Maybe we didn’t need the reminder that the virus is still with us. We certainly didn’t want the reminder.
Author: Mike Vaccaro
Published: 2021-05-12 12:53 am
‘Stressful’: Yankees overcome sobering COVID-19 reminder

There is usually but one bottom line on a game day: win or lose. So for the Yankees — maybe the bottom-line-est of all bottom-line operations — there was that. They won the game, 3-1. The foe was the Rays, and the Yankees have had a harder time figuring out the Rays lately than most of us trying to solve trigonometry.

There was that, too.

But then there was … well, that other thing.

That COVID thing.

And so once more it feels like the cops have arrived to bust up our keg party. We’ve been feeling good about this. Vaccination numbers are encouragingly up. Positive results are slowly on the decline.

Gum companies are making 2 ½-minute commercials now that absolutely destroy the internet, everyone is so happy thinking about frolicking outdoors and kissing the nearest stranger, hugging the nearest tree, as they do in that Wrigley’s Extra ad.

And then this news item hits late on a Tuesday afternoon: Phil Nevin, the Yanks’ third base coach, fully vaccinated, tests positive for COVID-19. Later, after the Yankees’ knocked off their nemesis, it is announced that first base coach Reggie Willits and a staff member also tested positive for COVID. And both of them were fully vaccinated, too.

Sobering news. And sobering words from Yankees ace Gerrit Cole:

Aaron Boone (center), who was not among the Yankees’ staffers to test positive for COVID-19, watches batting practice on Tuesday.

“I don’t think this is going to be over for a few years. I think we’ve going to have to be dealing with this kind of thing for a while. And every time these things come up, we’re going to have to adapt and learn, just as a species.”

OK. Now for the deep breath. We have known, and we have learned, that vaccines are not 100 percent, not for the coronavirus, not for any virus. No vaccine is bulletproof. There is a name for what happened to Nevin, Willets and the staffer: “breakthrough.”

It’s simple math, simple probability. It happens. It was going to happen to a baseball team. It happened to the Yankees. It’ll happen to someone else. Maybe we didn’t need the reminder that the virus is still with us. We certainly didn’t want the reminder.

It reminds us anyway. It’s a stubborn SOB.

“Stressful,” is how Aaron Judge described it, a few hours after Judge sent the Yankees off to the races by hammering a long first-inning home run the first time he swung the bat. “You’ll have days like this where things just pop up. You have to forget it and move on. You still have a game to play.”

The Yankees chose to play this game willingly, without the prodding of MLB, taking a team vote and deciding to take the field. They recently reached the 85 percent threshold mandated by MLB to loosen the protocols, so a couple of coaches testing positive didn’t mean shutting things down.


“It’s been a long 24-36 hours,” Aaron Boone said, and that was even before you factored in what a relentless challenge the Rays have been for the Yankees the past two years. Again: Once the players chose to play, there was only the bottom line to consider. The Yankees have wriggled free of their April miseries. They have crawled slowly up the standings. They are within striking range of the surprising Red Sox.

Now they had to figure out the Rays on the fly. With a shadow loitering in their clubhouse. With the news arriving, after game’s end, of two more positive cases. After enjoying the most satisfying kind of breakthrough on the turf at Tropicana Field, they received a full helping of the word’s sudden dual meaning.

“What it means for our team, for our season, is taking care of guys the best we can,” Boone said.

Boone said the Yankees will prepare as if they are going to play Wednesday. There is still the chance of more positives among the coaches. It is a situation that will draw a good many eyeballs. As close as we feel to being on the other side of this there always seem to be reminders. And it always seems able to find a mark.

It found a couple of Yankees coaches in St. Petersburg. It found the most electric name in the sport, San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr., (and a pair of his teammates) in Denver. Stubborn SOB.

“This tests everyone’s mental strength,” said Jordan Montgomery, the lefty who picked up the win by stifling the Rays on a run and two hits across six innings. “We got the job done. I’m proud of everybody.”

Bottom line.

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