Thursday, May 21, 2009

Yanks hoppin'

Which comes first, the winning or the loose clubhouse? Does one breed the other? Does it matter?

In yet the latest example of the new pie-in-the-face conviviality that has taken hold with the Yankees this season, Joe Girardi's lads Wednesday night held a Kangaroo Court session. It was their first since 1995 when Wade Boggs was the presiding judge and Buck Showalter was the manager.
However, Damon says, what can not be underscored is that, for the first time in his four years as a Yankee, this is a fun team to be a part of. Eight-game winning streaks - which the Yankees' became with Wednesday night's 11-4 rout of the Baltimore Orioles - can make a guy feel that way. Whether it translates into the championship that has eluded the Yankees since 2000 is another matter.

Togetherness was what Girardi made a point of in spring training when he arranged that surprise "Day at the Pool Parlor." Say this for Girardi, he recognized what guys like Damon are only now willing to talk openly about: The Yankee clubhouse was a joyless place in the latter years of the Joe Torre regime. Part of it was the personnel - how could anyone find any fun being around Kevin Brown? - but a big part of it was the generation gap that existed between Torre and his players.
I've long said I thought the Yanks were "too corporate". I've been looking at other successful clubs of recent vintage (namely the RedSox) and seeing players who seem to genuinely have fun with each other playing this great game and wonder why the Yanks couldn't do that. I don't blame it solely on Torre, but maybe there's something to the impact of Torre and his more stoic nature. Regardless of the reason, I am really enjoying watching a team get close and have fun. Winning does cure ills, but in a long season like this, I do believe it's important to have that comraderie.

Bill Maddon, the author of the above-linked story, gets it (emphasis mine):
"The rules here are much more family oriented now," said Damon,"and that's why you have free agents wanting to come to New York instead of a low-key place."

Funny, I thought it was the money. But there is no question that CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, for all the moolah it took to get them to come here, have had a major influence in changing both the personality of the team and the atmosphere in the clubhouse. Same with Nick Swisher, who was grateful to escape Ozzie Guillen's dog house in Chicago and get traded to the Yankees. In spring training, Sabathia took it upon himself to bring several of his new teammates over to Orlando to take in Magic basketball games, and Burnett has instituted the whipped-cream, pie-in-the-face treatment for the heroes of walk-off wins. Swisher, meanwhile, appointed himself the DJ from the moment he came into the clubhouse and, with Girardi's encouragement, the longstanding Yankee music ban was lifted.
Who knows if this change in team personality will actually result in one additional win or not, but it's good to see the team change from boring, hired guns to a group of guys pulling for one another.

I've gotta believe that this sorta thing will be great for ARod, as the guys will have no problem taking him down a peg or two.
"I took an absolute beating," Alex Rodriguez said, before leaving the clubhouse with his young daughter in his arms. "I think I just barely survived."
I am probably definitely making this to be more than it really is, more than it deserves, but I'm guessing if you ask any Yanks fan over the last decade-plus, they will all* tell you it's good to see the team roll forward and try to develop their own legacy instead of trying to shoehorn themselves into the "dynasty Yanks" from 1996-2000.

* Unless you are a crusty curmudgeon like Mike Franscesa or Murray Chass!

Other recent posts relating to the Yanks' "corporate" atmosphere:


Ross said...

Completely agree. This team is FUN to watch and FUN to root for, and they are having FUN! I too think it will help A-Rod to be in a loosey goosey clubhouse as opposed to an up-tight one. We have all seen how he performs when he isn't over-thinking things!

JoeOrange31 said...

I think I was quoted in reader mail saying that the Yanks were too stoic, too corporate, too faceless. Sure, winning does take the "edge off", but winning breeds winning. Maybe now they can enjoy their profession and play the game with zeal instead of monotony. Good for them!