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Yankees fighting to get out of ESPN ‘Sunday Night Baseball’ slot on July 8, sources say

Yankees will not grant interviews to ESPN or allow features on the players if the network insists on broadcasting their game that night, according to a source.

The fifth inning at Yankee Stadium on April

The fifth inning at Yankee Stadium on April 25, 2018. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

DETROIT — The Yankees will not go gentle into that Sunday night.

Still irate over ESPN’s decision from late last week to flex their originally scheduled 1 p.m. game July 8 against the Blue Jays to Sunday Night Baseball — meaning an 8 p.m. start and the possibility of playing three games in 24 hours — the Yankees are hoping commissioner Rob Manfred can broker a solution.

“The Commissioner’s Office is involved and communicating with the parties that are impacted,” MLB said in a statement Monday.

But if ESPN proves inflexible on their flexing, the Yankees, who have a doubleheader scheduled to start 4 p.m. in Baltimore July 9, are prepared to take retribution.

“They’ll get no cooperation,” one industry source said of Yankees players and club personnel leading up to that July 8 game and perhaps beyond. “No interviews. No features. Nothing. Zero.”

Yankees player representative David Robertson, who called the Players Association with his concerns last Friday after ESPN’s decision became public, didn’t completely knock down that possibility.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten that far,” Robertson said. “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.”

ESPN, under the current collective bargaining agreement between management and the MLBPA, had the right to take the game.

But the Yankees are angry because when players on Thursday settled on July 9 for a doubleheader to make up that night’s rainout in Baltimore, they did so assuming they were playing July 8 in Toronto at 1 p.m., the time listed on both team’s schedules from the start of the regular season.

ESPN on Friday announced it was taking the Yankees/Jays for Sunday Night Baseball.

“It seemed like the perfect scenario,” Robertson said of a 1 p.m. start in Toronto, then a flight that night to Baltimore. “And then the next day the ESPN game was put on us, and I feel like that’s too tough of a schedule for us . . . I feel like we’ve been mistreated a little bit with the changing of the schedule.”

The MLBPA, according to a source, worked throughout the weekend trying to come up with a solution. Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner also has very much been involved.

“As an organization we’re all on the same page,” Robertson said.

Overall, this is one of the few times management and players see an issue exactly the same.

“It’s a health issue and an integrity of the game issue, playing three games in 24 hours, and there’s no reason for it,” the industry source said. “It’s really [ESPN switching to another game] just common sense.”

ESPN declined to comment Monday on the matter.

“I don’t have a sense, honestly, one way or the other,” Aaron Boone said before Monday’s doubleheader against the Tigers. “I know I said a couple things about it [Sunday]. I stand by that. Hopefully it is something that gets worked out. But I also know it’s way out of my hands and way out of my control, so it’s time for me to move on and us to move on and just focus on what’s in front of us.

With Neil Best

New York Sports