New York Yankees News/Rumors: Matt Blake, Will there be baseball, Challenges yet to come and more

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Boone

Matt Blake’s new job not what he thought it would be:

New York Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake is in the second week of his new career getting ready for the home opener at Yankee Stadium, or that is supposed to be the scenario in a season that has gone south and quickly.  Instead, Matt Blake is at his home in Cleveland twiddling his thumbs.

The coronavirus has shut down all baseball operations for the New York Yankee and all of MLB.  Blake was hired in the offseason replacing longtime pitching coach Larry Rothschild was fired.  Blake was previously with the Cleveland Indians as a pitching coordinator.  During the offseason, he got the news that he was selected as the new pitching coach for the Yankees, a dream job, putting him at the top of his profession.  After a month of getting pitchers ready baseball and his dream came to a screeching halt.

Blake, now at home, is trying to keep pitchers ready remotely.  The situation is hardly acceptable as the halt and restart at some point is likely to cause more pitching injuries than if spring training and the start of the season was seamless.  Here’s what Blake had to say about the situation:

“I think there’s definitely a possibility of it,” he said Wednesday on a conference call. “Just like any [sudden] start and stop throughout the season.”  “We were building and felt like we were in a good rhythm in spring training and guys were performing at a high level and we were coming together and then you hit this hard stop. The momentum you were building kind of lapsed. We are doing our best trying to stay connected. Take it one day at a time. This is bigger than baseball. Hopefully we get back to the point where we are talking about mound visits and things of that nature.’’

Yankee pitchers are now spread around the country, trying to stay in pitching form while staying in contact with Matt Blake.  Acquired during the winter meetings, new New York Yankee pitching ace Gerrit Cole is probably in the best situation to keep in shape.  He is at his new home in Greenwich, CT.  He has a large plot of land and can pitch to his athlete wife Amy.

Will there be a baseball season?

With each passing day, a New York Yankee baseball season seems to be further in jeopardy.  The coronavirus has turned the country and the world upsidedown and, of course, all of MLB, the Olympics, and all of the sports.  The baseball 162 game season was supposed to start a week ago.  With each passing week and the spread of the virus, any baseball season keeps being pushed back.

The season was delayed by two weeks when MLB abruptly ended the postseason and announced the delay.  Since then, ever-increasing CDC restrictions have pushed that date further and further back.  First into May, then June, and now any start of the season is not likely before July 4th.  Just days ago, Toronto home of the Blue Jays had banned any city-led public gatherings to June 30th.   If health officials can not control the spread of the virus, the entire baseball season may, at some point, be canceled.

Challenges yet ahead:

In the best-case scenario, the virus will reach its apex in the next two or three weeks, and MLB can start to make some plans for a shortened season.  Once they know that the CDC will lift public gathering restrictions, MLB will have to decide on the length of a mini-spring training that New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone has suggested being three to four weeks.  He cited the need for that to prevent unnecessary injuries once the season starts.  This pushes a start date even further into the summer.

Originally MLB suggested and hoped for a 120 day season once baseball resumed.  With the continuing delay that is starting to look like an 80-100 game season.  The question is if it is shorter than that, will the season be considered legitimate?

If a baseball season resumes that are challenges that must be overcome.  It is expected that the minor league season will eventually start sooner than major league games and, most likely, without fans in the stands.  Whether major league teams can do that is in question.  As it stands now, MLB has said there would be no baseball operations until mid-May.   However, CDC restrictions may keep that from being a reality.

The question of whether MLB games can be played in front of empty stands is still an open one.  Player’s salaries are paid with ticket sales and concessions revenues, without fans there is no revenue.  Further, MLB and MBLPA negotiations are likely.  Playing in empty stadiums, at least at the outset, could provide MLB a way to avoid what could be the embarrassment of small crowds while meeting the obligation to play as many games as feasible.

Many options will have to be decided before the season starts.  One consideration that seems to becoming more necessary is doubleheaders on weekends to get as many games in as possible.  Players indicated that might cause more injuries, to that MLB is looking into having seven-inning doubleheaders to reduce that likelihood.

The biggest challenge ahead for both minor league and major league teams is that there will probably not be an “all clear” bell.  Public gathering restriction will likely be lifted at different times across the country.  The one thing that is for sure is that the coronavirus and the health of the public are bigger than baseball and will end up controlling what MLB does.

The Tampa Bay Yankees:

About a week ago, I suggested that the New York Yankees could become the Tampa Bay Yankees this year in an effort to get a baseball season in if Yankee Stadium becomes unavailable due to the coronavirus and restrictions of public gatherings.  This, of course, could be applied to all of baseball with games played at the Cactus and Grapefuild league locations.

With the aggressive spread of the coronavirus, that suggestion seems more remote as other areas that weren’t infected just a week ago seem to have more significant problems now.  The Miami/Dade and Broward Counties in Florida is quickly becoming a situation that is now prevalent in the NYC area.   Unfortunately, the area around Yankee Stadium has become the epicenter of the virus in the U.S.  The New York Yankees most likely will not be playing regular-season games in Florida.

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