Yanks' quiet loss spurs loud meeting
Subpar Pettitte combines with dormant offense to irk Girardi
NEW YORK -- The doors to the Yankees' clubhouse were ordered shut on Thursday evening, remaining closed for more than 30 minutes as manager Joe Girardi took his entire roster to task for its lack of consistency on the field.
By the time Girardi completed his dressing down of uniformed personnel, only a smattering of players remained, but the message was hammered home. Unless the Yankees find a way to begin playing better than they did during the 7-0 loss they turned in against the Red Sox, their season will be an abbreviated one.
One night after the Yankees set a new high-water mark by pounding out 18 runs against the Rangers, the road-weary Red Sox rolled into the Bronx and made it look easy. Behind Andy Pettitte, the Yankees were down early, and Jon Lester kept them from getting up.
Tight-lipped in a sometimes-contentious media session, Girardi refused to divulge the details of his meeting, saying repeatedly that his message was to be kept within the clubhouse walls.
"That's between my team and me," Girardi said, repeatedly. "Team meetings are not for everyone to hear."
Yet the matter of the Yankees' consistency -- or lack thereof -- has been no state secret.
This latest defeat, in which Girardi said the Yankees "didn't do anything," dropped them to 45-41, settling them eight games back of the American League East-leading Rays. While Girardi assumed responsibility for the record, each loss appears to be grinding upon him more and more.
He was also furious after a defeat at Pittsburgh on June 24, when he told reporters that the Yankees "stunk" and essentially delivered the same message to his players, who'd just been beaten, 12-5, by the Pirates. Over the course of 34 minutes on Thursday, Girardi undoubtedly said a whole lot more.
"You're not going to win 162, and I understand that," Girardi said. "But we are not where we should be, and I'm not happy. And our players aren't happy."
They would have had little to be excited about after Lester completely handcuffed them, hurling a five-hit shutout. Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera had two hits each for the only flickers of offense, and as Johnny Damon noted, once the Yankees fell down by four runs after two innings, there appeared to be nothing left in the tank.
"You guys saw the game," Damon said. "It didn't look like we had a chance."
Derek Jeter said that he understood Girardi's points, calling out the club's recent history of false starts -- every time the offense breaks out with a big showing, there seems to be an inevitable valley waiting right around the corner.
"We got down early [Thursday], and I guess it just didn't look good," Jeter said. "I can't speak on everyone's behalf and tell you that they weren't intense. But it definitely looks that way when you're not playing well."
Jeter said that the Yankees' preparation and intensity doesn't irk him, but the inconsistency does. Like Girardi, he was similarly mum on whether any specific player warranted attention in his role as captain.
"When I say things, I say it to people -- I don't say it through the media," Jeter said.
Pettitte accepted responsibility for setting a poor tempo in his uncomfortable start, lasting just 4 2/3 innings and struggling with his rhythm in allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits.
"Everybody's embarrassed," Pettitte said. "Any time you have a game like this, you're embarrassed. It's just extremely disappointing."
Boston scored twice in the first when a Jeter throwing error prolonged the inning and Mike Lowell came through with an RBI single; Jacoby Ellsbury drove in another pair in the second inning with a double to right.
Julio Lugo added a sacrifice fly in the fourth, and the Red Sox completed their barrage against Pettitte in the fifth when Lowell skied to deep left, allowing J.D. Drew to tag up and score from third base. Jason Varitek added an RBI single in the eighth off LaTroy Hawkins, by which point most of the crowd of 54,677 had traded their seats for a subway or highway.
"We didn't hit, we didn't pitch," Girardi said. "We did not play a good game."
Later, it was the Yankees' fruitless approach against Lester that some would believe led Girardi -- still dressed in his full pinstripes -- to march into the clubhouse and let his roster have it, working his way around the room with a message meant only for their ears. Damon said that Girardi had been irked most by the way the Yankees lost.
"When you put the pinstripes on, there's a lot of pride that goes with it," Damon said. "There's 55,000 fans out there, there's many media outlets in New York that are going to talk about, 'How come the Yankees aren't scoring?' It's embarrassing.
"Top to bottom, look at our lineup -- what we've done in this game and what we can still do. We're getting shut out every other day or barely scoring one run. It's not good."
Damon said that the Yankees still have not played up to expectations, even with more than 50 percent of the season already inked in the books. A monster payroll of former and current All-Stars should be able to muster more than a record of four games over .500, and if not, Damon seemed to worry that changes could be on the horizon.
"The Steinbrenners have $200 million in us, and we haven't shown what we're made of," Damon said. "I know this is one game and we have  games left, but we've got to do something soon. [The non-waiver trade deadline on] July 31st comes sooner than you know it.
"I know a lot of guys here don't want to go to another team or even be in that conversation. This is a team that's built to win, get to the playoffs and win a championship. Come July 31st, we'd better be in a good spot."
As the calendar pages fall off, the Yankees have already held at least four closed-door team meetings to shed their water-treading ways. There may have been more, Jeter said, that the media was not apprised of. Either way, the results have been negligible.
"If there were easy answers to things, you'd fix it right away," Jeter said. "It seems like we have days here and there and a couple of games where we swing the bats well, and then we go back and not do it. We just need to be a little bit more consistent."
Sometimes it helps a team to talk out its problems, and if any one meeting is to shake a team from its doldrums, maybe tact and covert speech need to be thrown out the window -- and this one was unmistakable. Girardi even ordered the batboys and clubhouse workers into the hallway before speaking his piece.
Jeter said the Yankees' recent performance warranted the tongue-lashing.
"The thing you've got to realize, this meeting isn't for today," Jeter said. "This is for how we've been playing the last week. I don't necessarily think it's today's game."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.