You can see the ensuing reaction here. Bautista took exception, and began walking out toward the mound. Nova, a skinny Dominican from San Cristobal, stood his ground. He held out both hands, as if to say "what are you gonna do about it?" The umpire warned Nova, and then warned the benches of each team. Soon, those benches cleared. Cervelli, Girardi, and Jose Molina held Bautista back, and other Yankee players gathered around Nova. The two continued to jaw at each other, with Bautista looking genuinely angry while Nova seemed surprised, rattled, and a little defiant.
"Instinctively, I was kind of upset," Bautista said. "I was just trying to see what kind of reaction I was going to get from him. I was surprised to see he was pretty defiant. He was walking up towards me and flashing his hands up and started yelling. That's when I felt that the pitch was intentional."
"Nothing happened," Nova said. "It wasn't on purpose or anything."
I tend to believe Nova in this case; I don't know his personality, and I don't know his style, but it seems really unlikely that he would go after Bautista in his first big league start. Still, I can understand the reaction. Bautista leads the league in home runs, and the pitch was high. But if you look at the replay, it really wasn't very far inside, and it looks to me like a fastball that just got away. I also disagree with Bautista's opinion that Nova's reaction indicated guilt. If you accuse somebody of wrongdoing in an aggressive fashion, sometimes they'll respond aggressively, even (or especially) if they're innocent. That's particularly true of athletes, who exist in a culture ingrained with at least a little machismo.
But as Girardi said, the situation was handled fine. Until Bautista came up again, in the 8th, against David Robertson. With the score tied 2-2, he drilled his 40th home run into the left field stands. And then he flipped his bat, and spat out toward the mound. And then he took 30 seconds to round the bases. (It might be #2 on the tater trot tracker, when it's updated.) And then he pumped his fist repeatedly as he crossed the plate. And then he took a curtain call.
All of which is pretty ridiculous. He was angry about a pitch that may or may not have been a statement, and which didn't hit him, so he chose to show up a different pitcher in a different inning? Classless. Also, it's worth pointing out that he's currently hitting home runs at a rate more than double what he's ever managed before. Hmmm...bizarre increase in power numbers, and a random display of unwarranted anger? There can't be an obvious explanation for that, right?
I don't know if Robertson will get to face him again this season, but if it happens, I'd expect a high, inside fastball. And this one won't just be for effect.
Girardi was the first man off the bench to protect his pitcher last night, and he's also the first name mentioned now that the Cubs have a vacancy at manager. As this article reminds us, he has a lot of ties to the Chicago area and the Cubs specifically. He's an obvious choice for the north siders, and it's not surprising that his name appears near the top of prospective lists.
But here's the thing: it's not an obvious choice for Girardi. Why would he leave the most storied franchise in sports- a place where he's won a world championship and is well-respected, mind you- for a mismanaged team that hasn't seen a World Series in years? The article linked above tries to make something of the fact that the Yanks aren't re-negotiating his deal yet. But that's not some kind of vindictive choice; it's Yankee policy. They don't make deals until the offseason, and they're just going by the book here.
At most, Girardi could use the Cubs as leverage for his next Yankee contract. But I'm not even sure that would be effective. I'm sure his family doesn't want to be uprooted, and Girardi has already proved that he's a family man. This is the guy who made a deal with his daughter that if she got braces, he'd get them too. And he followed through! If his family wants to stay in New York (and really, what family ever wants to move?), that will be a huge factor in his decision.
The doomsday scenario for Yankee fans is that the team fails in the playoffs (or earlier, God forbid) this season, and Girardi feels unappreciated enough to bolt. But that, frankly, is ridiculous. Fans love to complain, Yankee fans more than most, but we know a good thing when we see it. Girardi has a proclivity to over-manage, and will occasionally bow before the match-up altar, moving his pitchers around like chess pieces rather than trusting their ability. But every manager has a weakness. His strengths, which include bullpen management, attention to statistics, dealing with erratic personalities, and media relations, far outweigh his weak points. It wasn't too long ago that Joe Torre was sitting at the back of the dugout, in the shadows, barely awake while his team floundered through October. Girardi is far more passionate, and that youthful attitude is reflected in the energy of the players. Plus, he's got a great hitting coach and a beleaguered but competent pitching coach in tow. If he goes, would they go too?
Girardi is smart, steady, and enthusiastic. He gets along with the players, he can be tough when it's necessary, and he led us to a championship. He's our man, period. If I realize it, Cashman does too. Both sides have nothing but positive words for each other. I don't care if the Yanks have an epic collapse and miss the playoffs by a half game on the last day of the season- Joe Girardi isn't going anywhere.