It would seem that the Yankees are determined to be the very last team in Major League Baseball to extend the protective netting at their home ballpark. Since the incident at Yankee Stadium that saw a little girl hit in the head with a baseball traveling at 105 mph, teams and players have spoken out in favor of increased fan safety. The Yankees, meanwhile, have remained silent.
I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say silent, because they have spoken; someone has spoken at least. When asked about the team’s plan for extending protective netting, one Yankees executive simply cursed at former beat writer Wally Matthews:
Yankee exec to me on the phone today: "I'm not talking about the netting. Goodbye. and don't f**king call me again.'' Click— wallace matthews (@OysterBayBomber) September 25, 2017
It’s pretty clear that this organization has very little regard for optics, especially when it comes to their executives. Saving face is important when it’s about the on-field product, but the front office has free rein to do and say what they want, however they want to say it. There will be no acknowledgement or apology—this is just how these people like to work.
That being said, it can’t be surprising that the Yankees have yet to even join the conversation about extending protective safety, even though the incident that started this whole thing happened on their turf. Other teams have seemingly learned the lessons the Yankees should have learned on their own. It wouldn’t take much to make people happy and look responsible while they are at it. The organization is just embarrassing itself at this point.
The hope is that, eventually, with enough pressure, the team will see the light and promise to do something in order to make the ballpark safer. Unfortunately, it’s become a race to see who is the last possible team to add these safety measures. The Yankees are making a real run for it.
In 2016, when MLB recommended that every park in the league needed to have protective netting that covered seating within 70 feet of home plate, only 11 teams met those minimum requirements. This left 19 teams that needed to add to whatever netting they already had. The Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Washington Nationals decided to extend their netting to cover the outer edge of the dugouts, meaning 16 teams did the bare minimum of meeting the inner edge of the dugout.
Since the time of the incident, we have seen that list of 16 diminish. The Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and Seattle Mariners have all since announced their plans to extend the netting down the lines for next season. We also know that the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, and Toronto Blue Jays have at least announced that they will take an extensive look at extending the nets.
This means, that out of 30 teams in the league, only eight teams remain at the league minimum recommendation and have yet to discuss improvements: the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, and the New York Yankees. At the very least, the Yankees haven’t done anything like the Angels, who have outwardly stated that they are in compliance and have no plan to extend further.
It should be stressed that this is not about being in compliance or doing what is expected. MLB barely even issued those recommendations. Teams should be doing this because it’s the right thing to do, because they care about their fans, and want to be responsible for their safety. Maybe the Yankees think they are so successful that they are above this approach, but if they can’t be bothered to protect their own customers, why should their customers continue to buy their product?