David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
BOSTON - As with any mess, pine tar or otherwise, next on the agenda was mop-up time for the Yankees, who spent the hours leading up to Thursday night's game dealing with the fallout from Michael Pineda's 10-game suspension.
The penalty, as Brian Cashman said, was "appropriate and expected.'' There would be no pushback from the Yankees, and certainly no appeal, the Pineda episode being the rare case in which a team swallowed its medicine without complaint.
While most of the attention has been focused on the contrite Pineda, who will miss only one start, the Yankees were left scrambling in the aftermath of his pine-tar fiasco. Joe Girardi must work with a 24-man roster until May 5, and Cashman began the juggling act Thursday by sending down Dean Anna, a valuable backup infielder, and reliever Preston Claiborne and bringing up two fresh bullpen arms.
"We'll feel it,'' Cashman said. "We'll feel it for a number of days. But as a team, you've got to weather the storm. You've got to batten down the hatches. Hopefully, 10 days will go quick.''
If only Pineda had been more judicious with the sticky stuff, the Yankees could have skipped the public humiliation. But Cashman was more focused on the inner workings of his team going forward than the controversy raging beyond the clubhouse.
On Thursday, Pineda apologized again upon hearing of MLB's penalty and Girardi finally succumbed to repeated questions about his culpability. The previous night, Cashman didn't hold back in describing Pineda's crime as an organizational breakdown, but it took Girardi another day to offer himself up as an accomplice. "It's my player,'' he said. "I take responsibility for what happened.''
Only Girardi knows if he could have done anything differently that would have prevented Pineda from taking the mound with the obvious brown smudges on his neck. Or maybe pitching coach Larry Rothschild. But John Farrell saw the stain, so it seems crazy that no one on the Yankees did, especially with Pineda's recent pine-tar shenanigans.
Give credit to Cashman. The GM was never interested in excuses and refused to throw Pineda under the bus. It was a foolish mistake, made in desperation, but Cashman wouldn't let Pineda call himself the lone fall guy.
"This is a collective responsibility,'' Cashman said. "No question in my mind about that. It was just a bad situation altogether that clearly was an avoidable circumstance. But it happened -- somehow, some way, it happened. We've just got to get past it and move on.''
That debriefing process began as soon as Pineda was ejected Wednesday night, and the GM was confident that communication was not an issue. Even so, Girardi was cagey about his personal conversations with Pineda, who has not used an interpreter to help with the media frenzy.
The Yankees will absorb this uppercut like all the others, and 10 days from now, they are likely to still be atop the AL East. For Pineda, it may not be so easy. He's survived more than his share of adversity since the 2012 trade from Seattle -- shoulder surgery, the DUI during his rehab -- and being branded a cheater is another mental hurdle.
Even Girardi said Pineda might require extra maintenance. "I'll pay attention,'' he said. "My thought is he's handled a lot in the last two years and he's handled it pretty well. He'll get through this and he'll be fine.''
The first step is to admit there's a problem. The Yankees tried denial earlier this month when Pineda went the pine-tar route against the Red Sox, and that got them a fractured rotation and a public flogging. Now they have been forced to contain the collateral damage he's created.
"Every one of us went up to him and told him this will pass,'' Cashman said. "He made a mistake, and when you make a mistake, you own up to it. Then you turn the page.''
And not have it happen again?
"I certainly hope not,'' Cashman said.