Gaze Into The Face Of Fear

Books, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

The Yankees are afraid to use Rafael Soriano at home unless it’s the perfect situation for his delicate sensibilities and the team’s estimation that the least amount of damage in the shortest amount of time can be done.

This is the next step into a disastrous, Ed Whitson/Steve Trout/Javier Vazquez-style nightmare of a pitcher who simply cannot function in New York and pitching for the Yankees.

Soriano hasn’t pitched since his horrific gack and excuse-laden (from him and the management) foray against the White Sox on Tuesday night.

There’s no reason for it aside from fear and paranoia on the part of the front office and on-field personnel.

Trapped in a box with the fragile psyche and big money functioning as Soriano’s portable cage, the Yankees have to tread a fine line in what to do with him. Given the nature of their starting pitching woes, they need Soriano to perform and it has nothing to do with the $35 million contract he signed this past winter—he’s not a luxury item; they actually need him to pitch and pitch well.

You can strategically account for and provide a list of canned reasons why Soriano hasn’t been used since that fateful night against the White Sox, but they’re all easily batted down.

Here’s the truth: manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff know how perilously close they are to mentally losing Soriano completely; it’s a critical time for him in his Yankees career. If they’d used him in the past few games in which they were either behind or leading by a wide margin, he’d have gotten hosed down by the hostile home crowd that has already seen enough of him and is so relentlessly spoiled that they don’t think about the ramifications of attacking a pitcher they need so desperately to succeed.

My feeling is that if their preferred sequence of events occurs, they won’t need to use Soriano at Yankee Stadium until Monday so they can go on the road and try to get him straight far from New York so the home booing won’t send him into an irreparable tailspin.

I totally understand the thinking, but to blatantly utter inanities skirts reality and is offensive to those who know better.

The Yankees apologists and spin machine are in full force.

Michael Kay says, “Soriano’s obviously gonna be a great addition”; Girardi says “the talent is there” or some permutation of that assessment; we hear about how dominant Soriano was last year for the Rays and that he’s a “proven closer”.

There’s nothing obvious about Rafael Soriano other than he’s on the precipice of falling over the pressurized cliff into Yankees oblivion; the talent is there, but so are the excuses like he’s got to get used to pitching in the eighth inning—and it’s ridiculous.

He’s a proven closer? He was a full-time closer for one season, enraged the Rays organization from top-to-bottom with his diva-like antics, allowed homers in two of the three playoff games in which he appeared (the second being an absolute backbreaker in game 5); and irritated opponents with his post-game shirt tail yank as he walked off the mound.

Ballplayers are notoriously cognizant of any perceived bit of showboating, but whatever gets them into a state of determination is of value; whatever works.

GM Brian Cashman didn’t want Soriano and he’s been awful.

These are facts.

I don’t believe in babying someone who’s just been given a guaranteed $35 million, but that’s where the Yankees are.

I expected Soriano to be good for the regular season, blow a game here and there with an ill-timed homer and struggles in games vs the Red Sox and Rays, but he’s spiraling and the Yankees have to navigate their way around his mental weakness.

And that’s what they’re doing.

Don’t try to tell me any different.

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One thought on “Gaze Into The Face Of Fear

  1. In what capacity does this Michael Kay person work for the Yankees? Isn’t he the TV play-by-play guy or something?

    Why is he so far out front, then? He seems to act as spokesperson a lot of the time, like he’s head of their PR department. It’s just a little odd to me that he seems to need to speak for the organization, defending them where there might not need to be any defense.

    Maybe I’m thinking of someone else, but is he the one that took shots at Cliff Lee during the playoffs, accusing him of cheating by touching his hat too much?

    Very odd, indeed.

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