Joe Girardi Channels His Inner Billy Martin

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Joe Girardi turned into Billy Martin, but he did it at the wrong time and in the wrong way.

Girardi was said to have blown up at Joel Sherman of the New York Post after his post-game press conference. It’s unknown whether the catalyst was a misunderstanding that Sherman couldn’t hear Girardi’s response as to whether CC Sabathia is healthy or not; if Sherman was intentionally antagonizing Girardi; or if it was simply a matter of frustration boiling over in the midst of an unexpected pennant race and increasingly dire circumstances. Perhaps it was all three.

Details of what was said in Girardi’s office between him and Sherman are unknown. The media circled the wagons around Sherman and, en masse, attacked Girardi.

Unless Sherman or Girardi say what happened, no one can know how much truth there is to the likes of Andrew Marchand saying they were “nose-to-nose”. As disturbing as that image is in and of itself, I seriously doubt that Girardi pulled Marchand aside and said, “Listen Andrew, Joel and I were nose-to-nose.” So the Marchand side of the story is coming from Sherman and Sherman’s not exactly credible when it comes to his supposed dogged reporter tough-guy persona. I think Lara Logan of 60 Minutes could beat him up.

As for the Yankees, here are the facts:

Mark Teixeira was safe

Teixeira was safe in the play at first. It was an atrocious call. But the Yankees can’t complain about a blown call ending a game when part of their historic lore—against the Orioles no less—is that in the 1996 ALCS, a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the fence and snatched a Derek Jeter long fly ball away from right fielder Tony Tarasco.

The Yankees eventually won that game, that series and the World Series, and it’s seen as a seminal moment of their dynasty.

Is there a connection?

No one play wins or loses a game and you can’t have it both ways. There’s no celebrating one play when it goes your way and lamenting a call when it doesn’t.

Umpire Jerry Meals blew the call, but that wasn’t why the Yankees lost.

Should Girardi have argued the call?

He had gotten thrown out of a game in Tampa partially because he thought the pitch in question was not a strike; partially because he was looking to spark his team; and partially because he had a problem with the umpire Tony Randazzo going back to August.

Did it work?

The Yankees are still in a sleepwalk and they lost the game in which he got ejected. Last night’s game was over, so if he’d gone over and started a screaming session with Meals, he’d have gotten kicked out after the game was over, maybe gotten suspended, or the umpires would’ve simply walked away after letting him have his say. As Girardi implied after the game, what good would it have done?

The idea that Girardi is melting down in the pressure of the pennant race would’ve been bolstered by another screaming session with an umpire. As it turned out, that perception was bolstered by his confrontation with Sherman, but he couldn’t have known that was coming at the time of the Teixeira call.

There’s a difference between a manager imploding and acting out and getting ejected to help the team. Lou Piniella, his face the color of an eggplant, wasn’t always that angry when arguing a call. As managers and coaches sometimes need to be, Piniella is an actor. Many times a made-for-TV Piniella base-tossing show was done to loosen up his team, get them laughing in the dugout at what a raving lunatic he is, and possibly relax them to play better.

Then there’s the Billy Martin-style nervous breakdown type argument. A recent example of a manager coming undone with his team in contention in two consecutive years is Ned Yost with the 2007-2008 Brewers. In both seasons, Yost was so tight as the season wound down that a guitar could’ve been strummed on his chest. In 2007, he was ejected from 3 games in six days as the Brewers fell out of contention. In 2008, the team was staggering to the finish and blowing a playoff spot after trading for CC Sabathia at mid-season. Yost was fired with 12 games left and the Brewers did the right thing in pulling the trigger.

The confrontation with Sherman

As of this writing this morning, the aforementioned Sherman had been called into Girardi’s office in Baltimore. Presumably they’re going to come to a détente to end lingering bad blood and stop the story from festering.

Sherman had a right to ask the question. Girardi had reason to be annoyed and, given the scrutiny he’s under, was probably going to snap at anyone who asked what he felt was a loaded question designed to get a rise from him. This wasn’t Martin threatening to toss Henry Hecht of the Post into the team whirlpool in 1983. The idea that Girardi and Sherman had to be “separated” is ludicrous. The security personnel probably heard the yelling and stopped Girardi before he got angry enough to hit Sherman, which he 99.9% wouldn’t have done anyway.

The final analysis

The Yankees are not playing well. They’re old. They’re beaten up. They’re collapsing.

These are facts.

Can they save the season? Absolutely. Will they? Not if they keep playing—and especially pitching—like this. It’s not Jerry Meals’s fault; it’s not Joel Sherman’s fault; it’s really not Girardi’s fault. They’re not very good right now. And unless they get any better, they’ll have a mess to clean up on and off the field. As the Mets and Red Sox have proven, it’s not so easy to repair the damage from a collapse. If this continues, the Yankees will learn soon enough.

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ESPN Thinks You’re Stupid

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In The Simpsons’ Halloween special Treehouse of Horror III, Bart Simpson finds a Waldo book in the library. He opens it and finds that there’s no “where” in Waldo as you can see below.

Bart then says in reference to the unhidden Waldo, “He’s not even trying anymore.”

That’s how I feel about ESPN’s latest display designed not to entertain or inform, but to treat you—the reader—like an idiot and use your interest in Bryce Harper and the Yankees to generate webhits.

Webhits = advertising dollars and it doesn’t matter how they’re accrued.

You can read the piece entitled “First Pitch: Bryce Harper, future Yankee?” by Andrew Marchand although there’s not much of a point since there’s nothing much to read. In fact, it’s a colossal waste of space.

Harper grew up a Yankee fan.

Blah.

The Yankees always have the money to go after the players they want.

Blah blah.

Harper might want to be a Yankee.

Blah, blah, blah.

Maybe the Yankees will be willing to give Harper Cliff Lee’s old locker from his time as a Yan..kee…um…wait…

Oh. Yeah. Lee didn’t want to sign with the Yankees.

By the time he’s a free agent—if he’s a free agent—Harper might be a mature young man whose first priority is making as much money and/or the best deal possible and signing with the team that provides that rather than indulging in some adolescent fantasy to be a Yankee.

Why did ESPN publish this? I’ll tell you why: There are certain names that generate automatic webhits. Bryce Harper is one. Tim Tebow is another. LeBron James, Billy Beane, Tiger Woods. They’re obvious. ESPN has been a trendsetter in the mania with their market research. It’s not entirely their fault. They’re giving the public what it’s asking for by doling what’s desired—no matter how worthless—to their customers. But while they’re doing this, they can’t call themselves a “sports news” organization and be serious about it. The mixing of athletes and the “reporters” who are supposed to be covering them with objectivity has blurred the line between the two until we’re at the stage where we expect this type of sludge and don’t blink when it’s presented without even a pretense of genuine sports reporting and analysis.

For every quality person they hire to write or broadcast for them they have ten others whose resume is built on faulty premises of having worked in the front office of a team or because they’re a former athlete; whose work is sycophantic, amateurish and designed for public consumption at the expense of legitimate sports news.

I don’t blame Marchand or the ESPN personalities. They’re told what to do, whom to talk about, what to write and are nudged into disagreeing with one another to create “interesting” televised debates.

I guarantee you Marchand was instructed by an editor or a boss that they needed a Harper/Yankees connection in advance of the matchup between Harper’s Nationals and the Yankees in Washington. Of course he could’ve done it a little more smoothly and with less blatancy. But he’s following orders.

It’s not simply a matter of providing content to the public. It’s a matter of providing content to the public that is utterly vapid. Once it’s clear that the webhit accumulation is paramount and all it takes is the inclusion of one of the above-listed names to get what they want, quality work is one of the last things on the checklist before publication. That’s how you wind up with rapidly diminishing credibility and wind up where ESPN is now.

Harper may never see free agency; the Nats might sign him to a 10-year contract sometime next season to prevent just that eventuality; he might not be available to the Yankees; if he is, it’s seven years from now and the Yankees—really—might not be the attraction they are now.

It’s ridiculous to speculate on now.

But none of that matters to ESPN. What matters to ESPN is the number of hits they received and if it was a topic of conversation. Whether or not anyone read, liked, laughed at or believed the story is irrelevant.

If you keep indulging them, they’re going to keep doing it.

It’s a systemic problem and as long as you, the reader, partakes in it, it won’t stop.

But if you like being made into a fool, so be it. Click onto ESPN. They’ll give you what you want. They’ll give you your fix.

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Viewer Mail 3.1.2011

Media, Players, Spring Training

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Francisco Liriano:

I read this morning that a trade was imminent, but apparently it fell apart because the Twins refused to take Hank Steinbrenner.

I truly wouldn’t be surprised on a couple of fronts. One, because the Twins history of trading has been spotty; and two, because of the media nonsense that’s cropping up regarding Liriano.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today is going on and on about the Yankees and Twins as if they’re avidly talking trade while both sides are insisting that Liriano is not on the market and no negotiations are ongoing. It was exacerbated by Jim Bowden (and we all know how credible he is) saying the following on Twitter:

Bob Nightengale of USA Today just told us that he thinks its possible that Liriano is traded to the Yanks in nxt 2 weeks for Nova or Joba +

I do suppose there’s some accuracy in the far-ranging statement of “it’s possible”.

It’s possible that space aliens will reveal themselves and take control of planet earth.

It’s possible that Adam Sandler will cease being annoying.

It’s possible that Sarah Palin will say something intelligent and unrehearsed.

It’s possible that Hank Steinbrenner’s head will pop like a pricked balloon.

Under those parameters, anything is possible, but in reality, none of that stuff (apart from maybe Hank’s head exploding) are expected in the foreseeable future.

For what possible reason would the Twins—who harbor championship aspirations—trade Liriano in spring training to a rival for those hopes?

In spring….training?

Why?

And why help the Yankees?

And for Joba Chamberlain? Really?

I can see it in July if the Twins fall out of contention; then it makes sense, but now?

On the other hand, if I were advising the Yankees, I would not trade Ivan Nova for Liriano. Liriano is not a drastic upgrade from Nova in anything but name recognition/fan-media placation.

From Nightengale we received that insipid speculation and from Andrew Marchand of ESPN, we get this piece that looks like a high school essay with an assigned set of bulletpoints that had to be placed into the text to receive a passing grade. One particular gem was this:

If no trade is made, the Yankees will likely watch the Twins closely because Liriano is the type of starter they would like to slot behind CC Sabathia in their rotation.

No kidding. Thanks for that.

Marchand’s lucky I’m not grading his paper.

Is this what passes for “reporting”? Baseless speculation and nonsense?

Naturally none of the silliness discussed above precludes the Twins from turning around and trading Liriano to the Yankees, but because the reporters writing about it are treating us like dolts isn’t mutually exclusive from the Twins or Yankees doing something stupid. Both can and often do exist side-by-side.

That said, the Twins aren’t trading Liriano to the Yankees in spring training. No way.

Pam writes RE Cliff Lee and the Yankees:

I was deeply disappointed when Lee decided to go elsewhere—-a reasonable and fair reaction, IMHO. I wanted my favorite team to improve–who doesn’t? However, I moved on after a few days of mourning. I have grown very weary of the fact that the “Yankees missing out on Cliff Lee” is still an issue with some segments of the media and with the chunk of Yankees fans that embarrass me and make me say, “See? This is why people hate the Yankees, you schmuck!”

If I had a magic wand, I’d wave it and then Cliff Lee would be a Yankee. But I don’t.

***

Mike Fierman also writes RE Cliff Lee and the Yankees:

i didn’t get to the end of this article but i got the gist of it. So what if i hate him for not wanting to be a Yankee? I do hate him and wish him nothing but bad luck. I love my team and anyone who prefers to play somewhere else for less money is the object of my antipathy. I guess it’s a slow time and you needed an off day. i get it…

It is why people hate the Yankees, but it’s not due to the Yankees themselves; it’s due to the segment of the fan base who feels as if it’s a personal insult if they don’t get everything they want and any and all players bends to their will and money.

Disappointment is thoroughly understandable, but the non-stop complaining is beyond tiresome; it’s self-defeating. If I’m a prospective free agent and I see that this is the response I would get from Yankees fans for the slightest misstep and the money is similar in a different locale, it could be this one small thing that prevents the future acquisitions of marketable free agents.

As for the slow day/off day business, all you need to do is read the above pieces from Marchand and Nightengale and see the true essence of “slow day/off day”.

The post emanated from the constant social media carping whenever Lee’s name was mentioned. It’s whiny; it’s babyish; it’s bitter; and it’s stupid.