TORONTO — ESPN blinked.
Caved might describe it even better.
The World Wide Leader infuriated the Yankees last Friday by flexing their 1 p.m. July 8 game in Toronto to Sunday Night Baseball, meaning an 8 p.m. start.
With the Yankees on Thursday settling on July 9 for a doubleheader with the Orioles in Baltimore, a Sunday Night Baseball game would have required the Yankees to essentially play three games in a 24-hour span.
Under pressure from the Yankees – both players and management – the Players Association as well as Commissioner Rob Manfred, who got involved Monday, ESPN flexed again Tuesday. The Yankees/Blue Jays game returned to its original 1 p.m. start and the network picked up the Angels/Dodger contest for that night’s telecast.
“Obviously really good news we got today,” said Aaron Boone who, despite his previous job as an ESPN analyst, blasted his former employer over the weekend. “I think a lot of people behind the scenes – I think the Commissioner was very involved – just really grateful to him and to ESPN and to the Yankees and all the people involved, I think clearly ended up doing the right thing here in considering the product and player safety and all those kinds of things.”
Yankees players were furious Friday after ESPN made its selection and player rep David Robertson immediately contacted the MLBPA to express his concerns. One industry source familiar with the club’s thoughts said Monday if ESPN didn’t change its mind it would likely get “no cooperation” from Yankees players and club personnel leading up to that July 8 game and perhaps beyond.
“I don’t think we’ve gotten that far,” Robertson said Monday in Detroit. “I think we’ve had some internal discussions about what we could do potentially, but let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point. We’d like to see it get changed without any big ruckus getting started.”