'Chicken' insult doesn't faze Yanks

Updated: June 23, 2012, 4:53 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

No harm, no fowl.

That was pretty much the reaction in the Yankees clubhouse Friday afternoon to the comments of Mets closer Frank Francisco, who referred them as "chickens," in the New York Post.

"I can't wait to strike out those chickens," he said. "I want to strike out the side against them. I've done it before."

Copies of the Post, with Derek Jeter's head superimposed on a chicken's body over the headline "CLUCK YOU" greeted the Yankees as they arrived at Citi Field for Friday night's game against the Mets.

"Why is my head on there?" a bemused Jeter said when shown the paper.

Informed he was one of the three Yankees who Francisco struck out -- along with Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi -- as a member of the Texas Rangers, Jeter reacted with incredulity.

"When did this happen?" he asked. "You're talking about five years ago, man. When was the last time we faced him? 2007? 2004?"

Told the game in question took place on May 21, 2004, a 9-7 Rangers win in Arlington, Jeter shook his head. "I've got nothing for you. Really," he said. "The good story's over there. I have no comment. I really don't."

The media wasn't going away that easily, of course, and Jeter was pressed to respond to Francisco's comments, which he later expanded to say that the Yankees are "chronic complainers" when it comes to balls and strikes calls.

"I don't understand what that means," Jeter said. "I can't be insulted by something I don't understand."

The only Yankee who seemed to take offense to Chickengate was Nick Swisher.

"I don't even know this dude and I don't think he knows any of us," Swisher said. "Those are some big words."

And asked if he thought Francisco's words could be used against him, Swisher said, "Any time that you have bulletin board material, I think that always fires guys up." Francisco is 1-1 with a 3.29 ERA and two saves in 25 career appearances against the Yankees. The last time he faced them was Sept. 18, 2011, when as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, he closed out a 3-0 Blue Jays victory in Toronto. For the final out, he struck out Alex Rodriguez looking.

Rodriguez treated the incident with the disrespect it deserved.

"What kind of chickens?" he asked. "Organic chickens? Rotisserie chickens? I like chickens." Then he added, "In all seriousness, you're not going to get anything out of me on this."

That was the general reaction in the Yankees clubhouse, more confused and amused than angry. The usually upbeat Ivan Nova was puzzled -- "Why would he say something like that?" he asked reporters  but the normally-dour Rafael Soriano seemed delighted by it, walking through the clubhouse greeting reporters with, "What's up, chicken?"

Like most of the Yankees, Russell Martin was unaware of the flap until informed by the media. "We're a bunch of chickens? Okay," he said. "And who said this?" Told it was Francisco, Martin said, "Oh. Whatever."

And when asked if he was insulted by the characterization, Martin said, "I don't care. We'll see if we're chickens when he gets in the game."

When he was shown the Post's front page, Martin said, "Aw, that's nice. That's funny."

Manager Joe Girardi was typically non-confrontational.

"It doesn't really mean anything," he said. "What means something is what you do on the field. You shouldn't need (things like that) to be motivated during the course of the season. Sometimes if a team is struggling, it can wake a team up. But I don't think our guys really make much of it."

Girardi also said the Yankees PR office was called "by three chicken companies calling to be sponsors of the Subway Series. So it might work out well for both teams."

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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