Thursday, April 29, 2010

Joe Girardi's inconsistent philosophy on pitchers is typical Yankees hypocrisy at its best

"It's frustrating. He really wanted to win this game to clinch our division. Put those things together and you get some wildness." 

-Joe Girardi, after Roger Clemens hit three Orioles batters in a 1999 game.

Somebody needs to set these kids in Baltimore straight. There's no reason to punch local sports favorite Mark Viviano; save your anger for someone who deserves it.

I'm thinking Joe Girardi could use a punch in the back of the head right now.*

Girardi, who shared words with Jeremy Guthrie in Spring Training, continues to gripe about Guthrie hitting Yankees batters with pitches.

Come on Jeremy, don't you know those guys in pinstripes are made of precious porcelain? Why do you think the Yankees pay so much for them?

Guthrie, no headhunter by anyone's estimation, apologized to Posada after the game.  
"I wish he had better command in there," Guthrie said, "I wish I had better command. If I did, I think I would pitch much, much better and we’d all see better results. … The inability to command every single pitch, I’m frustrated by it as well. It’s part of the game. Like I said, I’m apologetic for the fact that if he were to miss some time, that would be a shame that it was a pitch that got away from me that had that result. But ultimately, I’m going out there and trying to compete. I don’t ever want to give up free base runners because I can’t afford those as we’ve seen throughout my career.”
Meanwhile, Girardi admits that there's no intention behind the pitches.
“I don’t think he’s doing it on purpose, but he hits a lot of people. That’s frustrating for us. We know he’s going to pitch inside and I don’t have a problem pitching inside."
So Guthrie apologized, no one thinks he's hitting batters on purpose, and everyone agrees he's allowed to pitch inside.  Nevertheless, Girardi continues to make a big deal of it.

Such is life with the Yankees, the do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do arbiters of proper baseball behavior.

Because it's the Yankees, Girardi's pouting produces headlines like this one: "Jeremy Guthrie Doesn't Care for the Yankees."

Good choice, Joe. Let's beat up the nice guys in the press and defend the jerks (more on that in a moment). Here's some background reading on Guthrie for Girardi to do while he waits for his pitchers to actually throw the ball and his hitters to jog around the bases.

Let's take a closer look at the issue in a comparative way.

Orioles Insider provides the rundown on Guthrie's control problems:
"Actually, Guthrie doesn't hit a lot of guys, but he does hit a lot of Yankees. Guthrie hit nine batters in 200 innings last season, but five of them were Yankees. He hit seven batters in 2008 in 190 2/3 innings and three of those were also Yankees. That means that eight of the 16 batters he’s hit over the past two seasons wear Yankee uniforms."
Fair enough.

Now let's consider the numbers for Roger Clemens, the guy Girardi caught for in New York.

In 1999, four of the nine batters Clemens hit with a pitch played for the Orioles: Roberto Alomar, Jerry Hairston, Charles Johnson, and Eugene Kingsale. Three of those batters were hit in the same game on Sept. 30, 1999. Just call it the Clemens hat trick.

Here's what Girardi had to say after that game:
"It's frustrating."
So far, so good. He said the same thing about Guthrie. But you know there's more, right?
"He was fighting himself," Girardi added. "He really wanted to win this game to clinch our division. Put those things together and you get some wildness."
Clearly, Guthrie isn't fighting himself and doesn't want to win. Otherwise, it would be okay for him to experience some wildness.

The moral of the story is that it's okay to expect some consistency when it comes to pitching but not when it comes to one's baseball philosophy.

This is typical Yankees hypocrisy.

Here was the Yankees' perspective regarding their acquisition of Clemens in 1999:
Of course, when Clemens reported to Legends Field in Tampa two days after the drade, some of the players he had drilled in the past were waiting for him. Shorstop Derek Jeter, who twice was on the painful end of a Clemens purpose pitch last season, had the same reaction as many of Clemens's new teammates: he welcomed his old nemesis into the family. "No one is happy when they're getting thrown at," says Jeter. "I wasn't happy about it, but it's over with."

"He's not just a pitcher," says Cashman. "He's a animal. And he's our animal now."
It was all a big joke once Clemens donned the pinstripes.

As this New York Times article details, Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter wore catcher's gear for a Clemens batting practice session in Spring Training that year, much to the delight of the players and coaches.

This passage sums things up nicely (emphases added):
There had been speculation that Clemens would have old scores to settle before being accepted. Clemens, after all, had thrown at Jeter so often that Jeter had wondered why, and Clemens had drilled Knoblauch and Scott Brosius and once stared down Joe Girardi. Heck, he probably had some sort of angry history with just about every position player in pinstripes.

But all is forgiven now that Clemens is with the Yankees. He will knock down opposing hitters in the months to come, no doubt, and his teammates will come to understand Clemens and understand why he does this; when an opposing pitcher drills a Yankee with a fastball, Clemens might hit two batters in response and the Yankees will be glad to have him. ''You like him,'' Yankees Manager Joe Torre said, ''once he's on your side.''
Jeremy Guthrie is no Roger Clemens. Thankfully. 

For what it's worth, no Orioles pitcher hit Joe Girardi with a pitch during his four seasons in a Yankees uniform. Given what we know about the guy, you have to admire the Orioles' restraint.

__________________

Here's some past reading on obvious Yankees hypocrisy:

"Remember when the Yankees hated Jerry Hairston Jr.?"


Girardi's Spring Training hypocrisy in 1998 regarding the Rays' on-field behavior

__________________
*Having listened to Viviano on the radio this morning, I think it's fair to mention the incident in a lighthearted way. I do not mean to suggest in any way that the assault itself is funny.

-30-

8 comments:

Stacey said...

Dude this is brilliant. Well done.

Matthew Taylor said...

Thanks, Stacey.

Daniel said...

Nice research. To be fair though, this isn't really "Yankee" hypocrisy, it's just hypocrisy - the kind you see from all teams (and really, in all walks of life). If the O's signed hypothetical free agent Joe Mauer to a huge contract, how many O's fans would boo him for being a sellout? How many hold Brian Roberts' steroid issue against him? To single this out as typical Yankees hypocrisy paints them as especially evil, which seems a little silly to me.

Matthew Taylor said...

Damn you and your logic (note my sarcasm). Thanks for the comment.

I fully acknowledge that fans, myself included, are hypocritical. When it comes to the games themselves, though, it seems like the Yankees are often caught up in controversies over what's right and what's wrong.

There's this issue, the Jerry Hairston stuff, Girardi's spring training rant against the Rays in '98, multiple actions by A-Rod that have produced debates about baseball etiquette, etc.

Perhaps it's just that the Yankees get so much exposure, so all of their controversies are magnified. Even if that's the case, I think it's worthwhile to point out the inconsistencies.

Clemens in particular always bothered me. Armando Benitez was crucified in the press and by players for throwing at Tino Martinez. Clearly, he was wrong to do so. But Clemens always seemed to receive praise as a gamer (check out the SI article I linked to) for throwing at batters. And he wasn't always keeping pitches low.

In this instance, I don't think it's fair to draw so much attention to Guthrie simply because he's struggling with his control. As if a 4-17 record isn't punishment enough.

Daniel said...

Agree with that. I think Clemens rep is pretty accurate at this point. Pedro also hits a lot of guys - and with his control a fair number are certainly on purpose - and that doesn't always get a lot of play (though sometimes it does).

Stacey said...

Daniel, there is no logic to Yankee hating. Silly.

Twins Baseball Love said...

Hmmm interesting thoughts, can't wait to see what you have to say about your match-up with the Twins next week

Matthew Taylor said...

Something tells me it will be considerably more kind.