What is Yankees infield coach Carlos Mendoza advising his infielders to do to stay sharp during Major League Baseball’s indefinite shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Mendoza gave a slight laugh as he started to answer the question.
“A wall, that’s your best friend,” he said this week from his home in Tampa, Florida. “Find a wall, a tennis ball and just go. That’s what I’ve been telling our guys. Do some jump ropes for footwork. And ladders. But [for grounders] you find a wall and throw a ball against the wall.”
Big-league team facilities were all but shut down weeks ago, and more and more states have issued stay-at-home orders as the crisis has deepened.
Florida implemented its stay-at-home order last Friday, meaning only rehabbing players Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are allowed at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Only a half-dozen players, including DJ LeMahieu, had remained in the Tampa area and were showing up with regularity. The others, including staff, were long gone.
Complicating matters for players, no matter where they are, is that gyms across the nation have pretty much been shuttered as part of the Centers for Disease Control’s strong recommendation against gatherings of 10 or more people. Parks, too, are in short supply.
Mendoza, who also is the Yankees’ bench coach, said he typically spends two to three hours per day checking on players, whether it be via text or phone. With no gyms or parks available, he characterized the workouts players are getting in as “basic stuff.”
“Going out running, hitting off a tee, into a net [for] the guys that have that at home,” Mendoza said. “Bike rides, sprinting in the streets. You know, finding a way to stay in shape. Playing catch, obviously, but that’s about it. It’s not like they’re going out on fields to hit baseballs or anything. It’s more like a home-type-deal workout.”
There is all kind of speculation regarding what kind of 2020 season there will be — if there is a season — and among the many uncertainties is just how sharp players will be after weeks or months of limited baseball activity.
“That’s a good question. Nobody knows because I don’t know for how long this is going to go,” Mendoza said. “Obviously, they’re trying their best to try and stay in shape and all that, but if this keeps going for a long period of time, it’s going to take even more time [for players to be ready].
“We were getting to a point in spring training where everybody was pretty much 80 to 90% [ready for the regular season]. Some guys were getting really, really close to being game-ready. But [now] they’re not facing live pitching. Pitchers, they’re not throwing bullpens, live BPs, they’re not getting game action.
“So obviously that’s going to take time, but I’m pretty sure guys will be ready [when things resume], and they’re doing their best to stay ready.”
Yankees MLB's most valuable franchise
Forbes estimates the Yankees are baseball’s most valuable franchise at $5 billion, up 9% over last year and 47% more than the No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers at $3.4 billion.
Among all sports, the Yankees are second to the Dallas Cowboys, listed at $5.5 billion in the last NFL ranking, in Forbes’ evaluations.
The Yankees’ YES Network broadcasts Forbes “SportsMoney” television show.
Boston is third at $3.3 billion, Forbes said Thursday, followed by the Chicago Cubs ($3.2 billion), San Francisco ($3.1 billion), the Mets ($2.4 billion), St. Louis ($2.2 billion) and Philadelphia ($2 billion).
Miami was last at $980 million, a drop of $20 million. Also near the bottom were Kansas City ($1.025 billion), Tampa Bay ($1.05 billion), Cincinnati ($1.075 billion) and Oakland ($1.1 billion).