“There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.” Most people who follow baseball closely are familiar with this phrase, more often simply put as “TINSTAAPP” — which I just love trying to pronounce, but that’s not why we’re here. The idea there is quite simple, the human body was not meant to pitch and pitchers, by nature, are quite volatile for that reason. If someone is able to make it to the majors as a pitcher, they beat all the odds.
However, just because someone made it to the majors and established themselves, does not mean their body will never betray them. Pitchers, especially, are always at risk. This all comes back to Luis Severino and the heartbreaking news that he’s elected to receive Tommy John surgery and lose his entire 2020 season.
After the initial typical reaction where I felt bad for Severino and got upset that one of the best young players on my favorite team won’t participate in what should be a fun season, I was left feeling angry. I was pissed. Not at Severino, not at luck, but really at the Yankees. Maybe that was misdirected, maybe I’m wrong, but I couldn’t help question how this keeps happening to the Yankees.
Forearm soreness for Luis Severino. Been dealing with it since his last start of the playoffs, Boone says.— Brendan Kuty (@BrendanKutyNJ) February 20, 2020
Cashman explained that #Yankees have done a series of tests, multiple times, on Severino’s forearm throughout the offseason and all came back negative. Only thing was a non-symptomatic finding of a “loose body” in the elbow that’s not causing him any problems.— David Lennon (@DPLennon) February 20, 2020
Luis Severino's partial UCL tear was discovered by a Dye contrast MRI, Brian Cashman said. Several other "normal" MRIs didn't show it previously.— Brendan Kuty (@BrendanKutyNJ) February 25, 2020
I’m sorry, but the young star pitcher has “dealing with” some sort of arm discomfort since October and it took until February to figure out why? If the “normal” tests aren’t showing anything or answering questions, don’t just sit around for months. Keep looking. Obviously we don’t know the exact series of events that happened between October and now, but based on the information we have, it’s not a pretty picture. This reeks of the Greg Bird saga in 2017. James Paxton has also been “dealing with” arm issues since October, and even though he’s supposedly going to start throwing again soon, the question of why it lingered is still unanswered.
Maybe they did keep trying with Severino, and I’m definitely not a doctor so I won’t pretend to know more than them. Even if I was, my knowledge would be useless without looking at his medicals — looking at you, internet doctors. But that’s not the story that’s presented, so fans are just left with questions, uncertainty, and no idea of how to properly manage our thoughts and feelings.
Then, of course, the “takes” started. Because the best and worst thing about the internet is that everyone has a voice. And in 2020, everyone’s voice gets heard. Of course people started complaining about the “extension” Severino signed prior to the 2019 season. Apparently, it was a mistake because he’s only pitched 20.1 innings (playoffs included) since signing that deal. Then there’s this:
Sorry to drop this on Yankee fans today, but the bad extension luck with Severino and Hicks has me wondering about Aaron Judge's future with the team.— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) February 25, 2020
Is he headed for Monument Park, or is he the Yanks' Mookie Betts? https://t.co/sElRCOso0w
I have literally no idea how Aaron Judge comes into the equation at all here. Never sign anyone because two people got hurt? Unless the Yankees were planning on straight-up cutting Severino — which they were never going to do — how was his contract bad? All they did was buy out his arbitration years and possibly one free agent year, and that’s totally up to the team. Why are there complaints about his deal?
He’s here for the same amount of time he would’ve been anyway, and even if they paid more in the first year than they would have, the overall money here would not hurt any team, let alone the Yankees. All this did was avoid ugly arbitration processes over what equates to chump change for the team, while Severino would be badmouthed and trashed by the organization he’d then have to play for.
Aaron Hicks is a whole other story, but even then, it’s still a “team-friendly” deal. Hicks’ and Severino’s deals are the exact type of deals “smart” teams should be making. Injuries happen. A team can’t base their decisions around that and they can’t react to a completely unrelated player because of an injury to one. The bigger problem with Martino’s piece is that it’s probably exactly what the Yankees are thinking and quite possibly the excuse they’ll use to not pay him.
“We got bit in the a$$ with Hicks and Severino so now we don’t take risks,” is a terrible thought process. Especially in the same offseason where they dished out the largest contract to a pitcher ever. Cole’s contract and Severino’s injuries are somehow going to be used against the literal face of the franchise. Why? Because baseball is a business.
Baseball’s in a terrible state these days. Winning is simply not prioritized, the bottom line is. As much as I hate what the Astros did to win, I at least respect the fact that they did it to win. I feel like I can count the teams that are actually trying to win on one hand. Baseball wants to stay America’s pastime, but it’s just not actually trying.
All spring training games are still not broadcast, fans in Canada have to buy two separate subscription packages to watch games, and in the Golden Age of streaming services and cord-cutting, local games are blacked out. I will never not be impressed with MLB’s desire to grow the game while simultaneously making sure no one watches.
And with the way things are around baseball, it would not surprise me in the least if Judge’s ordeal ends up resembling Mookie Betts’. As a Yankees fan, I’ve long advocated for Betts to be in a different uniform — because I want to like him so much more and now I can — and I don’t have to worry about the team I dislike the most benefiting from his baseball abilities, but I can’t fully find the joy in the Red Sox trading him away to save a few bucks. It’s a lot of money to us non-millionaires, but the money is not a lot to a team like the Red Sox. And it won’t be a lot for a team like the Yankees.
And as much Severino’s injury sucks for the Yankees’ chances in 2020, this is still a team that won 103 games without Severino last year and replaced CC Sabathia with Gerrit Cole. They’ll probably still cruise to an AL East championship, because there’s only one other team in the division that’s trying right now.
Severino’s injury and contract, and Hicks’ situation have nothing to do with Aaron Judge. The Yankees shouldn’t even be thinking about how to manipulate this in their favor for Judge’s payday, even though they probably will. Because nothing matters more than saving a few bucks. And they think everyone is dumb enough to fall for that.
Ultimately, Aaron Judge is a separate situation altogether and we shouldn’t even be talking about him right now. I’ve already had to deal with losing David Robertson (twice!), Robinson Cano, Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances. The thought of possibly losing Masahiro Tanaka next year has already entered my head, don’t make me think about losing Aaron Judge right now.