Duncan Go Nuts: Bush play to define Yankee

Rays Digest columnist Ted Fleming says the near riot created by Shelley Duncan Wednesday at Al Lang Field starts at the top with manager Joe Girardi.

ST. PETERSBURG - I think, a Yankees' manager is no Cecil Cooper.

I know, a Yankees' first baseman is no Ty Cobb.

Two similar incidents happen, two completely different reactions.

Carl Crawford ran over Astros' catcher Humberto Quintero and Cooper had little to say about it. No harm, no foul it appeared.

On the face of it there were eyebrows raised, not so much because it happened in a spring training game but rather for the reason it was a Crawford, an All-Star and respected member of the Rays.

A few days later, Elliot Johnson, fighting to get noticed and possibly make the major league club out of camp, did virtually the same thing and headlines blared as if the New York governor just got caught at ... oh? Something did happen?

Girardi, a former hard-nosed catcher, has decided to rewrite rules where players are not allowed to compete in games, especially those that mean squat. My, oh my. Aren't we getting a bit prissy in our old age?

Clueless Joe has turned a relative innocuous gathering at home plate into a Class-A Felony. Why the difference between the two? Because his team is the Yankees? Because they have a $200-million payroll? Because they are the Yankees and they are "just" the Astros?

There was a high road to take and Girardi avoided it like a tabloid that has the Mets on the back page. If he was using Johnson as a way to fire up his team, a dose of Geritol might work better.

At least when Lou Piniella wigged out it happened during the regular season and woke up a sleeping midget in the Cubs and made them competitive. Win even.

Girardi flapping his yapper after the alleged transgression has now drawn a cult follower - Shelley Duncan - a career minor leaguer who made his big league debut at the ripe young age of 28.

In the course of his long road to Yankee Stadium he repeated Tampa (Class-A, 2003 and 2004) and Trenton (Class-AA, 2005 and 2006). That's right, he had trouble getting it right the first time so the teacher made him do it again.

Never much of an average hitter with occasional pop - he banged out 34 dingers in Double-A with a robust .240 average in 2005 - he had a "breakout" season in '07 with Scranton before getting a chance in the Bronx.

Just like Johnson, he is looking to make a statement to go north with the big club. With a grand total of eight round-trippers, he needs every advantage he can get.

So he drank the Kool-Aid and Duncan is now Girardi-washed. He went on a rant about how unfair the Rays were to dare and play this game called baseball. He said there would be fallout. He wanted blood. He was and is an idiot.

Guess what? He wants to be like Johnson, if you can believe that. Shame that Elliot's first name wasn't Mike or it would have made for one great commercial.

So Wednesday he intentionally tried to stretch what was originally ruled a base hit and subsequently changed to an error into a double. Fat chance. Duncan runs like a he is carrying Jason Giambi's gym bag, full of donuts in a box with his name on it.

Out by 20 feet, players with any sense at all ease up and accept their fate - get tagged out, drop your head and run to an open end of the dugout. But no, he tried to emulate one of the most despicable human beings ever to lace up spikes and take out a gentleman, Akinori Iwamura.

To show Duncan what class is, Iwamura even backed away from the spike to the chest. You have to wonder if Duncan was in the clubhouse before the game making little points out of rubber cleats. This was Cobb-esque.

You have to remember, catchers wear equipment and regularly block the plate on close plays at home. Even in spring training! A guy who wears nothing runs over an armored car and he is a bad guy? What is it I am missing here?

The intent was clear and it was carried out with precision. Duncan, however, neglected to realize one thing. This is not your daddy's Devil Rays and Jonny Gomes protects his own like a rabid pit bull seeing a stranger in his yard.

Note to Shelley: Gomes is a major leaguer, something to which you still aspire. He is also one helluva grappler, too. Just ask the guys from last season's Wrestling Night at the Trop. He makes the Hulk Hogan shirt rip look like child's play.

There should be suspensions for what happened at Al Lang Field.

The starter, Heath Phillips, who plunked Evan Longoria, should get a pass, because the home plate umpire overreacted and threw him out.

There was no intent. How can anyone rationally say there was when the young southpaw was not even scheduled to pitch?

Gomes will likely face action for his dash for Duncan, a great takedown by the way, although Duncan should pay the piper for this premeditated act. Then again, this is Major League Baseball and nothing ever makes sense. Jonny will likely get the short straw in the Suspension Act of 2008.

While I like the intensity this has created, stupid acts by Duncan should not be tolerated no matter how the manager used to play the game. And even the YES Network called him on it in their Saturday broadcast after Johnson v. Cervelli.

Within minutes, YES had a clip of a play at home where Girardi was taking a throw from right field and it appeared to be very late. That did not stop the fiery Joe from sticking out his shinguard protected left leg in what appeared to be an attempt to trip the runner.

Nice guy, this Girardi, so long as the Yankees can do it and everyone else in baseball cannot.

Time to take the Yankees blue dresses off and let's play some baseball.


Ted Fleming, the owner/operator of TBSN Radio 510, has been covering the sports scene in the Tampa Bay area for the last decade via the airwaves and in print. His radio show, Speaking of Sports, is syndicated by the Black Athletes Sports Network live from 11:00am to 1:00pm weekdays. He frequently discusses the Rays on his show. Additionally, he is a stringer for PA Sports Ticker

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