Going into spring training, a common wish from fans was that the New York Yankees stay healthy for at least a majority of 2022. In recent years, that wish was far from granted. This finally led the Yankees’ brass to make wholesale changes to their training staff before the 2020 season, with the most notable hire being their new Director of Player Health and Performance, Eric Cressey.
While the Yankees did deal with their fair share of injuries since 2020, so far in 2022 the’ve finally been blessed with an overall clean bill of health. To be able to watch Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge reach their full potential at the same time while Luis Severino begins to regain his previous form after missing nearly two full seasons due to injury is truly special.
It seems fair to begin to analyze how Cressey’s presence has influenced the suddenly stable Bombers. One of the key changes Cressey was influential in spearheading was changing the offseason workouts of the Yankees’ two oversized superstars in Judge and Stanton. Instead of an emphasis on the weight room and gaining muscle, Cressey wanted a focus on being “baseball players.” Reading between the lines, it seems Cressey wanted to focus on agility and staying healthy rather than continuing to add muscle to two players who frankly have plenty.
So far in 2022 the strategy of keeping Judge and Stanton healthy has paid massive dividends. There’s talk of them becoming the first 50 home run teammates since Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Meanwhile, suddenly Judge is at times playing a quality center field while Stanton mans an equally competent right field. For a team that treated these guys like they were made of fine china for the last few seasons, it has been a welcome sight for frustrated fans.
They really tried to convince us this man could not handle playing the field. Again, Stanton ONLY played the field for most of his career before 2019! There was no reason he couldn’t take reps on defense here and there.
Eric Cressey is proving his worth to the New York Yankees in 2022
This overall change in organizational philosophy has been apparent in the early going this year. Remember when Stanton would practically walk to first on routine ground balls while Judge and his surprising speed were completely neutered by the paranoia that comes with constant ailments? Now, Judge has been opportunistically stealing and routinely pushing for extra bases while Stanton has shown a willingness and capability to be less of a liability on the base paths himself.
Let these guys run!
It’s also interesting to speculate about how Cressey and the new training staff may have influenced roster moves over the last year. Both Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela were sent to Minnesota while Luke Voit was eventually traded to San Diego. All three players missed time in 2021, with Sanchez and Voit consistently making trips to the IL over their tenure in the Bronx. Did the new training staff identify chronic issues with their health that motivated the front office to move on from talented but flawed players in exchange for new blood?
Meanwhile these Yankees were the last team to require a sixth starter when Luis Gil made a spot start in Chicago last week. Even that outing wasn’t due to an injury — it was instead a result of a scheduling quirk thanks to two straight rainouts. Compare this to last season, when guys like Andrew Heaney, Michael King and Nick Nelson were forced to make a handful of starts (alongside a rotation that already had six starters!) simply because they were available to pitch.
While keeping the lineup healthy has been remarkable, keeping players with checkered injury histories like Severino and Jameson Taillon on the mound has arguably been an even more incredible triumph.
With the Yankees off to one of their best starts ever as a franchise, the under-the-radar hero might just be the training staff headed by Cressey. While there’s plenty of the season to go and anything could happen to suddenly cast doubt on their process, so far there has been nothing but success in keeping their best talent healthy and thriving.
It’s fair to say that a majority of Yankees fans would much rather turn on the game to watch Judge, Stanton, a healthy DJ LeMahieu, and a full complement of locked in arms rather than a scrappy team full of replacements. If it truly is the work of Cressey and his staff in changing the fortunes of a Yankees team mired by untimely injuries, he deserves much more credit than he’s getting at the moment (which, honestly, is hardly any).
The Yankees have finally unlocked a new level thanks to the one ability their players have lacked: availability.