"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky: Hip Hip … Hey!

Jorge Posada was benched in Boston Sunday night. The motion led to speculation about Posada’s future; Monday it was confirmed. The benching wasn’t a one-off. It’s indefinite.

Jorge Posada, NYY, 1995-2011?

The media are treating the news as if it’s Posada’s baseball obituary. It very well may be. Joel Sherman wrote that if he were not Jorge Posada “he would be treated like Jack Cust and Lyle Overbay.” Wally Matthews echoed that sentiment, writing that “the Yankees stuck with him far longer than they probably would have had his name been something other than Jorge Posada, simply out of respect for his legacy with the team.” In that same article, Matthews noted how the incident in May affected his relationship with his teammates. Girardi, if you remember, slotted the struggling Posada ninth in the order — also, coincidentally, in a series against the Red Sox — and Posada later pulled himself from the game with a bruised ego. At the Pinstriped Bible, friend to the Banter Steven Goldman writes that if the Yankees are strong in their conviction that he can’t help them win, then they should just let him move on.

Dave Rothenberg, filling in for Stephen A. Smith on 1050, said he still believes Posada has something left. Maybe he does, but the Yankees gave him four months to work it out, to adjust to being a designated hitter. They weren’t going to do what the Red Sox are doing with Jason Varitek — giving him one or two days behind the plate per week and figuring whatever offense he contributes is gravy. The Yankees knew they couldn’t sustain the defensive liability having him catch even one game would bring. The next best option: DH. In that, the Yankees sought the same — or at least similar — level of production he provided last year or in 2009. But it wasn’t there. I discussed the toll not being an everyday catcher has taken on Posada’s pride in May:

Posada has looked lost. A player suffering through an identity crisis. Having had to make an abrupt switch from catching 130 games a year to being the team’s full-time designated hitter, Posada has not adjusted well.

And he never did adjust. At least, not fully. Posada was able to get his average up to .230 before Girardi called him into his office to tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he’s done. Give Girardi credit: he didn’t continue to dangle Posada out there out of loyalty in the way that Joe Torre used to with Bernie Williams when his defense was declining as early as 2002. And they’re not ignoring Posada the way they did Williams in the 2006-2007 offseason. Girardi was not afraid to have the tough conversation. That’s the sign of a good manager. His job is to win game; if he doesn’t believe Posada gives him a good enough chance to win, then he shouldn’t be in the lineup. (Random aside: let’s see if Girardi does this with AJ Burnett in six weeks. Just sayin’ …) With all the undertones of their relationship as teammates when Girardi was the aging veteran and Posada the up-and-comer, of course this situation was bound to be a soap opera at some point.

Posada was the last person to realize that his skills were diminished. He wasn’t lucky enough to enjoy a renaissance in the way that his best friend, Derek Jeter, has in the past month. The anger and — depending on your perception, petulance — of Posada’s tone in May has turned to resignation.

Posada was a good soldier for a long time. Now, being a good soldier means being a disgruntled cheerleader. That is, until, or unless, the Yankees let him work his way back into the lineup.

[Photo Credit: N.J.com]

Categories:  1: Featured  Staff  Will Weiss  Yankee Panky  Yankees

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 9, 2011 8:42 am

Very well, put Will. At some point you have to recognize what the reality is. Posada is fortunate to still have a spot on the roster. Maybe he can come through with a big hit before it's all said and done. And if not, he should welcome Montero and bow out with some grace.

Also, agree re: A.J. If the playoffs started today, he doesn't have a spot. I think they've been more than fair with him, more than fair. Don't care what his salary is, he needs to earn his keep.

2 Dimelo   ~  Aug 9, 2011 9:04 am

I don't think Posada has been mistreated, I do think he was embarrassed back in May by Cashman but this time around it's being handled professionally. The organization has done absolutely nothing beyond the pale with Posada, they have showed him proper respect and now it's up to Jorge to see if he can be a good teammate and cheer his teammates on, as well as contribute when called upon.

I do think Jorge can help the team still, just not on an everyday basis. More like 5 - 10 at-bats/week.

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 9, 2011 10:02 am

If Posada gets upset, he should remember that he was the one who insisted on this last, 4th year on his current contract. Good for him, since he is making way more than he wouldhave if he was a free agent after last year, but with that comes an organizational responsibility to keep winning despite bad contracts.

4 William J.   ~  Aug 9, 2011 10:23 am

Excellent point about Burnett, but unfortunately, Hughes hasn't really forced the Yankees' hands.

As for Jorge, the Yankees don't owe him playing time, but they do owe him a roster spot. If the team can find room for the likes of Sergio Mitre, surely it can abide one of the best players in franchise history for an extra month.

5 RagingTartabull   ~  Aug 9, 2011 10:32 am

I think at this point all but the biggest Girardi/Cashman hater would have to admit that the team has done right by Posada. Anyone else would have been DFA'd long before we hit August. I'm totally fine with him being in the dugout the last 2 months of the season, he's earned that much. I think the next question is, do you put him on a playoff roster as a pinch hitter?

6 ms october   ~  Aug 9, 2011 10:47 am

i think both the yankees and po have said the right things to the media about the benching.

i don't think he gets a playoff spot. who would he pinch hit for?

7 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 9, 2011 10:51 am

[1] Good point re: Burnett and his salary. I keep thinking of how Joe Torre handled the first base situation in 2006, when Gary Sheffield came back from the DL, and with Giambi such a liability over there, Torre felt compelled to plug Sheffield in at 1B. That whole roster situation was a cluster. It was a tremendous Catch-22. Girardi has 6 weeks to evaluate what he'll do, with Posada, Burnett, everyone. Seems to me that only 22 people are locks to be on the postseason roster.

8 monkeypants   ~  Aug 9, 2011 12:17 pm

[4] Agreed. Moreover, the team has decided to go with 13 pitchers and carry the execrable Frankie Cervelli. If they can find a roster spot for Brains and pitcher #13, then they have room for Posada.

FWIW, I still think that Posada's poor defense has been overstressed.If he were hitting well enough to hold down the DH spot, then the team could have absorbed his bad defense a couple days a week and not had to carry Cervelli. As it turns out Posada has not hit well enough to warrant starting at DH or to overcome his defense.

9 monkeypants   ~  Aug 9, 2011 12:20 pm

[6] In the playoffs teams sensibly carry at least one less pitcher. An 11 man staff means 14 position players/DH, or nine starters and five bench spots. What five bench players will make the roster over Posada? Jones, Chavez (if not injured), Cervelli (I feel a little sick),...maybe an extra speed guy, and.....

10 monkeypants   ~  Aug 9, 2011 12:21 pm

One last thing, with now a *starting* DH platoon of the ghosts of Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez, what possible justification is there for not calling up Montero?

11 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 9, 2011 12:48 pm

[8] Some significant part of Posada not catching is concern over his health and the very real, very significant potential complications from another concussion. We can argue about what part of the decision not to catch Posada was that concern and which portion was concern over his declining defense, but my own opinion is that given the fact that they lived with Posada's defense last year, if they didn't legitimately have the concern over Posada's future health, they would have been fine with having Posada catch a few days a week and DH the rest.

12 William J.   ~  Aug 9, 2011 1:09 pm

[11] I am not so sure the Yankees are too concerned about Posada's health. After all, Cashman strongly implied that the only reason he is no longer a catching option is because Posada decided that he wanted to spend all of ST preparing to be a DH, and, as a result, is not prepared to catch.

13 ms october   ~  Aug 9, 2011 1:13 pm

[9] assuming arod is back and at 3rd and chavez gets the bulk of the dh bats, the bench would be:

nunez, jones, cervelli

extra speed guy/lidr for swisher=dickerson

so the last spot would probably be posada.

14 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 9, 2011 1:29 pm

[12] Link?

Because the Yankees were very clear in ST that the move was driven by health concerns and Posada echoed that.

15 monkeypants   ~  Aug 9, 2011 2:06 pm

[12] I figured the health excuse was just a cover, but if it is the primary reason to have Po as DH...

[11] If the main---indeed overwhelming---reason that Posada is DH is because of concerns for his health, then much of Will's narrative [0] crumbles.

16 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 9, 2011 2:26 pm

[15] He suffered a lingering concussion after taking a foul tip to the mask last year. The Yankees ran the standard battery of post-concussion neurological tests and Posada did *very* poorly on them and the post-concussive effects lingered as well. Posada admitted to being scared by how it affected him.

Considering that every concussion makes the next concussion more likely as well as potentially more damaging and considering how often catchers take foul balls off the mask (I've seen Martin take 3-4 a night a couple of times), let alone the possibility of taking a bat to the head on a follow through, I think the Yankees have really done the right thing by not even considering playing Posada behind the plate.

17 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 9, 2011 2:40 pm

[14] Never mind, found it.

George King, 6/15/2011.

When Jorge Posada complained of headaches during spring training, the Yankees sent him for tests that led to him taking medication and put an end to him being a catcher -- even if the club and former catcher disagree on what impact concussions had on his discomfort.

"In spring training he did some work. He had some headaches that were going on in the spring," general manager Brian Cashman said yesterday on WFAN. "When we talked to him about [Francisco] Cervelli when Cervelli went down and said, 'Hey man, we've got to get you going,' he chose not to because he said the headaches were bothering him from the previous year's concussion. He just wanted to focus on DH. That's when we brought in [Gustavo] Molina."

Posada agreed the headaches were an issue, but not the reason he didn't do anything more than participate in catching drills and catch bullpen sessions after his surgically repaired knee healed. Posada suffered a concussion last September and sat out three games.

Did the headaches, which come and go to this day, force Posada to tell the Yankees he wouldn't catch?

"I did have headaches in spring and I still have headaches, but that's not the reason why they made the decision of me not catching," Posada said.

And here's Bob Klapisch from 2/17/2011

Still, if Posada is honest with himself, he’ll realize DH’ing is neither a promotion nor or demotion, but a gift from the Yankees. They’re worried about Posada’s health after suffering two possible concussions from foul tips last year.

Tough talk aside, the 39-year-old admits he’s concerned, too.

“I have to think about my kids. I want to enjoy growing old,” he said. “I don’t want to be sick.”

As the sports world’s awareness of concussions grows, the Yankees’ medical staff is keeping closer tabs on Posada. Scouts say his reaction time, particularly on defense, has slowed in the last two to three seasons, although that may be due, in part, to his advancing age. But Posada was almost knocked out by a foul tip in a Sept. 7 game against the Orioles, returning to the dugout feeling disoriented and dizzy.

“I remember telling [former pitching coach] Dave Eiland, ‘Something’s wrong with me, I just don’t feel right,’” Posada said. “I felt like I was about to throw up, I was dizzy, everything felt weird. The next day I was still having headaches. It was scary, I have to admit.”

Although a CAT scan revealed no bleeding in the brain, the Yankees nevertheless had Posada undergo a comprehensive memory test. The computerized program, called ImPACT, was designed at the University of Pittsburgh concussion center. It runs for 15-18 minutes, measuring attention, memory, processing speed and reaction time.

Some NHL and NFL football teams use ImPACT, but it’s universally employed in the big leagues, including umpires. Players are tested in spring training for baseline readings, then tested again after any incident that might involve a head injury – a collision at home plate, for instance, or crashing into an outfield wall, or in Posada’s case, a direct hit from a foul tip.

Posada said the test results were “not good” after the September incident. In fact, his results were subpar in two of the three tests he took in 2010. Does this mean Posada is at risk for brain damage? No one knows for sure, but the data is troubling.

Recent studies, conducted mostly on football players, say chronic traumatic encephalopathy is the result of chronic head trauma, and can bring about dementia in people in their 40s and 50s.

Such news isn’t lost on Posada as he nears retirement. “It’s something I’m starting to worry about, it’s something we have to keep an eye on,” he said.

“At my age, there’s reason for concern, especially since we know so much more about concussions. It used to be, you just shake it off, and keep going. But there’s more to it than that.”


What, exactly, is it like? Wynegar said, “The ones that get you straight-on in the jaw, it feels like your jaw isn’t even there anymore.”

“It’s like a knockout punch,” said Posada. “You get a blow to the head like that, for a second, you’re not there.”

No one is more sympathetic to a catcher’s plight than Joe Girardi, who caught 10,061 innings in his 15-year career. Like Wynegar, the Yankee manager doesn’t believe he suffered any concussions, but believes that was due, in part, to good luck.

Researchers say the key to protecting oneself is not getting that first concussion. Once that threshold has been crossed, the brain is more susceptible to the biochemical changes that account for dizziness and nausea in the short term, and possibly dementia down the road.

That’s one reason Girardi has told Posada to forget about catching in 2011: There’s no need to expose him to any further risk.

“I worry about the health of all my players, obviously, but in Jorge’s case, I’m concerned, yes,” Girardi said.

“It got to the point last year where, every time Jorge took a foul tip in the mask, I winced.”

Note the date of the 1st article, over a week before Cervelli went down in Spring Training, which frankly, doesn't put Cashman's version of the story in a favorable light.

In fact, it makes Cashman's story seem like a bullshit attempt to throw Posada under the bus.

18 monkeypants   ~  Aug 9, 2011 3:15 pm

[16] OK, let us assume that after effects of concussions was why the Yankees decided to DH Posada. Then, as I wrote, much of Will's article basically crumbles. The entire discussion of the Yankees not willing to accept his defensive liability even one game a week becomes a red herring.

19 ms october   ~  Aug 9, 2011 3:25 pm

[17] thanks for getting those articles.
i remember the klapish one but don't think i had seen the king article.
*i* think the concussions are a serious issue for po and am glad for his sake he was not exposed to further risk.
but i am not sure at this point whether the yankees didn't have him catch because of the concussions or because as many of the tabloids reported girardi cannot stand him behind the plate.

20 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 9, 2011 3:41 pm

[18] How does much of Will's article crumble? He barely mentioned his defense. Simply swap out "couldn’t sustain the defensive liability" for "couldn't risk the possibility of further head injury" and his article is exactly the same.

21 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 9, 2011 3:54 pm

I think the Yankees (probably led by Girardi), didn't want Posada behind the plate and the concussion issue gave them the cover to remove Posada from the catching rotation entirely. I don't think they manufactured the injury concern out of nothing.

That being said, I don't know how the situation would have worked out if Posada was projected as the incumbent starter without defensive concerns. I would hope that the Yankees would have done the right thing and moved Posada from behind the plate completely (as they did here), but I just don't know. Personally, I think concussions one of the scariest injuries that a baseball player can suffer, since they can not only end a career, but severely affect a player's post-playing health and teams have an absolute obligation to err on the side of caution.

22 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 9, 2011 4:05 pm

There's also the possibility that Posada's struggles this year at the plate were never about whether or not he was catching, but rather, a result of him never quite recovering from the concussion he suffered last year.

He *did* only manage to hit .149/.286/.234 in the 17 (regular season) games he played after returning from the concussion.

23 monkeypants   ~  Aug 9, 2011 4:23 pm

[20] I'm not so sure it would be identical. The article presents the DH position as the natural transition for--indeed, even a sort of compromise on the part of the team to---a player who simply could not longer play his position because his defensive ability had degraded. But the aging player couldn't make the transition, the old dog couldn't learn new tricks. In fact, the old dog was (sadly, like so many aging athletes) the last to recognize his own diminishing skills.

But the thrust of this narrative pretty much goes away if we accept that the real reason Posada was moved to DH was because of fear of injury. Then the story changes: the Yankees did not see an aging player with diminishing skills, and the move to DH as a gesture or compromise. But rather they saw him as a valuable commodity that needed to be protected, and was expected to produce at a high level. In this narrative, Posada's benching is not the sad but inevitable end that everyone except Po saw coming. Instead, his drop off in production is a surprise to everyone. Moreover, the narrative would imply perhaps that the concussions are at the root of his decline, not the inability of an old soldier to transition.

So, yeah, I think that the tenor of the narrative changes completely if the assumed reason for moving Posada to DH changes.

24 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 9, 2011 5:41 pm

[23] will's piece is mostly reviewing the reactions in the media, of the manager and of the player to the benching/end of the line.

his failure at DH is what's important to this piece, not the reason he was made a DH in the first place.

also, he wasn't made a DH because he was bad at catching. or had a concussion. or was 39 in the last year of his contract. he was made DH for all of those reasons combined.

Will would have written a different story if coaches, player or medical staff said posada could no longer hit because of the concussions. But as far as I know, not one person connected with the Yankees has blamed his injury for his failure at DH.

25 Marek   ~  Aug 9, 2011 7:04 pm

[11] I agree.

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