Friday, April 25, 2014

The Pineda case shows the huge vacuum in the Yankee clubhouse created by Mariano's departure

In her pregame clubhouse confessional last night, Suzyn Waldman did a solemn, three-minute interview with Michael Pineda, and then surely went off for a good cry. I did. It was painful. Here's this 6'7" whale-child, struggling for the English words to flog himself, trying to say how sorry and how stupid he is for not understanding the Gaylord Perry black book of deceit. Her last question and his answer said it all:

Suzyn asked if Pineda knew that he would get in trouble by slathering pine tar like a neon sign across his neck. He said - paraphrasing here: Yes, he did know, but now he does.

Yes, he did know, but now he does.

And there it was, an answer as lost in translation as the Yankees have been, in trying to explain Pineda's ridiculous 10-game gaffe.

The other great quote came from pitching coach Larry Rothschild who lamented to reporters - paraphrasing again - "Hey, what am I supposed to do, teach him how to cheat?"

You can imagine Crusty the Clown saying those words. And you can imagine the reporters thinking, "Well... yeah." Because what else are they paying Rothschild to do, other than to show young players the secrets of survival in the majors? Considering how many pitchers discretely use pine tar in cold weather, part of the embarrassment - if not most of it - should fall on Rothschild being so clueless, and for not making sure Pineda understood the deal.

But let's not beat up on Rothschild. He's Joe's right hand. Besides, everybody looks blindsided here. Let's ask a simple question, in lieu of Suzyn not asking it:

Who on the Yankees counsels young Latino pitchers? Class? Anyone? Carlos Beltran? Hmm.

The answer is obvious. For the last 10 years, the Yankees de facto Latino pitching coach has been Mariano Rivera. (Maybe he was the de facto pitching coach, period.) Now he's down in Panama, christening babies. What we saw Wednesday night was one of the first manifestations of the post-Mariano world: Pineda had no sage, no teacher, no counselor. I cannot believe Mariano would have let him go out wearing a billboard of pine tar. He would have laid down the rules in words that Rothschild does not speak.

OK, maybe I'm just expressing what all Yankee fans have felt since 1996: That Mariano Rivera was the best thing that ever happened to us, and everything he did was perfect. With him being retired, it's like your house was burglarized last fall, and you're still learning what's gone. We're also finding out how unique Mariano was, in pitching so well to the end of his career. Mariano excelled last season, until the workload piled up in August and he ran out of gas. We're seeing Jeter becoming a defensive liability, and it's not even May. What's going to happen in August and September, when he reaches the home stretch of his great career?

The Yankees need a replacement for Mariano, not in the bullpen, but in the clubhouse.

I have a suggestion: How about Mariano?


JM said...

A great point about Mariano's value beyond closing. He's devoting his life to Gahd now (as Dan Akroyd said it in 'Blues Brothers'), but getting him as a coach would be incredibly smart.

Which means, of course, that the management will never, ever do it even if they somehow happen to think of it.

pepitone said...

He will miss one start. Since he is on an inning's limit this season, the suspension will allow him to pitch deeper into the season.

Parson Tom said...

pepitone is right but he may be missing the point. the missed or delayed start won't kill Pineda, but he looks like a pretty fragile head case right now. I hope somebody, like a Mariano, is helping him buck up. An old white-headed Jew like Rothschild may be great at some part of coaching pitching, but I'm kind of dubious about his ability to relate to young spanish-speakers like Pineda, who seems a little immature and anxious and somewhat devastated by this episode.

I hope somebody is telling him that next time he needs a better grip in Boston he just needs to aim for Ortiz's earhole. Or Napoli's. And keep throwing it there until the grip improves.

KD said...

The more I read about and ponder this episode, the more compassion I have for Pineda and the more blame I heap on the Yankees. Girardi is an ex-catcher and obviously knows all the tricks. Don't they care about this Pineda kid? Rothschild's Krusty the Clown comment was loathsome.

Suzyn's Bitch said...

"Hey, what am I supposed to do, teach him how to cheat?"

Umm, Yes?!?!

Buhner's Ghost said...

When Pineda was with Seattle, he shared an apartment with then-bullpen coach Jaime Navarro, who acted as his mentor, translator, cook and chauffeur. And Pineda was effective, cheerful, forthcoming and never got ejected from a game. Surely the Yankees can find a Spanish-speaking mentor in New York City who can move in with him and show him where to hide the pine tar in his glove or uniform.

Jimmy said...

Pineda didn't need to "cheat" in
Seattle because he still had a 96-mph-hour fastball.

And if you think that Rotshchild and Girardi aren't in on this ruse, let's sit down for some negotiations on your purchase of the Gowanus Canal.