Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Girardi plays the part of cool dad

The big news out of camp on Monday was that the Yankees weren't at camp at all. The players and coaches were instead at a local Tampa strip club pool hall, an activity hatched from the mind of typically anti-fun and happiness manager Joe Girardi.

The players were fantastically giddy about the bonding exercise, Girardi playing the part of Andy Dufresne scoring ice cold beer for his fellow inmates at Shawshank. "Today is one of those days that, as a ballplayer, you'll never forget," Johnny Damon told PeteAbe. "I don't think any team has ever really done this." Mark Teixeira added: "I thought it was a great idea. ... We really appreciate what he did for us today."

I can almost hear Morgan Freeman narrating the whole thing now. We shot stick with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men. We were the lords of all creation. As for Joe -- he spent that break hunkered in the shade, a strange little smile on his face, watching us play his game.

Not surprisingly, Mariano Rivera, the best closer ever, is the best pool player ever. By this logic, Derrick Turbow would be the worst pool player ever. I can imagine A-Rod jumping out to several early leads before scratching on the eight-ball shot each time, pursing his lips and squinting his eyes as he does. Jeter was probably wearing a Jordan pullover sweatshirt and jeans, on the phone with Minka Kelly discussing late night plans while sinking impossible shots. His life is awesome. Shelly Duncan probably missed a key shot, broke his cue over his knee and went after Brett Gardner ala high-grade crony "Sticks" v. Seagal in Out For Justice. "Anybody seen Richie? Anybody know why Richie did Bobby Lupo?"

I can't tell you how much I wish I was at this pool hall.

Girardi said that the idea was partly inspired by Tom Coughlin's now famous bowling trip during Giants training camp in 2007. The Giants -- coincidentally or not -- went on to win the SuperBowl that season. Hmmmm. Like Coughlin, Girardi earned the reputation in his first season of being a bit of a, well, dick at times. Girardi rode his players hard in spring training last year, upping the conditioning in a failed attempt to ward off injuries during the season. He also pushed unnecessary buttons, like when he banished sweets from the clubhouse and had the ice cream freezer removed from the players lounge.

So this was certainly a step in the right direction for the manager. Do I expect Girardi to go all soft on us from here on out? I doubt it, playboy has had the same haircut since 1964. But, in a camp that has been shrouded in tension courtesy of their darling third baseman, it was a fine idea to give these guys a physical and mental blow.

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