It’s been a tough stretch lately for the New York Yankees.
Since winning six straight from June 7-12, the team dropped 18 of 25 to close out the official/unofficial first half of the season. In that span, they failed to win consecutive contests, and lost 7.5 games in the AL East standings to the Boston Red Sox—who jumped from second to first in the division.
Definitely not where the Yankees envisioned they’d be at the All-Star break, when they had the second best record in baseball (38-23) as of June 12. They’re still 45-41 with the top spot in the AL Wild Card race, but there’s no denying they’ve struggled big time as of late.
Hey, at least they’re now the only franchise with four Home Run Derby winners. So there’s that. They’ve got the man, Aaron Judge. The seemingly new face of baseball being the AL ROY favorite and Triple Crown threat. But he can’t do everything by himself.
You can say the team has been frustrated. Same with the fans. And now, insiders covering the team—and at one person in particular.
This past Friday morning, an article by Bill Madden was published on New York Daily News. The focal point of the story? First baseman Greg Bird, who hasn’t played since May 1 due to an ankle injury he suffered in the final days of Spring Training.
One person though is starting to question how severe the injury is.
In his article, Madden mentions speaking with an unnamed “Yankee insider” who had this to say about Bird: “You really have to wonder what’s with this guy. You’d think with Judge and (Gary) 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.”
You can say that shots were fired.
On June 9, Bird was quoted in another NYDN article saying he thought he was “very close” to returning. It’s now July 12 and in the past few days, several outlets have quoted him saying: “I feel pain in everything I do.”
NYDN again had Bird quoted as saying the following in a July 8 post: “I want to play. I’ve always wanted to play since I can remember. I love baseball. So for me, I’m doing everything I can to get back. That’s pretty much all I know. I love it and I want to be playing with these guys. I would hope people see that, but obviously I’ve just got to take care of what I can take care of.”
Why wouldn’t Bird want to be on the field? Nothing to do here but take him at his word. Even though the Yankees have said that his MRIs and X-rays indicate nothing wrong with him physically, apparently it’s just not the case with his rehab assignments. It’s strange, mysterious, whatever you want to call it. Only Bird knows what’s really going on.
Yankees manager and former major league catcher Joe Girardi expressed his thoughts on if someone had questioned his desire to return from an injury: “I don’t think I would be too happy about it. Only the player knows, and I would be a little bit upset if someone questioned my desire and integrity.”
Bird, 24, made his major league debut for the Yankees on August 13, 2015. In the season’s final six weeks he had 11 homers and a .261/.343/.529 slash line in 157 at-bats. He missed all of last year with a shoulder injury he suffered in the off-season, but returned with a monster spring leading the league in OBP (.556), SLG (1.098), and OPS (1.654) in 51 at-bats. His eight homers was tied with Bryce Harper for first, and his .451 batting average was one point behind Jesus Aguilar of the Brewers.
Remember—this is the guy who’s supposed to be the Yankees’ future first baseman. Tall at 6’4”, has great power, absolutely raked in the spring.
It was evident that Bird had recovered from his injury. But on March 30, he fouled a ball off his ankle bone in an exhibition game against the Phillies. He went 2 for 2 with a dinger the next day, so he had to have been fine right? Apparently not, as he hit just .100 (6 for 60) in the regular season before being placed on the disabled list on May 2.
There’s currently no timetable for Bird’s return in 2017.