Introducing the Yankees Doom Watch

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I noted last week that people seem to be underselling the Yankees quite a bit. I’m seeing more and more of it. So much so that I’m getting the sense that one-dooms-manship of the Yankees will become a pretty prevalent meme between now and April. A contest of sorts between who can be most extreme in selling the Yankees short and predicting the ignominious end to the Jeter dynasty.

So let’s keep track of them, shall we? We’ll call it the “Yankees Doom Watch.”

Now, I’m not talking about merely being somewhat circumspect about the Yankees’ chances.  It’s totally rational and fair game to note that the team has some issues heading into the season. They don’t have a catcher. They’re relying on Kevin Youkilis to rebound way more than a contending team should be relying on a brittle and declining veteran to rebound. Everyone is getting older. There’s a decent chance that this team, like any other successful team, could crater. It’s a tough division. All have their strengths and all have their weaknesses and any of the five teams could reasonably win it or lose it.

No, I’m talking about examples of Yankees pessimism that go beyond the circumspect and tread into the dire. Conclusory predictions of futility that overstate the challenges they face. Failure to acknowledge that the team won 95 games last year.  Failure to acknowledge the weaknesses of the other teams in their division. Treatment of the 2012 ALCS as though it were the entire 2012 season. References to this team being like the 1965 Yankees are always a plus.

I’ll make an inaugural nomination: Bill Madden in this morning’s Daily News:

You have to go all the way back to 1992 for a spring training of lower expectations than this one for both the Yankees and the Mets, where in both cases, our locals have a better chance of finishing last than finishing first this season.

I’ll buy it for the Mets, but the Yankees? Really? Better chance of finishing in last place?  OK.

Last week Madden reported that A-Rod would never wear pinstripes again. This week he’s saying the Yankees have a better chance of finishing in last than first. What are the odds of a mea culpa on Madden’s part if A-Rod comes back midseason and leads them to a division title? You probably don’t want to bet your first born on that one.

Anyway, this one is definitely worthy of notice by the Yankee Doom Watch.  Please apprise us of any other examples you see between now and Opening Day.

Miguel Cabrera has two herniated discs in his back

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Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera underwent an MRI which revealed two herniated discs in his back, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. With six games remaining in the season, if Cabrera plays again, it will be as a designated hitter.

The back issues shed a lot of light on Cabrera’s uncharacteristically subpar season. He’s batting .249/.329/.399 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI in 529 plate appearances this season. He carries an adjusted OPS of 92, which is eight points below the league average and 14 points below his previous career low set in 2003 with the Marlins.

Cabrera, 34, is signed through 2023 and is owed a minimum of $192 million through the end of his contract.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.