider coming to the Yankees in the future likely will as well. Is it really crazy to believe that they have to wonder when they might be next?
It’s bad business, and it’s completely unnecessary. Mark Teixeira fouled a ball off his leg that was diagnosed as a bone bruise for a long time without feeling better. It took three MRIs to finally reveal a small fracture in the bone. No one knows if that’s the case with Bird or not, but it’s absolutely asinine to imply that he isn’t really injured. You can say it’s unfortunate, you can say it has been disappointing, or any other number of ways to express displeasure with the way things have played out that don’t involve calling a player who should be a part of your future a liar.
Which brings us to the next bit of information our anonymous coward fed the Daily News:
The Yankee brass has become exasperated with Bird, who’s never been able to stay healthy, and it has gotten to the point where if he doesn’t get back on the field after the All-Star break, they are prepared to move him over the winter.
They are ready to move on if he isn’t back this year. Ready to move on from a guy several months younger than Aaron Judge because of a freak injury he hasn’t been able to shake. Ready to move on from a guy that Brian Cashman called the best pure hitter in the system. That’s the stance we’re going with.
Bird’s back-to-back injuries have been frustrating, but he’s still incredibly young. Throwing away his potential because you didn’t like how long he took to heal from something is a gigantic waste of resources. Should we also do the same thing with James Kaprielian? Injuries have dogged his time as a Yankee so far. According to the front office’s logic here, he must be a bust.
The front office spouting off at will needs to stop. Taking shots at players needs to stop. There is just no good reason for it. What does it accomplish? Will you shame Bird into stopping his apparent charade by telling everyone you think he’s making it up? Will calling Betances as much of a closer as you are an astronaut make him pitch better? It does nothing but ruin any good feelings anyone may be able to associate with the team.
It’s frustrating, stupid, and exhausting that this is a conversation that keeps needing to happen. You can assume, if you want, that the NYDN is lying about this, but the Yankees’ front office has kind of lost the benefit of the doubt at this point. All this does is take the spotlight away from what has been a pretty exciting season so far on the field and put it on people who really have no business making headlines.