When the new CBA emerged from negotiations, one of the best wins from the union’s standpoint was the addition of the 10-day disabled list. This served a dual-purpose that would likely worked to the union’s benefit: not only would teams be able to quickly rest players that otherwise might play instead of missing a full two weeks (and risk further injury), it would also allow more 25-man roster manipulation, essentially opening new spots (and jobs) for minor league players.
In its first year, I would say the Yankees have seen mixed results. While this has allowed a lot more flexibility, we’ve also seen where the organization and players’ mentality is stuck in a world where using that disabled list is admitting some kind of defeat, or that doing so costs something in some way. I can go through a few examples, and one that cropped up just recently.
My first issue was how the Yankees handled the Greg Bird situation. At the end of spring training he had the horrible and mysterious foul ball off of his ankle. He complained about the pain and decided to play through it. He only aggravated it, forcing him to play a really poor April and was then sidelined before ultimately getting surgery and rehab. Everything once he was put on the disabled list was handled as it should, but the question is: why not just put him on the disabled list from the beginning? If he’s your first baseman of the future and you have backup options, why even take the risk to aggravate it?
Then there was another instance with Starlin Castro. After pulling his hamstring against Boston on July 15th, he re-injured it against Minnesota on the 19th. If you notice your starting second baseman limping on one day, maybe don’t allow him to play enough more that he’ll re-injure it, forcing him to miss nearly another month after already being sidelined for much of the previous month as well. Even though he believed he wasn’t brought back too soon, the question remains... why did the Yankees take his word for it when they saw him limping on the field?
This one is smaller, but still significant. Aroldis Chapman has experienced some elbow discomfort, and yet, no disabled list as of now. He had an MRI that turned up negative, he says he’s fine, but still said the discomfort was mild. If he keeps performing poorly and he actually injures the elbow again, maybe they will second-guess not using the short disabled list stint considering their bullpen depth.
The last example is none other than Aaron Judge. I’m not going to speculate as to if or how much he’s injured, but there’s clearly something odd with his left shoulder. He ices it after nearly after every game, and it was reported just yesterday that there was discussion about a cortisone shot but they decided against it. Instead they are going to rest him as much as possible, hoping that he rounds back into form. They could also use the dang 10-day disabled list, the thing you can use instead of just resting someone on-and-off for ten days!
I’m not sure where the fault lies. It’s hard to tell as an outsider. I think some fault definitely lies with the Yankees’ medical staff, both for botching the Bird injury and allowing Castro to re-injure his hamstring. In regards to Chapman and Judge, what can you really do? They’re two players that sorely need to be on the roster if healthy, and if they incessantly claim that they are, and they’re not showing outward signs of injury, then what can you do? It could come down to instilling a sense of: it isn’t being selfish to admit you’re injured, because getting re-injured hurts the team more.
I’m not saying the organization has to change that machismo culture, but they sure as hell shouldn’t be playing someone if they’re limping. Overall it’s still the “Yankees’” problem, whether it’s player, coach, or staff, and they need to find the strategy that works best, especially with young and exciting players that need to be protected. Sometimes you need to understand that a few days off in the grand scheme of things is not the end of the world. It exists for a reason, and everyone should use it to their benefit.