Paul O’Neill will be back in the building.
The Yankees great and YES Network analyst will call Bombers games from the broadcast booth in 2023, according to Newsday. O’Neill worked remotely for the entire 2022 season due to the network’s coronavirus vaccination policy — YES required the jab for in-person business and O’Neill reportedly refused to get it.
YES recently relaxed its vaccine rules, according to Newsday. But the network did not confirm the rule change was the impetus for O’Neill’s return. Nor did it comment on his current vaccination status. Regardless, this is the end of a saga that lasted entirely too long and made very little sense.
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There was never any federal, state, city or MLB mandate keeping O’Neill out of the booth. It was all YES. The network set a policy, as was its prerogative as a private business. But what never made sense was its desire to shoot itself in the foot for a year to accommodate a guy who was defying its policy, regardless of where you stand on vaccination.
YES could have — and some would argue should have — fired O’Neill, or at least sidelined him, for not getting the jab. Rules are rules. The network instead gave him a special dispensation to work over a video feed from his basement in Ohio, which led to an inferior broadcast product. Which brings us back to the beginning: If YES valued O’Neill that much, why create a rule that targeted him in the first place? Moreover, why relax the rules now? What has changed, besides the YES roster having two fewer warm bodies after Carlos Beltran took a job with the Mets and Cameron Maybin getting the heave-ho?
Anyway. Unless O’Neill ever decides to discuss his vaccination thoughts publicly, this should be the last time we ever write about his vaccination status. Back after this.
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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.