Boland: Girardi sees no need to criticize players publicly

Yankees manager Joe Girardi returns to the dugout Yankees manager Joe Girardi returns to the dugout after taking out pitcher Phil Hughes in the 6th inning against the Seattle Mariners. (June 29, 2010) Photo Credit: John Dunn

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Erik Boland Newsday columnist Erik Boland

Boland has been at Newsday since 2002. Boland started at Newsday covering girls soccer, basketball and lacrosse, and ...

When A.J. Burnett injured himself during a fit of anger last Saturday, severely enough to cause him to be removed from his start, he took plenty of bullets in public.

But not one was fired by manager Joe Girardi, who took his share of criticism for not taking the pitcher to task more in front of the media.

Both men that day were being wholly consistent with who they are.

Burnett, whose hand lacerations apparently won't cause him to miss tonight's start against the Royals, has struggled his entire career with controlling his emotions.

And Girardi did what he's done in his 21/2 years as Yankees manager: back his players in public.

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It's not born of a belief that his players can do no wrong. It's just that none of the managers he played for did it to him, Girardi said, and he believes there's little benefit to public scoldings.

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"It can be done in a different way than I might do it in there , but that doesn't mean that I don't get my message across," Girardi said in an interview this week.

There was, of course, a notable exception toward the end of Girardi's first season in 2008 when he benched Robinson Cano for not hustling, and maybe half of an exception with the occasional tweak of Joba Chamberlain.

Late last season, Girardi said Chamberlain needed to "step up" to secure a postseason roster spot, and just last week, while reiterating that Chamberlain remains Mariano Rivera's setup man, the manager said, "You have to earn your roles here."

But those remarks hardly can be categorized as verbal floggings. As the Burnett incident illustrated, Girardi is content to send messages one-on-one rather than through the media.

"I just don't see a need to do it in public," he said. "I know it makes for an interesting paper read, it might make the back page, but back pages don't get the most out of players, I don't believe."

George Steinbrenner unquestionably had a different philosophy, but these are different times with different players.

It's been said that no good rule is absolute, but on this one regarding the issuing of public rebukes, Girardi is steadfast. And although he had some minor issues in the clubhouse in his first season - some players, accustomed to Joe Torre, had to get used to him - those issues all but dissipated last season. By year three, there's little doubt among the players that Girardi is in their corner, which is significant with players and coaches who are together nearly nine months.

"Every single day Joe could have an interview postgame and talk about all the bad things that happened," said Mark Teixeira, who in the weeks before the All-Star break finally showed signs of coming out of what had been the worst start of his career. "This guy went 0-for-4, this guy made an error, this guy walked two guys. But that's baseball. There's so much negative in baseball, and we love Joe because he stays positive."

Burnett said this week he considers himself closer to Girardi than any other manager he's played for, but he still wasn't sure to expect when he met with Girardi after last Saturday's game.

The conversation, Burnett said, was mostly "positive," which probably would not have been the case had Girardi detected a lack of sincerity from the pitcher as he expressed regret.

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"We all know for the most part when we screw up," Girardi said. "It can be embarrassing, it can be humbling and it can be difficult to deal with."

It was dealt with, Burnett said, just not for everyone to see and hear about it.

"You know the manager's got your back here no matter what," Burnett said.

"Not everyone needs to know ," Girardi said. "I've just never felt there's a lot of value in it. You can get your point across without doing it in public."

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