As the days of the George Steinbrenner era — and dumb injuries — fall farther in the rearview mirror, the organization has only become more settled and staid. Crown prince Derek Jeter is revered around the league. Robinson Cano makes slothfulness look like art. Alex Rodriguez's high-stepping return to the dugout from a popup has a regal air.
And the Yankees are winning with a boring yet ruthless regularity. Aside from the occasional Nick Swisher jumping jacks, the team is the embodiment of a group that gets its work done and looks good doing it.
That's why it's strange that, on a team where Eduardo Nunez was told by Jeter to cut his stinking Mohawk off because it's not the Yankee way, the new Yankees closer is walking around looking like a bum.
The team felt quite the jolt this spring when the seemingly immortal Mariano Rivera went down with an ACL injury while shagging fly balls during batting practice. He promised a return, but for a city that's grown used to seeing Mr. Automatic jog in from the bullpen in the epitome of athletic grace, flummox hitters with one pitch while never letting stray base runners faze him, then smile and shake hands with his teammates as if he's just finished grabbing the mail. Rivera not being on the mound has been strange.
Now, not only are the Yankees missing the closer who's a sure bet in the ninth inning and has a disgustingly good postseason ERA, but New York has also apparently lost its leader in team classiness.
The Yankees at first called on homegrown reliever David Robertson for the closer role. Robertson, who has been unhittable in late innings to the point that he's been nicknamed Houdini, appeared to be ready to assume the mantle from Rivera in more than one way. He not only had nerves of steel and the pitches to get it done, but Robertson also had the same calm demeanor that Rivera had made commonplace in the closer role.
But Robertson fell to inconsistency and injury. And the Yankees, who just happened to have another shutdown closer on their roster, turned to Rafael Soriano.
Soriano was the go-to man in Tampa Bay in 2010, when he recorded 45 saves. But he mostly languished in New York, where the Yankees did not have a role for him until Rivera went down this year. He's since been solid for the Bombers, taking care of ninth-inning chances to the tune of 15 saves and a 1.65 ERA.
Soriano has been able to pitch like Rivera, but he certainly has a different look. He's more of a fiery guy, and he's shown unhappiness with the organization at times.
But the funniest difference between Soriano and Rivera has to be Soriano's presence on the mound. While Rivera's whole game centered on calm and class, Soriano's first move when he finishes up a game is to untuck his shirt and make himself look like a Bleacher Creature. It's not an uncommon look for a Major League Baseball player, but it is an arresting appearance when put against the rest of the current, seamless Yankee machine.
In 2012, years removed from the upheaval of Steinbrenner's reign, when anger and tabloid headlines were the norm, Soriano's look is a bit of an aberration for a team used to methodical winning and Jeter-like ways.
Or, he's just a funny dude to look at.
Joe Girardi said he and the clubhouse veterans don't have a problem with the look, although he did acknowledge it was a bit unusual.
Take a look at the photo below of Soriano and decide for yourself: World Series champion or pizza delivery man?
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