I HAD RESOLVED to fill this space with a word or two about an interesting kerfuffle which blew up around New York Yankee pitcher AJ Burnett over the weekend.
But then, yesterday, everything changed, changed utterly.
The earth moved beneath the east coast of the US and shattered the grandeur of the New York Yankees. And the rest of us lesser beings.
Everyone, including the mighty Bronx Bombers, were faced with the reality that they were just tiny flecks of dust on a rug being shaken out by the Great Earth – somewhere in Virginia.
Someone told me the waves were felt as far north as Cooperstown in upstate New York. That’s the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame and the inspiration for a scene in the latest episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (which I’m tempted to ruin because you all probably saw it before me, downloading being more efficient than my DVR these days).
The Yankees must have felt usurped, given their tendency to play god with the landscape and, quite frankly, make things go away.
On Saturday night, the under-pressure Burnett was lit up, as they say in the game, by the Minnesota Twins batting line-up which needed less than two innings to take five runs off him (plus too more for which he was indirectly responsible, it’s a cruel life on the mound).
‘A tree fell in the Bronx, everyone saw it and then nobody was really sure’
He endured the ignominy of being withdrawn by Joe Girardi for the sanity of everyone involved and then TV pictures recorded Burnett grumpily handing his boss the ball before mouthing something vulgar-looking in his direction.
Then a magical thing happened: footage of the incident was impossible to find anywhere bar shakey clips on YouTube. YES, the Yankees-owned station predictably dropped the story as quickly as possible but, inexplicably, neither ESPN nor national baseball rights-holders Fox were showing anything but stills by Sunday.
A tree fell in the Bronx, everyone saw it and then nobody was really sure.
Girardi reacted angrily after the game when asked about the controversial moment, accusing the gathered hacks of trying to drive a wedge between him and his struggling pitcher. Burnett sang from the same hymn sheet, pointing out that nobody had backed him like his manager.
As many observers more entrenched in the traditions of New York baseball have surmised, Burnett, a pleasant chap by all accounts, would never have got away with this during the days when George Steinbrenner ran the show.
But he’s a costly component of a struggling pitching staff (over $80m, five-year contract) and to throw him out with the bathwater now would add to the case against general manager Brian Cashman, the man with the easiest and toughest job in baseball: spending and splurging all that bullion and getting to do it all over again.
It’s like those tremors that radiated through New York yesterday with a resonance so deep and true that we’re all rendered small and helpless.
And then it’s gone and the world spins on.
- John Riordan writes a column for the Irish Examiner. He works as a freelance journalist in New York; check out his blog here.