While Bernie Williams will have to scrap to keep his lifetime average over .300, Jorge Posada must contend with the growing perception that he is on the decline. Posada obviously prefers to look at his 2005 season simply as an off-year, but at 34, it is not unreasonable to be concerned. Anthony McCarron reports:
Two major-league scouts who have watched Posada regularly both say his bat speed seems to have dipped. “He used to be able to turn on anybody’s fastball, but he has to cheat sometimes now,” says one.
“I think he’s somewhat diminished skill-wise, which is natural, because he’s been catching so long,” the scout adds. “He’s still a good clutch performer. He was an elite guy for a long time. He’s no longer elite, but he’s above average. You could ask the 30 clubs in baseball and most would rather have Posada than the guy they do have. But it’s no longer all of them.
That sounds about right. Though Posada, a converted infielder, got a late start as a catcher, all these years playing in October would seem to even things out. Not only that:
[Yankee manager, Joe] Torre and [Fox anaylst, Tim] McCarver both note that Posada has much more to deal with when it comes to handling a pitching staff. The Yankees have cranked through starting pitchers with incredible frequency over Posada’s tenure – they have used 14 different starters this year alone – and he is charged with learning them all.
“It’s doubled his workload, at least,” McCarver says. “He’s trying to get to know these guys quickly. That didn’t happen 30 years ago. The decade that Jorge has had with the Yankees has been much harder, from a mental standpoint, than Bench with the Reds or (Carlton) Fisk with the Red Sox or White Sox.”
You never know when a player will start to fall off, or if their decline will be sudden or a long, slow fade to black. Hopefully for the Yankees, Posada still has some gas left in the tank.