It’s barely June, and the New York Yankees have had seven games postponed due to rain or snow, plus one game suspended in the sixth inning. That means more rest early in the season (when they’re not sleeping on an airport floor), but a whole bunch of games to make up later in the year, be it double headers or lost off-days. There’s not much productive they can do about the the weather, but they can certainly take out their frustrations on ESPN, which is trying to make them play three games in 24 hours.
ESPN has selected the July 8 Yankees-Blue Jays game in Toronto to be its Sunday Night national game, with first pitch scheduled for after 8 p.m. The next day, thanks to a rain-out, the Yankees have a double-header in Baltimore. They are not happy.
“Hopefully there is some pressure being applied,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, “because that is not good for the product on the field or the safety of our guys, having go from night game, flight and right into a doubleheader. Anybody who would argue with that is not being truthful.”
There is some disagreement over when it was decided to move the Yankees game to Sunday night. ESPN says the call was made before the season. The Yankees note that the game was listed as a 1 p.m. start on all schedules, and insist they would not have agreed to the July 9 double-header if they knew they would be coming off a night game.
Why is ESPN so keen on having the Yankees on that night? The Daily News reports one potential motivation, though it makes no sense.
According to sources, the reason ESPN picked the Yankee-Blue Jay game for July 8 was because their lead-up to the game is the All-Star voting announcement and they figured the Yankees’ presence in the Sunday night game would pull additional viewers for the All-Star show. But as one Yankee source said: “That’s just ridiculous. The All-Star show is before the game.”
One reporter told Aaron Boone that the ESPN date was “locked in.” His response? “Unlock it.”
Because of the terms of the contract, the sole decision on flexing this game belongs to ESPN. But I would imagine that if MLB demanded ESPN pick a different one, ESPN would do so in the interest of keeping its partner happy. (This whole controversy reportedly caught commissioner Rob Manfred by surprise, and he is being pressured by Yankees executives to step in.)
The Yankees can apply some pressure of their own:
If the Yankees are forced to play Sunday night on July 8, the Yankee management and players are said to be prepared for an all-out war with ESPN in which they will refuse all interviews — pre-game, in-game and postgame — with ESPN broadcasters.
Which widely unliked entity will blink first? Who will be mildly inconvenienced??? Stay tuned.