A look of relief swept across his face. Girardi had spent a good amount of time castigating himself in an unusual, for him, public display of self-criticism about the aforementioned bad decision, in which he failed to appeal an umpire’s ruling and set in motion a series of disastrous events that led to his team’s defeat.
As it happens, Game 3 on Monday provided him with a perfect opportunity to show that he had learned his lesson. Presented with a similar scenario — was the batter hit by a pitch or not? — Girardi went ahead and appealed this time. (He lost the ruling, but still.)
“It’s a reminder how quickly things can change in your life,” said a much more relaxed Girardi after Game 3, which the Yankees won easily to cut in half the Astros’ lead in the series. Of the booing, he said: “I don’t think it’s the fans didn’t like me, I think they were mad when I didn’t make the call. They’re so passionate about the game, and they want to win so bad. That’s the thing about being here, having great fans.”
But he is a sensitive person, as it turns out, and nobody likes to be publicly derided. Lee Mazzilli, who spent much of his career in the 1970s and 1980s playing for the Mets and knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of opprobrium from angry fans, said in an interview that it was important to try to “turn a negative into a positive.”
“They boo you because they care,” said Mazzilli, who was on the field while the Yankees took batting practice before Game 3. “It means you’re good at what you do, and it means they want you to do well.”
Which sounds like a bit of a rationalization. Actually, said Mazzilli, just as it’s impossible not to notice when you are on the field and everyone is shouting abuse at you, so it’s impossible, sometimes, to appreciate cheering when it comes.
“You always hear the booing,” he said. “When something negative happens — when you strike out or make an error — you feel so quiet and alone, and then you hear the boos. But when you hit a home run, you’re so full of adrenaline and so much is going on that you really can’t hear anything.”
Up in the bleachers on Monday evening sat T.J. Burris of North Carolina and his friend, Logan Cargill of Toronto.
“New York fans are tough and they expect more,” Burris said, pointing to the sign across the field advertising the number of times the Yankees have won the World Series (27). “It’s like Italy before the World Cup — people expect them to win.”
Cargill, 34, said he was friends with some former National Hockey League players who had played for and against the Rangers. “They said that the pressure of playing in New York is immense,” he said. “You can’t get away with anything. The magnifying glass is always on you.”
Further along in the bleachers, 50-year-old Shane Rokowski stood out, a softhearted person in a hardhearted stadium. People had been too mean to Girardi, who after all had just been trying his best, he said.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” Rokowski said. “As a true Yankees fan, nobody’s perfect. I feel sorry for him and his family.” He attributed his fellow fans’ bad temper to a larger problem in the world, the inability to see things from other perspectives. “It’s too bad that as baseball fans we can’t come together, and as a country we can’t come together.”
Near the line for garlic fries, a vendor named Paul, who has worked in the old Yankee Stadium and the new one since 1976, and who said he could give only his first name, reminisced about infamous instances of past booing.
“When Stump Merrill told Don Mattingly he had to shave, he got booed pretty good,” Paul said, speaking of the time in 1991 that Merrill, then the manager, benched Mattingly, then the team captain, for refusing to trim his hair. “A-Rod? He didn’t get booed enough.”
As for Girardi, the vendor continued: “On a personal level, you feel bad, but he’s a professional. He has a thick skin, and he deserved it.” Also, he said: “How else are the fans going to express their displeasure? This is why you pay $100, $150 a ticket — for catharsis.”
Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, said that while it is of course no fun to be booed on the field, passionate responses of all sorts are part of the price you pay for playing in a city like New York.
“Fans are short for fanatics,” he said. “This is the greatest place to play and enjoy success, and it’s a tough place to struggle. You can’t have it one way and not the other.”
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