Perspectives: The Injury to Jasson Dominguez
by Paul Semendinger
September 11, 2023
The news broke after the game yesterday. Jasson Dominguez has a torn UCL. This is bad news. It's horrible news.
I have many thoughts...
This from yesterday's NY Post, "Aaron Boone said Dominguez reported soreness in the elbow as far back as his first series in Houston." I need to repeat that. Dominguez reported soreness in the Houston series, right after he was first called up. AND THEY PLAYED HIM ANYWAY. They played him game after game after game. Why? How is that even possible? Haven't we seen situations like this too many times before? Do the Yankees never learn? How can they continually make decisions like this? Anthony Rizzo was played for nine weeks after a serious head trauma - a trauma so bad it ended his season. Jose Trevino played into July with a wrist that was so bad that it needed season-ending surgery. Aaron Judge was rushed back even though he was still hurting. (By the way, Judge is batting all of .222 since he returned to the lineup. Hardly inspiring.) We've seen this countless times - over and over again. Who in the organization is making these decisions? Where is the accountability? We've been told that Aaron Boone is such a great communicator. Did he not communicate this injury concern to the medical staff and/or the general manager? Did all of these supposedly smart people think it was a good idea to play the kid when he was hurting?
The Yankees keep making decisions that hurt the team - but worse, they are making decisions that are jeopardizing the health and the careers of their players. This is unconscionable. It's unacceptable. There is no room for this. How many more players have to face this kind of horrific decision making before the individuals responsible for these decisions are fired?
It's one thing for a player to suffer an injury. That's never good. It's always sad. But, it is entirely different when the player alerts his manager that he doesn't feel right - and the manager disregards that information and plays him anyway. Remember, this isn't a reporter's words or speculation from anyone, it's the manager's own words. He was hurting and they played him anyway.
Might Jasson Dominguez have suffered the injury if the Yankees sat him? Of course. Sure. It's possible. But what we do know is that he wasn't right and the Yankees played him anyway.
Many are speculating that "Player X came back from this injury, after surgery in ___ months, and Player Y in ___ months," and etc. There are encouraging signs, but every person is different. Every body is different. Every surgery on the UCL is different. Every rehab is different. No one knows when Jasson Dominguez can come back and how he'll be when he does. No one knows how long it will take Dominguez to get back into baseball shape. And, as difficult it is to say, there is no guarantee that Jasson Dominguez will come back.
Because so many players have come back from this injury, I am also seeing people downplay the severity of the injury. "He'll be back," they say. Many believe we'll see Dominguez in pinstripes in 2024. I'm not so sure. Plus, I'm not convinced getting Dominguez back quickly is in his best long term interests.
The Yankees seem to rush players back - a lot. Those players then tend to get hurt again. Is that the smart course to take with Jasson Dominguez? I don't think so. He should not be on the fast track. The Yankees should slow this all down.
I cannot find a lot of data about the players who did not recover their careers after Tommy John surgery. In addition, most of the players I have found that did not come back were pitchers. Still, I refer the readers to a few articles that tell of some pitchers who did not recover as hoped from the procedure: Tommy John Casualties (Sports Illustrated), A Harsh Reminder... (CBS Sports), What We've Missed About TJ Surgery (ESPN). In short, there is no guarantee that Jasson Dominguez will recover. There is no guarantee that he'll be able to throw well. We all hope he does, but surgery is a last resort, it's not a cure-all. I wish it were that simple. It isn't.
A few weeks ago, Hal Steinbrenner has said that the Yankees organization may be evaluated after the season. Why is he waiting until then? That evaluation process should have started already and it should be on-going. This is another flaw in the way the Yankees operate. Well-run organizations continually evaluate their processes, their employees, and the decisions they make. Smart organizations don't wait to address concerns. Why are the Yankees waiting? What will these analysts find out in October or November that they cannot figure out starting now. To use Brian Cashman's term - this is bad process.
The big question that has to be asked is was this injury avoidable? Was Jasson Dominguez pushing himself too hard because the Yankees rushed him to the big leagues? If so, that's a huge problem. If so, this was a self-inflicted injury that came about because the Yankees never planned well for this season. The poor planning led to the bad season which led to the Yankees, out of desperation, to rush Jasson Dominguez to the big leagues. In short, if the Yankees planned better for the 2023 team, it is likely and probable that Jasson Dominguez would not have been rushed to the big leagues. Because of their poor processes, the Yankees rushed Dominguez. I think it is fair to assume that had he complained of discomfort in the minor leagues, they would not have played him as the big league club did.
Again, I keep hearing about how quickly players can come back from these type of injuries, but I also have to ask the simple question here - please name the Yankees who have come back from any significant injury and stayed healthy and performed well after returning. I can think of a long list of young players who got hurt and never ever came back and performed as the Yankees hoped: Greg Bird, Clint Frazier, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, Luis Severino, the list goes on and on and on and on...
I think the only two Yankees who have come back from significant injuries and performed well are Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge. They seem to be the rare exceptions rather than the rules.
Just wondering, knowing the Yankees' history with injured players over these last many years, if you were Jasson Dominguez would you entirely trust or have faith in their process? I wouldn't. No way. Not in a million years.
If Jasson Dominguez even comes back in 2024, it seems that he won't be able to play the outfield. The only position available to him in 2024 will then be designated hitter. Because of this, the Yankees will have to move Giancarlo Stanton this off-season. They cannot have Stanton clogging the DH spot. (Speaking of Stanton, he's only 33-years-old and he has never really ever been 100% since coming back from his own injuries. Why is that?) If the Yankees plan to have Dominguez play in 2024, there is not a scenario where he can Stanton can coexist on the same roster.
The Yankees do not have a centerfielder for the 2024 season now. The team's prospects for next year look dim and dire. The only way to fix this mess is for Hal Steinbrenner to fully understand what a disaster he is presiding over and that the only way to begin to fix this is going to cost a lot of money - starting ridding the team of Giancarlo Stanton to open up the designated hitter spot.
The Yankees saved money by trying long-shot players as the left fielder in 2023. The money saved was wasted by having a poor team that played badly. That poor financial decision may have resulted in the factors that led to Dominguez getting hurt. This is how the Yankees of today operate. They are penny wise and pound foolish. The Yankees' priorities are all messed up. Bad decision making leads to worse decision making. The Yankees are caught in this cycle because the bad decisions they make are not singular, they are often cumulative. They build up over time. The bad decisions perpetuate themselves and lead to more, often worse, decisions. It's a terrible cycle the Yankees are in and the only way to break the team of this cycle is to bring in a completely new management and decision-making team.
Throughout these last many years, we have seen, clearly, how dysfunctional the Yankees are - how their operation is in shambles. It is not going to get better without significant change. The only good thing that can come from the injury to Jasson Dominguez is for this situation to force Hal Steinbrenner to make the significant changes necessary to fix the systemic problems that seem to be part of the way the Yankees operate today. There is not a quick and simple fix. This will be a long-term process that has no easy solutions.