With the need to pay tribute to Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner, it wasn't hard to guess that it would be a weekend unlike any other in the Bronx. What wasn't as easy to predict was the fact that the weekend would wind up standing on its own without any of the special circumstances.
Friday night's game was the real memorial night and both the Yankees and the fans did a nice job of paying tribute. Mariano Rivera laying flowers on home plate, Derek Jeter's pregame speech and, especially, the choice to go without a PA announcer for the game were all spot-on choices. The lasting memory, however, will be of the two minutes of total silence from the crowd with the flapping of flags and squealing of subways as the only sound.
It was a striking moment, one that saw its direct inverse when Nick Swisher singled home Curtis Granderson with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. The run capped off a night that saw the Yankees come from behind twice to tie the Rays, comebacks that played into the desire to win it for the Voice and the Boss and helped the crowd return to normal after the quiet, somber start to the night's action. That it was an Ohio State man in Swisher who won the game honoring an Ohio State nut in Steinbrenner made it all seem like somebody wrote the thing up before the first pitch.
Saturday was also full of memories with the absence of Yogi Berra from Old-Timer's Day adding a bit more sadness to the proceedings. Thanks to A.J. Burnett, though, Saturday became the day when the Yankees stopped thinking about what was gone and returned to focusing on what was ahead of them.
Burnett was booed off the mound by the no-longer reflective crowd, quite a feat given the fact that they didn't yet know that he was being lifted from the game for punching a wall and cutting his pitching hand in between innings. Or, for that matter, that he initially lied to the Yankees about the injury and claimed he tripped coming up the stairs. It was a shameful episode for Burnett who, at 33, really should know better on both counts.
As it turns out, the Burnett affair became the clearest sign all week of how different life was without the vintage stylings of The Boss. Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman both avoided any public airing of grievances about Burnett's behavior, probably the wisest course of action given the fragility he's shown in the past. The old school Steinbrenner wouldn't have been quite so thoughtful as he wondered aloud just what kind of adult behaves the way Burnett did on Saturday afternoon. It would have been hard to argue with him, although Burnett's injuries probably won't wind up costing him a start this week.
That's good because Sunday brought more pain even though the Yankees rolled to a 9-5 victory. Andy Pettitte left the game in the third inning with a strained groin and will be placed on the disabled list. It's believed he'll miss a month or more as he recovers. It's not an insurmountable loss but it will require performances from Burnett that are more positive on the mound and less childish off of it. He's certainly physically talented enough to pick up the slack but reliability is not his strong suit.
The rotation issues, tight divisional race and fast-approaching trade deadline will make it easy to focus on the here and now. This strange, sad and memorable weekend will be long remembered, but the official mourning period has now given way to the routines of baseball.