Injuries happen in sports.
It's a simple truth that the Yankees are coping with all too often early this season. Besides the injuries themselves, the Yankees are dealing with two players who withheld information to varying extents, though it is plausible the club could have handled the particular situations differently, potentially preventing or curtailing the current dilemma.
When first baseman Greg Bird went down last season with an ankle injury, which ultimately required surgical removal of the useless os trigonom bone in the ankle, they lost out on what the club presumed would be significant production. Bird recovered well and performed spectacularly down the stretch and into the postseason. As such, it was expected that this would be the season that Bird completely broke out, and spent the whole year with the club.
Unfortunately for Bird, he required another surgery to remove a bone spur on the same ankle. At issue with Bird, who will be out until sometime in May, is the fact that he tried to play through whatever pain he felt again in the ankle this spring. His comments lead one to believe that he feels as though he needed to do so.
"I was getting treatment every day," Bird said. "I knew what the problem was. … That's the only way you can play. You've got to keep going. That's just how we do it."
To make matters worse, the Yankees, who at this point must understand the fact that Bird will try to be a "gamer" to stay on the field, failed to handhold him during the offseason. That's not a knock on Bird, all teams want that type of player. However, the Yankees have been through this all with him before, so the reality is they could have - it can be argued, should have - done a better job by instituting preventative measures this offseason, and been more in his face about his comfort level with the ankle during spring training.
The Yanks could have been more proactive and had they been, Bird might be returning to the field earlier, having lost fewer games in the process.
It's difficult to be upset with the player here. MLB players believe they have to stay on the field and perform to their maximum potential as a young player in order to reach arbitration, and then free agency riding the highs of their production. If that does not happen, the player will be written off, and his job taken over by a younger version presumed to have more upside.
As such, the team's process should resemble that of the caregiver for the player, especially in the sense that as a business entity they need to extract as much value out of the younger player before he becomes arbitration eligible and headed toward free agency. That would seemingly be the exact desire for the Yankees with regard to Bird because of the club's expectations for him this season. It was not.
The same methodology of forward thinking must be followed by the team where it concerns making a trade for a player. It seems that there was a lapse in this area when the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury.
Drury, who is on the disabled list with migraine issues, is another Yankee that failed to disclose how much suffering his pain was causing him. Anyone with migraine problems as severe as what Drury endures, understands how difficult it is to function in everyday life, let alone try to play a sport at the highest level. Yet, because Drury was fighting for a job and then to maintain it, he tried to deal with the pain and blurry vision as best he could. Until, he couldn't.
According to the NY Post, the Yankees simply gave Drury a dose of Excedrin the first time he mentioned he was dealing with a migraine. Once Drury finally came clean about the length of time he's dealt with the migraines - six years - the Yankees ordered up a full assessment.
Wouldn't that - better yet - shouldn't that full assessment have come immediately after he came aboard?
Here the Yankees seemingly took a misstep in relation to Drury's medical records provided by the Diamondbacks, which indicated he had migraine issues in 2016. At that instant, the Yankees from a simple due-diligence standpoint, must request a medical check before the trade becomes official. If cleared, which it may very well have been, it then becomes incumbent on the team to follow up with the player once he arrives, and then again and again.
The Yankees (all teams really) have to impress upon the player to come forward well in advance of the issue becoming too difficult to handle.
Of course, the migraines might not have been a problem at the time of the trade or the outset of spring training, but again the team has to stay on top of these types of maladies that have a tendency to follow players their whole lives. Being proactive in that fashion allows the team to be better suited to help the player and should provide the player assurance that the team has a vested interest in his well-being, even if the importance is truly shrouded in reasons more to do with the financial implications of the team's success and bottom line.
As with Bird, Drury's expected performance this season was among the club's more important factors from the vantage point of solidifying a role that the team was held by a veteran the last three seasons, and the uncomfortableness of handing the job over to a rookie. Knowing this, the Yankees mishandled the situation. Drury, not arbitration eligible until after this season, also finds himself in the same boat as Bird in wanting to secure a full-time gig in an effort to give arbitrators no choice but to side with him if his 2019 salary comes to a hearing.
An addition problem is the conception that this is how ballplayers are expected to handle their injuries. Drury's (and other's) non-action is almost expected and propped up by those around him.
"He's just kind of tried to battle through it and not want to say anything; that's the kind of gamer, grinder that he is," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "But he's realizing that we need to try as best we can get to the bottom [of this]."
No doubt there is a certain onus on the player to keep his team aware of situations that are affecting his individual performance because it has a direct impact on the team. However, teams have to understand the mindset of the player, and be cognizant of medical histories and how they affect a player for perpetuity.
The Yankees failed to do so with Bird and Drury, and now they are paying for it.