Yankees journey filled with risks and sizable rewards

Luke Voit uttered the words “deadly” and “damage” on Tuesday, and it felt refreshing to hear these used in the non-literal sense — “This lineup is deadly, top to bottom,” and “anybody at any time can do some damage” — given the dark places we have visited since spring training 1.0 began on Feb. 13.

The Yankees’ spring training 2.0 wrapped on its scheduled date Tuesday, topping its suddenly halted predecessor, and now this baseball season gets really interesting: It offers sizeable rewards and far greater risks, and the Yankees blaze the trail when they board a train for Washington on Wednesday, Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer set to launch this unprecedented campaign Thursday night at Nationals Park.

Here they go, into the great wide open. Putting themselves in harm’s way in the hopes that it harms no one and delights plenty.

“It’s been a crazy year,” Aaron Judge said. “It’s affected a lot of people, a lot of families. And I’m just excited to get back on the field and start playing the game that I love and hopefully bring some positivity into this world with a lot of negativity going on.”

Like the Mets, the Yankees don’t face too daunting a travel schedule, as they’ll compete against only their American League East neighbors and their National League East neighbors, all in their time zone, before the playoffs (if the Yankees and the sport make it that far). Nevertheless, nothing can be described as simple in the time of the coronavirus. Consider that Major League Baseball’s operations manual features six paragraphs covering train travel and 15 paragraphs concerning hotel stays.

“It is going to be a little leery, I guess, getting on a train, traveling to different cities,” Judge said. “We’ve kind of been in our own little bubble here in New York. Our own little bubble in Tampa [where Judge stayed during the shutdown]. … So I think kind of leaving that bubble is going to be a little difficult. but this is what we signed up for. We wouldn’t have signed up for this if we weren’t aware of the risks and what we had to kind of face these next couple of months.

“But the Yankees have prepared us well. They’ve given us the do’s and don’ts of what to do. So I think as a team, an organization, we’re going to do our best to keep everybody safe. I think we’re going to be all right.”

Voit mentioned that each member of the traveling party has received a cleaning kit for his hotel room, and the players will be expected to stay on the premises except to go to the stadium and not bring in any outside food. As for the train ride? Passengers in the same row can’t eat at the same time. Team members “should wait several minutes before entering a lavatory after each use.” Hard-core, and for good reason.

At least Washington doesn’t rank as a COVID-19 hot spot — unlike Tampa Bay and Atlanta, each of which they’re scheduled to visit once — and doesn’t require an airplane trip (that’s another eight paragraphs). The Yankees and their fellow baseball teams can plan as diligently and behave as perfectly as possible, yet they’ll still find themselves significantly at the mercy of a country which has determined the wearing of a protective mask to be a political issue.

“There’s definitely some unknown, I think,” J.A. Happ acknowledged. “I think all we can do is try to be responsible, and I think we’re all-in on that. I think it seems like players across the league, but specifically our team, we’re prepared to try to do what it takes to be as safe as possible. We know it’s going to be a different climate, and we’ve got to get used to that new norm, but I think we’re up to that challenge.”

The potential consequences for falling short, for having others fall short on them, are dire. Damaging. Even deadly. As much as the Yankees will try to win it all, simply getting through this treacherous season without any serious problems — they and their opponents — will go down as a victory.

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