Chemistry is an issue that seems to stir up a lot of discord among sports fans, particularly those that are inclined to focus on statistics and objective data to reach conclusions about sports. Personally, I believe that as fans, it is very hard for us to make judgements on this kind of stuff, one way or another. If everybody who plays the game seems to think that closing takes a special skill and chemistry does matter to teams, who am I to dispute that when we are really talking about the psychology of the game? Meaning, if people in the game believe things that fly in the face of objective fact, I can argue with that and call them stupid all I want. But when talking about the psychology of the game and the clubhouse, I think that fans come to the debate with a distinct disadvantage of not being in the clubhouse and not having the relevant information. All we can do is look in from the outside, with our noses pressed against the glass, and try to guess at the psychological aspects of the game.
That being said, it seems clear, from the words of the players, that this year’s Yankee team has excellent chemistry. from Mark Feinsand:
Shaving cream pies. Loud music in the clubhouse. Championship wresting belts. The New York Yankees may not be quite the Idiots that resided in Boston five years ago, but they’ve certainly become a looser, more fun team to be around. Especially after winning seven straight.
Wednesday, the entire roster will assemble in the bowels of Yankee Stadium for a Kangaroo Court, a long-standing tradition in baseball that allows teammates to put each other on trial for a variety of reasons. Court will be in session at 3:15 p.m. sharp (late arrivals will be fined $100, no exceptions), with Judge Mariano Rivera presiding over the hearings.
CC Sabathia said he’s had a Kangaroo Court on every team he’s ever been on, but in my nine years covering the Yankees, I can’t remember hearing of one taking place. That’s not to say it hasn’t, but it certainly hasn’t been quite as public as this one, which was advertised by a sign hanging on the front door of the clubhouse.
Such is life for these Yankees, who have shed their businesslike image for that of an actual major-league team, complete with pranks, practical jokes and – dare we say it – camaraderie.
Of course, winning breeds good chemistry, but Pete Abraham said on multiple occasions prior to this streak that this was a closer knit group of Yankees than he had ever seen. This team is having fun and coming together. Which means someone has to complain about it. Enter Michael Kay.
I missed his show, but the accounts that I have been getting say that he was complaining about the pies that AJ Burnett has been throwing in the faces of the players notching walk-off hits. Apparently fun is not “The Yankee Way,” and the Yankees need to act “like they have been there before.” Let me begin by pointing out, as I have on many occasions, that this idea of respect and honor as “The Yankee Way” is a crock. The professional atmosphere has never been about class and always been about money. Prior to the advent of free agency, players signed with the Yankees counting on their playoff checks. In fact, some took lower initial offers, knowing that they would usually be bringing home a World Series share as well. The veterans, very protective of their bonuses, did not condone any behavior that would cost them their money. The focus on professionalism was always about the bottom line. The Yankee Way, if we must use the term, is about winning. Period.
In regard to Michael Kay’s no fun rule, is it really so bad to see the players coming together in celebration of a regular season win? For some sanity on the issue, I shockingly turn to Suzyn Waldman:
I’ve been either covering or broadcasting Yankees games for 23 years…and until this weekend, I’ve never seen a Yankees player get hit in the face with a whipped cream pie. Now, 4 of them in a few days…Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera , Alex Rodriguez and yesterday Johnny Damon. They are the brain child of AJ Burnett, who keeps his supply in the video room right off the Yankees dugout steps.
I think a few of the “core” players in that Yankees clubhouse were a little stunned when the first pie went into Brett Gardner’s face, but it was Mariano Rivera, an ultimate “core” player who told a dejected AJ Burnett yesterday, who was sitting in the clubhouse after being taken out of the game to “get out there….get that pie ready, man, you can’t change karma!”
To those of you who say “Act like you’ve been there before” or “That’s not the Yankee way!”….I say to you…, well, most of these guys have NOT been there before, and how’s that “Yankee Way” worked for the past 7 years? A little life is needed in there…if a pie in the face on a walkoff win is what does it…so what? Add to that the gold WWB (or WWF…whatever it is now) belt being passed around to the star of the day. It belongs to Johnny Damon and the belt was a gift from AJ Burnett’s two little sons…
Hey, if it is alright for Mariano Rivera, it is fine by me, and it should certainly be fine for Michael Kay. Sometimes I think people forget that this is a game. Over the weekend, the Yankees reminded some of us of the fact.