It's Munch! Joe Girardi becomes 'Law & Order' cop Richard Belzer

Yankees manager Joe Girardi hasn't been himself lately.

His increasingly gaunt and pale appearance.

All of those extra trips to the mound.

Pinch running needlessly for Alex Rodriguez(notes).

These changes aren't happening because of "pressure" to win the World Series, or because Joe's "over-managing" or even because of illness. They happen because Girardi's not who we thought he was anymore.

It remains to be seem how it affects the Yankees the rest of the way, but Girardi appears to be turning into actor/comedian/author Richard Belzer before our very eyes.

Belzer plays snarky Det. John Munch on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (and on at least eight other TV shows). The Belz doesn't have much major league managing experience, but his ability to say something witty at just the right moment could lift the Yankees through rough times against the Phillies.

Belzer-as-Munch does have experience on a ballfield. While on the Baltimore-based "Homicide," he had fun at the expense of Yankees fans. He and his partner were investigating the murder of a Yankees fan at Camden Yards and Munch goes:

"We should check the Maryland Annotated Code. I don't think this is a crime in Baltimore."

Just the kind of thing A-Rod needs to hear to lift his spirits after a three-strikeout night in Game 1.

And, while he doesn't have Girardi's Northwestern pedigree and major league career, Belzer isn't afraid to mix it up with professional athletes, of sorts, as he proved with Hulk Hogan in 1985.

By spring training, Girardi will be riffing sardonic one-liners with Captain Jeter and Jorge Posada(notes) like he was at brunch with Paul Reiser and Pauly Shore. Yankees camp will be zanier than a ... Zanies.

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