Playing in New York is a perpetually demanding task. Donning the Yankees’ uniform, specifically, is a package that brings a whole bunch of things that often go beyond the diamond and the dugout: extra exposure to fans and media, privacy invasions, and — depending on the player’s performance — God-like status or absolute living hell.
The media is especially critical when a player struggles and doesn’t contribute to the team as much as he should. And it’s understandable, to some degree; as long as things are limited to performance, critics are valid.
However, lines can occasionally be crossed, both by media and fans. The role of the latter in judging and criticizing player performance is a controversial issue, but the press must be careful not to take things out of context, or in this case, beyond what really matters: baseball.
On Monday, Yankees slugger Joey Gallo quote-tweeted a picture. The photo was an extract from an article criticizing him for the way he carefully chooses his uniform piece-by-piece and makes sure it fits before taking the field, saying that this process would sometimes happen more than once before he decided the fit was right.
The writer called Gallo a “quirky” guy and used the aforementioned ritual as a way to criticize him for his struggles in New York, questioning whether he is made for this kind of market. He wrote that “[Yankees general manager Brian] Cashman has to fill the room with troops of the right pedigree.”
He also said, “Everyone is entitled to their rituals. But couple these habits with a .160 average as a Yankee with nearly a 50-percent strikeout ratio in the only pennant race of his career.”
Lastly, the writer shared an anecdote with a scout who questioned whether or not the Yankees performed “background checks” and implied that Gallo “isn’t a match for this market”.
It’s perfectly fair to form an opinion about a player using in-game data and stats. Plenty of people question Gallo’s fit within the Yankees’ universe, and it’s certainly something that can be debated. But using “quirks,” or in this case, typical behavior like making sure one looks good, to deem a ballplayer incapable of handling the pressure of wearing the uniform shouldn’t be the way media discusses these issues.
Gallo himself made fun of the situation, but satirizing it, as shown in the tweet below:
Me: Literally gets dressed.— Joey Gallo (@JoeyGallo24) October 25, 2021
Media: Yup that’s why he sucks. https://t.co/5xaRjecvQf
Even if Gallo hit .160/.303/.404 with a .707 since landing on the Yankees, 58 games don’t represent a big enough sample to determine whether or not he is “the right fit” with the pinstripes and everything that comes with them. Yes, he struggled quite a bit, and certainly struck out loads of times, but 622 career MLB games of a .822 OPS tell us that there is a lot more in his bat than just Ks.
Gallo has acknowledged in the past that he struggled, and publicly said that he was working to revert things. He has a track record of hitting for power and a patient approach that leads to high on-base percentages. He also contributes a lot on defense. If he slumps, which he did, there shouldn’t be a problem to point out how and why he did it. However, his pregame clothing rituals have little to do with his on-field performance or his ability to handle New York.
This is not the first incident of its kind and probably won’t be the last. Players are going to struggle, but they should be judged by what happens between the lines in most cases (there are exceptions, as with everything in life). The way they pick their clothes in the dugout shouldn’t concern the media, though.