Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yanks-Jays fight not without silver lining

Tuesday night's benches-clearing brawl between the Yankees and the Blue Jays was ugly. Few will dispute that. But some may dispute what I'm about to say: that this is just another sign of why the Yankees are having so much success this season.

I've written before about how the infusion of energy brought in by A.J. Burnett and Nick Swisher has transformed the Yankees from a squad of aging, over-paid superstars to a team with a certain youthful exuberance to them. But besides Burnett and Swisher, Brian Cashman deserves a lot of credit for this turnaround.

He has worked tirelessly the last few seasons to replenish a farm system destroyed by poor trades and it has shown this season, with many ex-Yankee farmhands making important contributions to the major-league club. The Yankees refused to deal prospects like Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano, who have all been key to their success this year.

Another home-grown product, catcher Jorge Posada, has been a lightning rod for criticism this season despite a .281 average, 21 home runs and 76 RBI. Whether it has been his deteriorating defense or his inability to handle A.J. Burnett, Posada has been surrounded by controversy despite enjoying one of the best offensive seasons of his career. Tuesday night's brawl has only added to this.

After Edwin Encarnacion and Aaron Hill were hit by pitches, Toronto reliever Jesse Carlson threw behind Posada in the eighth inning. Posada voiced his displeasure to Carlson, who didn't back down and yelled right back. Later in the inning after Posada had walked, Brett Gardner doubled down the right-field line to score Posada. After scoring Posada elbowed Carlson, who was backing up the play, leading to the dugouts and bullpens emptying.

The aftermath left Carlson with a red mark on his forehead while even Joe Girardi got involved in the fight, almost getting punched by Blue Jays utility infielder John McDonald. It was also funny to watch skinny Edwar Ramirez pulling the back of Rod Barajas' chest protector, but I digress.

Everyone can see that Posada started the brawl, that much is obvious. The elbow was a cheap shot, and no one will defend him for that. But I will defend the fire and passion that you see night in and night out from Posada, the same fire that led him to throw the elbow at Carlson. Joe Girardi agreed.

"The intensity that we love in Jorgy, sometimes these are the types of things that happen," Girardi said. "But I love his heart. I love his intensity and I wouldn't want to take that away from him."

Posada's intensity got him a three-game suspension and a $3,000 fine but if given the choice, he would probably do it again. I'm not saying it was a classy move or something that children should emulate, but when in the past few seasons have you seen this kind of passion from the New York Yankees?

They have turned from a team of high-profile players padding their stats and collecting paychecks to a perfect combination of superstars and young players out to prove themselves. One example is Cano, who had a lackluster season in 2008 both offensively and defensively. But he has thrived this season in the more upbeat, energetic Yankees clubhouse, hitting .320 and playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base. And he isn't the only young player helping the Yankees push for a 100-win season.

As ugly as the brawl was, it just reinforces my belief that this year's Yankee team has something different than the teams of the past few seasons. They are hungry for a title and they will stand up to anybody who wants to come at them. And there's no better recipe for success than talented players with a chip on their shoulders.

No comments:

Post a Comment