Locked On Yankees is a Yankees blog, first and foremost. We talk about the on-field product and analyze it on a microscopic level. But, baseball is a sport that holds cultural significance at a global level. Because of that, it is important to talk about the cultural impact the Yankees have or in this case, have not had this year.
The inspiration for this post was this tweet:
Statement from the New York Yankees regarding Papa John’s:
“In response to the reprehensible remarks made by Papa John’s founder and owner, the New York Yankees are suspending their relationship with the company.”
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 13, 2018
The wording of this tweet is extremely important.
The Yankees are not terminating their relationship with Papa John’s. They are suspending, which ostensibly means they could restart the relationship later. They are not alone, other major league baseball teams have also suspended their relationship, with the MLB indefinitely suspending its relationship. But this is a Yankees blog, so we will focus on the Yankees.
The bar was set extremely low for the Yankees to do something worthwhile. Forget that the quality of Papa John’s pales in comparison to literally any New York pizza joint and the relationships the Yankees could build with those local businesses.
All the Yankees had to do was end the relationship, full stop. Cutting ties with a now toxic brand is not hard. Sure, it hurts monetarily short term, but overall it is a more positive action. Instead, they suspended, because the possibility of money in the future when this all blows over is still real.
John Schnatter’s recent racist remarks directed at African Americans (and the comments he made about football players driving his sales down) should have been enough. The Bronx, per the Census Bureau, is 43.7% Black or African American as of July 1, 2017. If you walk around the Bronx for even ten minutes, you will see countless people wearing Yankees gear. The Yankees and the Bronx are forever connected. At the very least, ending the relationship with Papa John’s would have shown a core of the Bronx population, that the Yankees do care. Instead, they did the bare minimum.
In an area with such a large African American population, engagement with the fans should be a priority. The RBI program and Play Ball initiatives are good on face value, but in terms of meaningful progress, have amounted to little. On Opening Day of 2018, only 8.4% of Major League Baseball players were black. In the 1970s that number was 18%. Making baseball more appealing and more accessible, i.e. with cheaper ticket sales and impactful cultural nights, is something where the MLB and the Yankees have failed.
Which brings up another failure that is just as important. The Yankees, as of 2019, will be the only team in Major League Baseball to never hold a Pride Day/Night. In 2018, the Yankees and the Angels were the only teams to not have a Pride Day/Night event. Again, you may believe that a single Pride event is not nearly enough to show an organization cares about the LGBTQ+ community. I agree but it is at least something. Especially in New York City, which is host to one of the largest Pride parades in the world, this is a complete failure by the organization. A Pride event is the first step to a longer and more meaningful relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.
The LGBTQ+ community has had a long, tumultuous history in the city, starting with the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969. Sports teams have slowly come around to holding pride events during pride month in June and the Yankees, being in the epicenter of the pride movement’s beginning, still have not held a Pride Night for their fans. Skipping over the fact that this would bring in thousands of fans to the stadium, it is disrespectful to the LGBTQ+ fan base to not even acknowledge them or their movement.
As the New York Times notes, the Yankees have “shied away from promotions with ethnic or cultural flair,” though a team spokesman noted that there is far more going on behind the scenes. Both Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s executive who works to promote inclusion in the sport and David Kilmnick, chief executive of the LGBT Network had reached out the Yankees on separate occasions for a pride night but received no response. Bean noted that not “having a pride event does not paint an entire picture of the organization’s position on inclusivity” but followed up that it opens more opportunities with the LGBTQ+ community.
Baseball has an issue with engaging Millennials and younger generations. The millennial generation is one of the most inclusive. Nearly half of millennials surveyed by the Institute for Public Relations said that diversity and inclusion were important in their workplace. Minor league teams are now running promotions like this as some type of joke?
Offended? Feel free to fight your battles IRL and visit us at Riverwalk Stadium. Any millennials that actually come by during office hours before next Saturday and submits a valid complaint in person to our “Millennial Night Thinktank” may get a free ticket or two! https://t.co/XUNOz29gkO
— Montgomery Biscuits (@BiscuitBaseball) July 11, 2018
They seem to think we are all still children who like having our intelligence insulted. The thing about my generation and the even younger generations is that we care. We care about social issues, we care about inclusion because the older generations did not, and we must do the work to fix their shortcomings.
So, when sports teams do things like failing to reach out to historically marginalized communities, we respond by ignoring them and choosing not to pay for their product. If it creates hundreds of think pieces stating that “Millennials are killing baseball,” then it is worth it because maybe Major League Baseball will pay attention. Money talks.
Bringing this all back around: the Yankees are instantly recognizable around the world. If they fail to engage and do small acts of outreach to their fans, people notice. These are acts of social outreach, acts of goodwill towards your fanbase that they should be doing and should have been doing for years. Showing that you care about your fans and care that they support your team. Instead, the Yankees have maintained their reputation as a business, or more simply, they have put money first.
MLB sees continued increase in diversity
MLB race and gender report card shows progress still needed
Black MLB participation inches up, but is still pitifully low
Yankees set to be only MLB team not to host LGBTQ Pride Night
25 Major League Baseball teams to host LGBT Pride nights in 2018
As More Teams Host Gay Pride Events, Yankees Remain a Holdout
Series preview | The Rays pay another visit to Yankee Stadium
The Yankees continue an 11 game homestand Tuesday night with three games against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx. It is the last time Tampa Bay will visit Yankees stadium.
The Yankees have struggled against the Rays this season, as they have split 12 games so far, going 6-6. The Rays most recently took two of three back in July at Tropicana field. The Yankees received some bad news Monday, with CC Sabathia going to the disabled list with a knee injury.
The Rays starters have not been set yet, as they tend to use openers, and they only have two starters in their “rotation.” One of those starters is Blake Snell, who is a probable starter for the rubber game on Thursday. Snell has taken the leap this year, making the American League All-Star team and a stellar 2.18 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 128 innings.
However, Snell has struggled against the Yankees to the tune of nine earned runs in 8 1/3 innings of work, he walked seven batters in those starts and given up four home runs, the most he has given up against any team. The other possibilities for those two other starts could be Ryne Stanek, Jake Faria, Sergio Romo or Yonny Chirinos.
The Yankees are on track to run out J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka, and Lance Lynn. Happ has been solid thus far for the Yankees, sporting a 3.00 ERA with 0.75 WHIP since coming over from Toronto. He bounced against the Texas Rangers after a bout of Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease, going six innings and only giving up three earned runs.
That was exactly what the Yankees signed up for when they acquired him from Toronto on July 26th. Happ has been successful against the Rays, with a 2.53 ERA in two starts, though he walked seven batters in those two starts.
Masahiro Tanaka looks to bounce back on Wednesday from a rough start against the Rangers where he was tattooed for six runs in 5 innings of work, with three home runs surrendered. Tanaka looked like a different pitcher coming out of the All-Star break, giving up one earned run through 19 2/3 innings with 26 strikeouts and only one home run against him. The Rays could be a welcome sight, last time against the rays he pitched a complete game shutout with nine strikeouts and only four runners allowed.
The rubber game on Thursday should feature Lance Lynn. Lynn was another deadline acquisition for the Yankees in a trade with the Minnesota Twins for Tyler Austin. Through 16 2/3 innings, Lynn has given up one run and struck out 22 batters against four walks. Lynn has already surpassed his WAR total with the Twins in 3 games with the Yankees, as he has been worth .8 WAR since coming to New York.
He has taken Sonny Gray’s spot in the rotation and has not looked back. If Lynn can continue to provide steady 5-6 inning starts with limited damage, much less the performances he has provided thus far, then the Yankees will be in good shape.
The top performers for the Yankees offensively out of the All-Star break have been Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius.
Stanton has hit five home runs in the last seven days and is slashing .313/.382/.750 in August, picking up the slack with Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge on the disabled list. Gregorius has hit well against the Rays, with a slash line of .318/.362/.614 and three home runs with 13 runs batted in.
The goal for the Yankees? Come out of the series healthy and hopefully with a series win as they try to right the ship against the Rays.
Mets 8 Yankees 5 | Severino falters again
Luis Severino struggled yet again and failed to reach the fifth inning for the first time this season as the Yankees lost to the Mets on Monday night. The Yankees were able to scrape three runs out against Jacob DeGrom but Severino gave back four runs on two home runs. DeGrom struck out 12 Yankees in 6 2/3 innings of work. The Yankees look to bounce back tomorrow night against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx.
The sixth inning, when A.J. Cole gave up three home runs and allowed the Mets to stretch their lead to four runs. The Yankees had kept it close against DeGrom and would have had a shot if Cole had kept the deficit to just one run.
1. Severino struggled to get batters out with his four-seam fastball. Five of the seven hits came on four-seam fastballs with only three swinging strikes. He got 10 swinging strikes on his off-speed offerings. Whether he is tipping pitches or not, it seems like hitters are looking for his four-seamer and leaving his off-speed pitches alone, as he only got four called strikes between his change-up and slider.
2. A.J. Cole is having a rough August, he gave up three home runs in two innings and has given up six earned runs in only 7 innings this month. Two of the home runs came against lefties in the Mets lineup, which is the norm for Cole, as lefties are slashing .338/.421/.708 this season. He came into the game down one run and left the Yankees trailing by four runs in the seventh inning.
3. Gleyber Torres’ bat has gone dead in August, to the tune of .146 batting average with six hits and thirteen strikeouts in 41 at-bats. Torres has struggled since the All-Star break, with a .164 batting average and a .278 on-base percentage. Obviously, he is still working back from his injury before the all-star break, but he was a big part of the early year success and will need to get back to improve for the stretch run.
Player of the Game
Aaron Hicks scratched out two singles against Jacob DeGrom and drove in the first run for the Yankees. He reached base three times overall as he drew a walk in the eighth inning. The singles were not particularly hard-hit balls, but against DeGrom you take what you can get. He has a .402 OBP since the all-star break and is on pace to set a career high in WAR.
The Yankees are still dropping the ball regarding social issues
Last Tuesday, SNY.tv reported that the Yankees are planning to commemorate the Stonewall Riots with events in 2019. There have been no confirmations for the 2019 promotional calendar but SNY.tv states that several sources confirmed internal discussions to finalize the details of the events.
The Yankees later announced that they were reinstating their relationship with Papa John’s late Friday night, according to NJ.com. The move comes less than a month after suspending the relationship after finding out the face of the brand and CEO, John Schattner, used the n-word during a conference call in May.
A source with knowledge of the situation told NJ.com that there will be a rebranding of some Papa John’s logos in Yankee stadium, specifically to emphasize that the locations at the stadium are “locally owned and operated.”
Here’s the statement the Yankees released:
“As a result of the significant steps recently taken by Papa John’s, including the removal of their founder from all facets of their business, the Yankees have agreed to resume their relationship with the company,” the Yankees said in a statement late Friday night.
As we stated last month, we found the remarks made by the Papa John’s founder to be reprehensible, and our feelings on the matter have not changed.
The Yankees have had a longstanding relationship with 120 Papa John’s local franchise locations within the tri-state area, and we feel strongly that this incident does not represent their principles, values or their responsibilities to the communities they serve.
Papa John’s is implementing important and sincere measures to restore customers’ faith in their brand, including the launch of a diversity and inclusion committee, and a third-party audit of their company’s practices. We are confident the company will continue to take the appropriate measures to show their commitment to preventing such an egregious incident from happening again in the future.”
The move is disappointing and unfortunately, not surprising. The Yankees continue to prioritize their business opportunities and money streams over showing their fans that they do not support a business founded by a man who felt comfortable saying the n-word in a meeting. The move is indefensible and at this point, fans can only hope that there is enough negative feedback that the team will eventually consider severing all ties to the company.
Even with this small step forward to connect with the LGBTQ+ community, it came after backlash that the Yankees were one of two teams to not hold an event in 2018. It is a positive step and hopefully, it is not the last that the Yankees take to honor and work with the LGBTQ+ community. Still, with social issues even when the Yankees take one step forward, they find another way to take two steps back.