Recreational Chemistry

Although the post’s title is from a song by the jamband moe. and about something else entirely, I figured it was apropos.  This might be one of Joe Girardi’s best ideas as Yankee manager, blowing off the day with the team at a local establishment for food, refreshments, pool, and bar games.  Brilliant move to foster team chemistry, and ironically coming on the heels of a lengthy confab last night between Frank the Sage and myself about the possibility that the 2009 Yankees will have better chemistry, in no small part from their new additions, than in recent years.

Clearly, spending the day in a patron-friendly pool hall was a big hit with the players.  Said Johnny Damon:

“I think everybody had a great time. We got to see who’s been spending too much time at the pool hall and we know the ones that don’t spend enough time in there.

“For Joe to let us take a day off from practice like that, it makes you want to work even harder for him.”

“Camp has been going great so far. We all have been rallying around each other, having a good time in the clubhouse. Today is one of those days that, as a ballplayer, you’ll never forget. I don’t think any team has ever really done this. It’s a day I’ll never forget. It says a lot about Joe. He knows we’ve been working hard and he rewarded us with a day off.”

New first baseman Mark Teixeira, who is so crucial to this year’s success, was equally pleased by how the team spent the day:

“It was great. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in spring training in my whole career.”

“I thought it was a great idea. We’ve been working really hard – the pitchers a little bit longer than the position players. We had a good week of practice and we’re going to start games here soon, so I think Joe just wanted to give us some time off.”

“I’ve never have (heard of a team doing something like this), but I think more teams should. This was a great time, great for all of us to get together.”

“There were probably 16-18 pool tables, there were some card tables, we had darts, we had guys playing dominos and we had lunch also. Everyone was just having a good time.”

“It makes you relax and realize that we can have fun off the field. Once we get on the field, it’s business, but we can build some relationships as well.”

“Usually during the season, you get to hang out with guys because we’re always on the same bus or the same plane. Our schedules are identical. In spring training, you don’t go on trips together, the pitchers have different schedules than the hitters and the hitters are in different groups, so there might be a couple guys you don’t get to know at all.”

Great move by Girardi.  It did wonders for the Giants’ chemistry and morale a couple years ago, when they went bowling as a team and eventually won the Super Bowl.  If the Yankees win the World Series, Girardi will set a trend.  I can’t wait to see Rays’ manager Joe Maddon riding on Space Mountain during the 2010 Spring Training in a futile attempt to win back the AL East.

Oh yeah, not surprisingly in the two two-man 8-ball tournaments the team held, organized by blind draw, Mariano’s pair won both times–once with Phil Coke and another with Andy Pettite.

Speaking of which, Phil Coke will be a reliever, according to Minnesota Girardi.  Like a few others, I’ve been a big advocate of this.  Coke in the pen, likely to give multiple innings relieving rather than starting, provides the Yanks two lefties in the bullpen if Coke makes the club.  This would parallel the two lefties–Sabathia and Pettite–in the rotation.  Coke’s velocity was quite good as a reliever, in the low to mid-90s and, although he only pitched in September of a down year, his 2008 numbers–1-0, 0.61 ERA, .682 WHIP, 14 K in 14 2/3 IP–are encouraging enough that he should be considered a strong candidate to make the team out of ST.

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Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 5:58 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i wrote to our friend nick about this very thing today. i’m really glad that he is taking the concept of team cohesiveness seriously. i’m hoping i can find a way to like the guy better myself as well.

  2. As I write myself, I’m in favor of the Coke in the bullpen (um…that’s PHIL Coke, in today’s age, I better emphasize that) and the team bonding. We are on the same page here, Jason.

  3. I just posted at The Frieze responding to your similar comments, Mike. Clearly, we’re right there together on Coke (Phil, NOT Diet or the powder) and team chemistry. I really wish a bunch of us could have been on a conference call last night when The Sage and I discussed exactly that. It’s absolutely crucial to foster chemistry. How often in histories about the Yankees do players from the late 1940s and early 1950s talk about train travel, playing cards, inventing games, and having meals together–all part of maintaining chemistry. I strongly sense that with the 2009 Yankees, done differently but for similar motivations. I get the strong sense that this team is developing IT.

  4. fun fact–brett gardner hits first home run of the baseball ST season in first at bat.


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