Are There Issues In The Yankee Clubhouse?

Joe Presser vs BAL Aside from Derek Jeter's final few games and the last honorary send-off he was given by the Red Sox and their fans this past weekend, the only other bit of noteworthy Yankee news came in the form of a possible locker room controversy.  On Saturday, Wally Matthews and Andrew Marchand of ESPN NY filed a story detailing a reportedly "scathing" locker room speech given by Joe to his team before Thursday's home finale.  You can read the full story here if you haven't already, but the overall gist is that Joe was "angry" and called his players out for lack of effort.  Here's the money pull-out quote:

"According to clubhouse sources who were present for the critique, and backed up by interviews with more than a half-dozen players, most of whom spoke to ESPNNewYork.com not for attribution for fear of angering their manager, Girardi chided some players for being overweight and others for not being 'hungry' enough.

 

One source described Girardi as 'angry,' and said he even took a brief timeout to allow the players, led by CC Sabathia, to present Jeter with the original painting of The New Yorker's Sept. 8 cover depicting the shortstop waving goodbye, and an expensive watch, before returning to Part Two of his tirade.

 

'It was a speech the likes of which I've never heard him give before,' said the source, who was in the room during the meeting. 'It's something he probably should have said back in spring training.'"

In addition to the anonymous clubhouse sources who spoke to Matthews, the story also includes direct quotes from Girardi and multiple players on what happened and they all acknowledge that the speech did happen.  The issue of whether or not the speech took place isn't the story here, and if it did, then good.  I've been critical of Joe and the team in general for how "blah" they've been talking about their under-performance all season, and I know there are plenty of fans out there who have been calling for Joe to be more "fiery" with his team in an attempt to turn things around.  This team deserved to get dressed down for their performance this season and that dressing down should come from the manager.

What is the story here is exactly how "angry" Joe really was and how "scathing" the speech itself was, and also how and why this particular speech got leaked to the media.  We're not exactly in the business of breaking news or providing consistent behind-the-scenes reporting here at IIATMS, but we have it from another source that the tone of Joe's speech was not an angry one and that the speech was really nothing out of the ordinary.  Managers and players talk a lot over the course of 162 games and there are surely multiple team meetings and speeches at certain points when things aren't going well.  It sounds like this particular one may have been nothing more than that.

If that is the case, then why the leaks to the media?  What made this speech the one that made its way outside the locker room?  Read through the whole article and you'll see that Joe wasn't especially happy with that fact, and none of the players quoted in the story come across as willing to divulge details of what was said.  The tone from them comes across as one of the "no big deal" variety.  So again, why the leak?  Why the talk of Joe being angry?  Why now for a story like this to come out, when the Yankees were out of the race and really had nothing left to play for other than honoring Jeter?

Perhaps it had something to do with the timing.  If the part about Joe pausing mid-rant to allow the players to present their gifts to Jeter before the game are true, I would say that's probably cause for legitimate beef.  Waiting until everything worth playing for is gone to call out players for their perceived "hunger" levels is like telling someone caught in a downpour that they should have brought an umbrella.  It does no good.  If the mood in the locker room prior to Thursday night was one geared more towards honoring Jeter and giving him his last moment in the spotlight, it's understandable that the manager choosing then to air some of his grievances could ruffle a few feathers.

Whose feathers were ruffled and how badly is the unknown part of this story, and that unknown opens up the possibility for a fracture to exist in the Yankee clubhouse.  To spend all season spouting the same "we've got to be better," "I believe things are going to turn around," "we just aren't getting the job done" cliches from players and coaches alike and then have a supposedly fiery, angry speech from the manager right before Jeter's final home game doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  Like many other things that happened this season, it speaks to things being amiss at the higher levels of the organization and those misses trickling down to the players in the clubhouse.

Obviously there was a meeting and some kind of speech by Joe last Thursday, and that's why ESPN NY reported it.  The details and nature of the speech are unknown, however, and the inconsistencies in the accounts from the unnamed sources and players and coaches who were present are problematic.  Internal team meetings like this, good, bad, or otherwise, shouldn't be making their way outside the clubhouse.  That this one did suggests all is not well in that locker room and that's one more potential problem the Yankees might have to deal with heading into next season.