“My biggest concern is player health,” Robertson said. “That’s a really tough schedule.”
The clash could also put Alex Rodriguez in an awkward position — he is a member of the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast crew and is also on the Yankees’ payroll as an adviser to the owner, Hal Steinbrenner. If the Yankees were to cease cooperating with the network, players whom Rodriguez has advised (and even some former teammates) may be shunning him.
There are 25 Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts each season, and teams can make up to six appearances, not including opening night. ESPN submits its selections for April and May by the end of the previous year, but beginning with the June games it can select up to four games for a particular date. (Those four games are also submitted by Dec. 31 of the previous year.) ESPN is required to give its final selection to M.L.B. at least 16 days in advance of the game.
The Yankees have been on Sunday Night Baseball once this season — at the Los Angeles Angels on April 29. After that game, the Yankees flew to Houston, landed at 4 a.m. and played a game against the Astros at 7:05 p.m. They are scheduled to play on Sunday night twice against the Mets: this weekend, and again on July 22. The Yankees are also scheduled to play on Sunday Night Baseball on July 1 at home against Boston. Another game against the Red Sox, on Aug. 5 at Fenway Park, is among the four games the network can choose — something that seems a near certainty given the lofty status of the clubs’ rivalry and their position atop the standings.
If the game against Toronto is not moved, the Yankees would have to travel and play the following night after a Sunday night game on three more occasions.
What particularly upset the Yankees about the July 8 instance is the timing.
When Thursday night’s game was rained out in Baltimore, the Orioles wanted to make the game up as part of a separate-admission doubleheader so they would not lose a gate. Because it was a split doubleheader, the Yankees players had the right to approve, according to Robertson.
One reason the Yankees chose to make up their doubleheader at Washington on June 18 instead of the previous Monday, June 11, is because they were scheduled to play the Mets on that Sunday night.
When the Yankees players voted to approve the doubleheader in Detroit, ESPN had not yet announced its intentions to pick up the Sunday night game in Toronto.
“When I saw the schedule, I was like, oh, it’s perfect,” Robertson said. “We have a 1 o’clock game, we’ll get into town into Baltimore at a decent hour and be ready to play two games the next day along with another game right after that. It seemed like the perfect scenario and then the next day the ESPN game was put on us and I feel like that’s just too tough of a schedule for us.”