Yeah, I know, major news flash. I’ve waxed rhapsodic about my distaste for all things pinstriped over and over again in the past few years. After a particularly spiteful post-2009 World Series entry, I was even chided in the comments by reader and Yankee fan Bo for going overboard. So I’ll try to make my case without lapsing into hyperbole, fun though it may be.
Girardi gets under my skin in a way that his predecessor Joe Torre never did. I generally respect the latter, a well-liked veteran and cancer survivor who paid his dues with a few undistinguished managerial jobs before taking over in New York just as the team’s talent was peaking. He might get too much credit for masterminding all of those World Series wins, but there’s no denying that he had a special touch when it came to massaging the egos of his star players and quietly suffering the bombast of owner George Steinbrenner. But this isn’t about Torre – it’s about Girardi.
First of all, he’s disingenuous. In June of 2007, he was a free agent, having been fired at the end of the previous year due to a personality conflict with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. The day after the Orioles fired manager Sam Perlozzo, they interviewed Girardi and offered him the job. On Wednesday he and the team decided to work on an agreement, and the very next day he reconsidered. If he had plainly said that he was holding out for a better job, that would have been one thing. The O’s were a mess, and he was a hot commodity, having won the National League Manager of the Year Award in his first try at the helm. But instead, he offered a tepid excuse about it not being “the right time for the Girardi family”.
Four months later was apparently the right time for the Girardis. That’s when the Yankees hired Joe as their new skipper. Right away, he displayed the pomposity that many baseball fans see in the Bronx Bombers by announcing that he would wear number 27 on his back, because he intended to deliver New York’s 27th World Series win. Gag. (When the team made good on his promise last year, he switched to #28. Double gag.)
Right from the beginning of his tenure as Yankee manager, Joe painted himself as an arbiter of the unwritten rules of sportsmanship and common decency in the great and storied game of baseball. During an exhibition game in March 2008, Tampa Bay rookie infielder Elliot Johnson collided with fellow prospect and Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli in an attempt to reach home plate and jar the ball loose from his glove. He fractured the catcher’s wrist, an unfortunate accident that was caused by a common (and accepted) baseball action. But Girardi climbed up on his soapbox, declaring the hungry young player’s decision as “uncalled for” and adding that it was “disheartening”. You can practically hear the condescending tone of the disappointed parent, can’t you? The next time the two teams played, Yankee outfielder Shelley Duncan showed his solidarity to his new boss by attempting to gouge Rays second baseman Aki Iwamura with his spikes on a late slide into second base. This touched off a brawl between the clubs – all in a preseason game! Surely Judge Joe was quick to condemn the malevolent action of his own player, in the interest of fairness. Actually, he danced around the topic, claiming that he hadn’t seen the play or viewed any replays in the 24 hours’ aftermath and not offering any specific comment when pressed by the media. Interesting, isn’t it?
The Orioles have also run afoul of Girardi’s sense of propriety – pitcher Jeremy Guthrie in particular. It seems that the O’s starter is a bounty hunter, out to collect Yankee scalps. Whoops, I’m lapsing into hyperbole. Guthrie has plunked a comparably high number of New York batters in recent years. He’s pegged 16 hitters total over the past two seasons, but half of them were Yankees. In an exhibition game (not again!) this very March, he got two more, including star first baseman Mark Teixeira and catcher Francisco Cervelli (that guy should probably stay away from the Grapefruit League altogether). Joe was quick to say in postgame comments that he did not believe that Guthrie was deliberately throwing at Teixeira, but he was “annoyed” that he could not control his pitches. I guess that explains why he yelled at Jeremy from his post in the Yankee dugout during the game.
Fast forward to last week, when Guthrie had his worst start of the young season against those same Yanks, giving up seven runs in an O’s loss. Another pitch got away from him, striking catcher Jorge Posada on the knee. The veteran backstop had to leave the game, and once again Joe just knew that Jeremy didn’t do it on purpose, BUT…"he hits a lot of people. That’s frustrating for us.” Tsk, tsk, Jeremy. If only you could be an upstanding and professional pitcher like that Roger Clemens.
So tonight it was Big Bad Guthrie against those poor unsuspecting Yankees. It's amazing that Girardi goes to such lengths to cast aspersions on a bike-riding, Stanford-educated Mormon family man - particularly one who has had considerable struggles against his team.