Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Yankee Spin

I'm a student of semantics. My particular area of interest is media and propaganda. I can't claim to be an expert but I certainly have put in hours and hours of study and reading on the subject. With regard to the Yankees organizational use of "spin", I'd like to borrow an old Supreme Court line from Justice Potter Stewart, "I can't define Yankee horse$&*!, but I know it when I see it."

Don't get me wrong, I understand that there's a delicate line that professional sports organizations have to walk to appease their high priced, and frequently tempermental, stars. There's also a fine line to be walked in managing fans expectations and disappointment when things aren't hunky dory. The manager must play psychologist when making public statements after a game's conclusion, and team spokespeople must also choose their words carefully when addressing the media after a loss. The Yankees are masterful in their ballet of BS.

During the era of the Bronx Zoo, the Yankee players, managers, and organization practiced very little restraint when commenting in front of reporters. Famous quotes flew left and right and some of the most interesting statements in the team's long history can be found during this entertaining and tumultuous period. I think immediately of Reggie Jackson's "straw that stirs the drink" comment, or Billy Martin's quote on Reggie and The Boss: "The two of them deserve each other. One's a born liar, the other's convicted."

These days, all you get is bland and recycled cliche. Jeter is a master of cliche, and has successfully maintained a steady and controlled image with the New York media. Torre is almost sedate with the press and it has served him well since he arrived to the headline "Clueless Joe". Giambi has been humble and amenable to the press even in the wake of major steroid revelations. Alex Rodriguez said nothing last Spring Training, even while the Red Sox were calling him out as a fraud. Only Gary Sheffield has found his outbursts in print recently. Usually guys who rock the boat find the door. See: Chad Curtis, Raul Mondesi, Ruben Sierra.

The reason I'm writing this now, is that I'm just a little sick of the Yankee Kool-Aid when it comes to players underperforming. I know that no one is going to say that Randy Johnson is breaking down and may not be able to give the Yankees more than a quality start or two at a time, but the ridiculous excuses that they are asking us to swallow every few weeks are insulting to my intelligence. The latest Johnson apologist is personal caddy to The Big Unit and career roster filler, Kelly Stinnett, who says, "Sometimes (a pitcher goes) through a dead arm period; some days you're going to have it, some days you're not."

What?!

I know that the only reason Stinnett has a job with the Yankees is because Johnson is a cranky ass bastard that can't hack a strong catcher telling him what's what. Posada runs the staff and Johnson doesn't want to hear it from the guy crouching in front of him. Johnson's idea of a catcher is a piece of plywood with a hole in it. If you want to paint a face on it, go ahead, but it makes no difference as long as it doesn't talk or try to make any decisions. That being said, you can take the "dead arm period" BS and sell it to someone else. It's not even a month into the season and this guy is our supposed ace. If he has a dead arm now, we'd better start looking for another guy to step in and be the #1 post-haste. Boston has a revived Schilling, and a lights out Beckett, and you know they are looking at Dontrelle Willis and Roger Clemens hoping one of them will join the rotation. If that happens, it's over in the AL East.

Whatever excuses you hear about Jaret Wright, Shawn Chacon, Tanyon Sturtze, or Randy Johnson you can bank on the fact that there's a problem that no one is admitting to in public. If you open your eyes and look at the Yankees closely, you'll see things how they are...a Ferrari lineup with a Yugo rotation. There's still time to shape things up, but don't be fooled. Johnson, Mussina, Wang, Chacon, Wright, Pavano, and whoever else they're going to throw our there this year aren't the same level player that we've had pitching big games for us in recent years. The offense is going to have to carry the team, and that's not a formula for success in October when it really matters.

What will they try to feed us next? Which player is just pressing now? Who just wants it so bad, and needs to relax and let his game come to him? Read the newspapers everyday and find out. Go ahead.