TAMPA — A group of professional athletes taking a serious issue seriously.
Seems elementary enough, right? In the case of the Yankees and Domingo German, however, it has felt jarring. We’re not accustomed to teammates turning up the heat on one another as multiple Yankees now have on German, the pitcher who seeks to return from an 81-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence protocols.
Many of you don’t like this, based on reader emails. Like it or not, though, it’s real, and it isn’t over.
As he attempts to rehabilitate his baseball career, German will operate at a trust deficit — “skating on thin ice,” as Luke Voit put it on Wednesday — with the people he needs the most.
German took his next step Wednesday by speaking at a Zoom news conference, and the 28-year-old handled the assignment smoothly. Through an interpreter, the Dominican Republic native took responsibility for his actions on Sept. 16, 2019, and acknowledged he must “show that I definitely can become a better person and let my actions speak for myself.”
That session lasted over 30 minutes, wrapping up at about 1:40 p.m. Less than an hour later, Voit uttered his newsmaking German quote of the day, saying, “We have his back, but he’s skating on thin ice and he needs to get his life together.” For good measure, Voit added: “He messed up. A lot of guys look at him differently now, but I believe in second chances, and the guy deserves a second chance.”
Giancarlo Stanton, more diplomatic while still making his point, added: “In the clubhouse, we all have difficult things go on, some a lot worse than others. But it’s our job to support in the right way when given the opportunity.”
Throw in Zack Britton’s words from last week — “Sometimes you don’t get to control who your teammates are and that’s the situation” — and you have a clear picture that German faces an uphill climb.
Not an impossible one, though. Voit and Stanton both couched their criticism with words of support, and on Wednesday, German, who apologized to his teammates on Tuesday, praised Britton for offering “really good advice on how I can improve” and voiced understanding for Britton’s sharp rhetoric.
“He has done enough to earn the opportunity to be here and compete and to be a part of this team,” manager Aaron Boone said of German. “Now the proof is in the daily life that he leads.
We generally don’t hear such sternness from teammates when a player returns from a lengthy suspension, be it domestic violence or illegal performance-enhancing drugs. When the Mets re-signed Jose Reyes in 2016, after Reyes had drawn a 52-game suspension for a domestic-violence penalty while with the Rockies, team captain David Wright called Reyes’ actions “awful, terrible,” yet fully, unconditionally supported the decision. He loved the sinner and hated the sin, the standard play in these situations.
When the Astros traded for the Blue Jays’ Roberto Osuna in 2018, amid Osuna’s 75-game domestic-violence suspension, veteran Houston pitcher Justin Verlander, looking not thrilled, told reporters: “It’s a tough situation. I think the thing for us to remember here is that the details haven’t come to light. We don’t know the whole story.”
To reiterate a recent point, the Yankees do know most, if not all, of German’s story. They lived through it in real time. That it occurred a couple of weeks prior to the postseason, that it surely hurt the team’s chances to outlast the Astros in the American League (they didn’t), shouldn’t matter in the big picture, yet German felt compelled to say, in his news conference: “When my team needed me the most in 2019, before we started the playoffs, I wasn’t there for them. And for that, I ask for your forgiveness.”
The Yankees players appear willing to forgive while not forgetting. To try to make it work without hitting the reset button.
They’re taking it seriously. Good for them. If they can leverage this seriousness into helping German put his life back together and reestablish his professional viability? Even better.