Yankees: What a Shortened 50-Game Season Could Mean for New York
By Adam Weinrib
If the New York Yankees only play 50 games in the 2020 MLB season, it will have a wide-ranging impact.
Short answer: It means that a title will be ruled illegitimate by the general public if, and only if, the Yankees win it.
Long answer: Ahh, there are so many more complications to discuss. Settle in.
Major League Baseball and the MLBPA seem to be streaking closer to compromise over the past 24 hours after inching along in opposite directions, countering each other’s counters with various mockeries (“OK, fine, 114 games with no ball or bat!”) for the past month. MLB finally announced on Monday that they’re willing to pay out pro-rated salaries for a 50-60 game season, also making it known that Rob Manfred could trigger a clause and mandate such things in the worst-case scenario of a lack of compromise.
In short, if things get acrimonious and talks never materialize, it still seems likely a 50-game season will be played, which I wish I’d known before yesterday.
Now, will some players refuse to play if the league stomps its foot and enacts this? Highly possible. That’s why we should be rooting against talks breaking down to the point of stomping.
But what exactly would it mean for the Yankees’ sprint to the finish if every game matters that much more?
The New York Yankees’ bullpen is set up beautifully for a 50-game season.
The Yankees foresaw short-series postseason success when they built their deep and impressive bullpen, and we can guarantee they never thought it would be particularly impactful in a two-month MLB season but…here we are.
Though they were likely one arm short last year (that Dellin Betances injury, man, what a killer), having this many trustworthy arms will avoid burnout in a stretch where every single game is of critical seeding importance. Aaron Boone can still employee his trust and rest tree. Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, and probably Jonathan Loaisiga, in this instance (less time for stretching him into a rotation option, best to play to his strengths) can all be juggled ahead of Aroldis Chapman.
In case there wasn’t already enough rostered pitching depth, it’s quite likely that all sorts of vaunted prospects, bereft of a minor-league season, will be able to take part in this campaign. Clarke Schmidt and Michael King, both ostensibly pro-ready, won’t have anywhere to pitch if they’re not pitching in the Bronx. Same with Deivi Garcia, who could maybe use some sort of makeshift stint in instructional league. Though MLB doesn’t want to pay anyone they don’t have to (clearly), a 30-man roster limit would make sense for a campaign like this, especially once you bake in injury risk associated with abbreviated and interrupted training.
That being said…
In short: Aaron Judge had better be ready for a 50-game MLB season.
The 2020 New York Yankees, in such a truncated campaign, need Aaron Judge. They need as close to 50 games from Aaron Judge as they can possibly get. The fact that he wasn’t swinging a bat in late May insinuates that we still may not get it, if the league rushes into a July 4 start, and that’s a terrible shame.
Aaron Hicks will supposedly be back by summer, and won’t have a lot of time on his plate to ramp up/could turn in a Didi Gregorius-like campaign marked by being just…off for the long haul. Without those two key pillars of the outfield, this will be an even more different-looking Yankee season than it’s already slated to be. We’ll all know the context while watching. We’ll all know this isn’t going to be the full MLB experience. But if you close your eyes until first pitch, theoretically, things will look almost normal. We need them to.
If Judge and Hicks aren’t patrolling the outfield, we’ll still know something isn’t right with our escapism. Here’s hoping.