New York Yankees: Yankees will adjust to new MLB health protocols

William Parlee
New York Yankees
Oct 16, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; An view of the a field logo before game three of the 2017 ALCS playoff baseball series between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees and the other 29 teams will be subject to new stricter rules for 2021. MLB has released new health protocols (operation manual) for spring training just a week away. These measures have been agreed upon by both the teams and the players. By players, I mean the MLBPA (players union). Last year you saw manager Aaron Boone wear a gaiter last season along with other managers and staff. A gaiter is a scarf-like cloth worn around the neck and can be pulled up over the mouth and nose. That type of mask is outlawed under the new protocol. Boone this season will wear a regular mask as outlined in the protocol.

“Neither gaiters nor masks with exhalation valves meet the definition of a face covering for purposes of the requirements in this Operations Manual,” the document reads. “Gaiters may continue to be worn on the field by players.”

The team will also play differently in spring training. The units located on the west coast of Florida will only play teams located there, and the west coast teams will play only teams on that coast. That means teams will be playing more games with fewer teams. For the Yankees, it means they will only be playing exhibition games between them and the Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are all located from St. Petersburg south to Fort Myers, as noted by MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch.

If it remains in place, the plan is to promote more safety by eliminating overnight stays and long bus rides where players and staff are jammed into buses. As it is, many veteran players use their own cars anyway.

Major League Baseball’s 2021 Operations Manual, collectively bargained with the MLB Players Association, will have many of the same rules as in the 60 game shortened season in 2020. However, there will be no universal DH in baseball. The rules adopted by both sides will be the seven-inning doubleheaders, the runner on the second base after nine innings, a 26th roster spot, and no spitting. Anyone watching baseball knows that the no spitting rule wasn’t really followed or enforces. This year the agreement will feature several new regulations, including the exclusion of gaiters as an acceptable face covering for non-players in uniform. Below are some of the latest wrinkles in the agreement. Each team will have an enforcement officer who will have their hands full enforcing these rules.

  • After hitters complained last year about the lack of in-game video, they will receive access to that through MLB-issued iPads “in a format that cannot be used to steal the catcher’s signs” via selective editing and/or pixelating. Don’t even think about it, Astros or Red Sox.
  • Players, managers, and staff (designated as “Covered Individuals”) who test positive for the coronavirus must isolate for at least 10 days. A Covered Individual identified as having been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID must quarantine for seven days and must test negative on the fifth day or later to be cleared. Last year’s agreement didn’t feature a specific amount of days, instead of relying on two negative tests to be allowed back. To enhance contact tracing, all Covered Individuals will wear Kinexon devices while on team property or traveling with the team.
  • Stricter rules are in place, as per a league-wide “Code of Conduct,” to govern the movement of players, managers, and coaches (qualified as “Covered Individuals”) outside the ballpark. They can’t attend indoor gatherings of 10 or more people; eat at indoor restaurants, bars, lounges, or go to fitness or wellness centers, entertainment venues, or casinos. During spring training, Covered Individuals and their households must quarantine at their homes with the exceptions of outdoor dining, individual outdoor physical activities, and a doctor’s visit as well as going to work. Those who violate the Code of Conduct will be subject to pay forfeiture for the days they are in quarantine due to their forbidden actions.
  • Each club must appoint at least one “Facemask Enforcement Officer” whose job will be to ensure everyone is wearing a mask when required (all times at the ballpark besides playing in the game). A third violation and every subsequent one of this rule will result in a $150 fine, sent to a charity mutually agreed upon by MLB and the MLBPA.
  • For exhibition games held between Feb. 27 and March 13, the defensive manager may call an inning “complete” before the third out if his pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches. Also, in this time frame, games can be shortened to as few as five innings if both managers consent. Starting on March 14, games can be downsized to as little as seven innings.
  • There will be no overnight trips for teams during spring training. Most Florida-based clubs typically do at least one of these a spring. For road games, players will be encouraged to drive their own cars (a choice most veterans typically make anyway) to avoid crowding on a bus.
  • On March 17 (15 days before Opening Day, as the schedule currently stands), commissioner Rob Manfred will determine whether the Triple-A level of minor league ball will begin in concert with the major leagues. If Manfred declares that Triple-A ball won’t start on time, then the “Alternate Site” model from last year will resume. Either way, each team will designate an alternate site to be ready for usage.
  • Mental health resources will be provided to players and staff.