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Yankees brass criticizes Greg Bird for being injured

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The New York Yankees season began as a wonderful surprise but, for the past several weeks, it’s been a nightmare. Poor play and injuries to multiple key players have derailed the season and now they sit three and a half back of Boston in the East, trending in the wrong direction.

The poor play — particularly from the bullpen — has been hard to stomach, but injuries just happen, right? No one to blame for injuries. Unless, of course, you’re an anonymous member of the Yankees brass, who believes that there is something wrong with one young injured player for, you know, being injured. This comes from Bill Madden’s latest column at the Daily News:

Much as the Torres and Fowler injuries were downright heartbreaking, the Bird mystery ankle bruise has become merely annoying. Despite numerous tests that have turned up nothing, Bird continues to insist the ankle is still sore — too sore to allow him to play. The Yankee brass has become exasperated with Bird, who’s never been able to stay healthy, and it has gotten to the point where if he doesn’t get back on the field after the All-Star break, they are prepared to move him over the winter.

“You really have to wonder what’s with this guy,” a Yankee insider complained to me earlier this week. “You’d think with Judge and Sanchez, the guys he came up through the system with, doing so well up here he’d want to be a part of this. Apparently not.”

Sure, because a guy spends twenty four years devoting his life to baseball, working his tail off for six years in the minors to transform himself from a fifth round selection to a top prospect and the Yankees first baseman of the future, comes back from serious shoulder surgery and then, suddenly, simply decides that he doesn’t “want to be a part of this.” Clearly he must be lying about his ankle. There’s no WAY he could actually be in pain.

What crap. What utter disdain this cowardly, anonymous Yankees executive has for one of the players expected to be a key part of the Yankees future. How pathetic it is that he so easily dismisses something he likely has no experience with whatsoever, going so far as to question the drive, motivation and character of a 24-year-old athlete.

And how cowardly of the column’s author to not even attempt to push back on this crap narrative. He makes no effort to talk to trainers or coaches or Bird himself to characterize Bird’s injury in anything approaching a balanced way. Rather, he simply allows this Yankees executive to malign Bird with not even a hint of pushback. Maybe he’d be owed a bit of the benefit of the doubt in the normal course, but given how comically and shamelessly wrong he has been in the past by virtue of his work as a mouthpiece for Yankees brass, I suspect it’s too much to ask for him to be even remotely critical.

How about this: when a player says he’s hurt, believe him. And if you don’t believe him, talk to him in private, don’t slander him in the tabloids. That’s low rent garbage.

(h/t River Ave. Blues)

Evan Gattis says he is ‘done playing’ baseball

Evan Gattis
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In a recent appearance on the 755 Is Real Podcast, hosted by The Athletic’s David O’Brien and former Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty, catcher Evan Gattis confirmed he is “done playing” baseball. Gattis said back in October that he didn’t have any desire to continue playing the game, so this news comes as no surprise.

Gattis, 33, hit .226/.284/.452 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI for the Astros in 2018. The Astros did not extend him a qualifying offer, then $17.9 million. Though reporting on specific offers is scant, it is hard to imagine he received zero offers, or would have received zero offers if he were still interested in playing.

Gattis has one of the more interesting stories out there. He was a well-regarded college baseball prospect, but he battled anxiety and substance abuse. He checked into rehab and, temporarily, abandoned his baseball-related pursuits. Gattis eventually resumed playing college baseball but suffered an injury, prompting him to drop out of college. He went on to take on some not-so-glamorous jobs, including working in a pizza shop, as a parking valet, a ski-lift operator, and a janitor. Gattis battled more mental health issues, suffering from insomnia and depression, resulting in suicidal ideation. He checked into an inpatient psychiatric ward for several days. Afterwards, Gattis roamed around the west coast, going from Colorado to New Mexico to California to Wyoming.

In 2010, Gattis returned to baseball, playing for the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He performed rather well, resulting in his being drafted by the Braves in the 23rd round that year. He worked his way through the minors quickly, debuting in the majors in 2013. The rest, as they say, is history. Gattis retires with a career .248/.300/.476 batting line along with 139 home runs, 410 RBI, and 299 runs scored over 2,662 trips to the plate.

The story of Gattis is an important one because mental health in general was not taken seriously, especially among men. It still isn’t, to a large degree, but it’s better now than it was 10 years ago. Due to social taboos and gender norms, men are much less likely to seek help for mental health issues. That Gattis — a burly avatar of testosterone — was willing to be vulnerable about his struggles with his mental health was important.