By Ernie Palladino
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Shame on the New York Yankees.
For all the blessings the 2017 season has brought to this hallowed franchise, they have failed miserably in the one area that counts the most.
We’re not talking about pitching or hitting, or even fielding here. We’re talking keeping safe the people that have come out to cheer a young team this is most certainly and most unexpectedly heading to the postseason.
The sight of seeing a grandpa carry his little grandaughter from the stands, face bloodied by a Todd Frazier smash, was heartbreaking to say the least. And the players’ tearful reaction during the four-minute drama, as the stadium’s medical staff rushed in to staunch the bleeding, was telling. This was not an acceptance of risk for sitting in the field-level seats. This was a child, far closer to infancy than adulthood, placed in a life-threatening situation.
The little girl will recover. But even the players themselves had to be thinking, “Does somebody have to die before we fix this?”
And if somebody does, is that really how this vaunted franchise wants this wonderful season of over-achievement to be remembered?
The executives say they are “seriously considering” extending the nets down the baselines for the 2018 season. But that indicates they have no plans for an immediate remedy.
That’s just shameful. The home season still has seven games left starting Monday. It only takes a split second for Frazier, or Aaron Judge, or Gary Sanchez, or any Royal, Ray, or Blue Jay to bounce a rocket off a slow-reacting patron’s head.
This problem should have been addressed years ago, and not just by the Yanks. By all of baseball. The evolution of speed gun destroyers on the mound and eye-blink wrist action in the batter’s box have made the game more dangerous on every level of baseball. Extending the netting from well beyond the backstop would seem a no-brainer for any team.
But less than half of the other teams have increased the protection. The Mets made Citi Field a little safer during the All-Star break.
So what are the Yanks waiting for? Especially in a season where there is so much to celebrate.
From Judge’s 45 homers, the last of which came two innings before the little girl was injured, to Luis Severino’s mastery, to the 14-4 September record that has turned the division race with Boston into an epic chase, there is much to be happy about. The Bombers dominated the Twins in their three-game sweep, highlighted by back-to-back homers from Judge and Sanchez in Wednesday’s 11-3 victory.
They have overcome obstacles throughout, from injuries to horrific individual and team slumps.
They are headed back to the playoffs after last year’s miss, in a season where even a game or two over .500 would have been considered a success.
So much to celebrate. So much for which to give thanks.
A tragedy could overshadow everything.
It almost happened in the fifth inning Wednesday. The fact that the Yankees dodged a proverbial bullet should not lessen the urgency of installing a remedy.
And the heck of it is, it’s so simple to do.
It borders on common sense.
Make it safe so everybody can celebrate a rollicking end to the division race and the postseason, not mourn a tragedy so easily avoided.
Don’t wait until next year. Get the nets up.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino