CHICAGO -- U.S. Cellular Field was more like The Padded Cell Wednesday night, with one crazy occurrence after another leading up to Joe Girardi's flip-out at an obnoxious fan after the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the White Sox.
It started out with the normally-reticent Girardi gathering the beat crew in a hallway outside the clubhouse to announce that Ivan Nova had experienced some "tightness" in his shoulder during his meltdown in Tuesday's night's 7-3 loss. According to Girardi, the injury wasn't believed to be serious, and assuming he and Nova are telling the truth -- that the injury occurred on the last batter Nova faced Tuesday night -- it does nothing to explain Nova's startling level of stinkitude over the past six weeks.
But it sure was convenient, coming just when the Yankees need to make a roster move in order to clear the way for CC Sabathia's return tomorrow night in Cleveland. Funny how things seem to work themselves out in this game.
Then came Derek Jeter having to defend himself against allegations of steroid use by own own Skip Bayless, an assignment The Captain handled with his usual aplomb. Of course, Jeter and others like him are partially to blame for having to defend themselves against such allegations -- when he had the chance to publicly denounce the rampant steroid abuse of the late '90s and early 2000s, he and many others chose to stay silent -- and now, as a result, the spotlight has turned back on him, whether it is fair or not. This is the atmosphere MLB has created, and presumably clean players like Jeter enabled it to happen with their silence.
And Girardi closed the show with his WWE-like outburst at a rude fan precisely in the spot his day began, in the tunnel outside the Yankees' clubhouse. Of course, it is hardly news when a drunken lout heckles an opposing player or manager; it only becomes a story when a buttoned-up type like Girardi goes all Ozzie Guillen on the guy.
It was the kind of night you expect from a team in turmoil, not one that is leading its division.
Then again, with the Yankees' lead having shrunk from 10 games down to three, and a brutal September schedule in front of them, maybe what happened Wednesday at The Cell is only a preview of things to come.