Jorge Posada was originally in the Yankees’ lineup for Saturday night’s game against the Red Sox. He was dropped to ninth in the order. Ken Rosenthal said during a 4th inning report on the FOX telecast that Posada was fine with this. “Posada said, ‘I put myself in this spot,’” Rosenthal said.
Apparently, he wasn’t fine. Seventy minutes before first pitch, Posada went into Joe Girardi’s office. There was an impromptu meeting. Words were exchanged between player and manager. Former teammates. The last two men to hold the everyday catching job prior to this season. After their meeting, Posada was removed from the lineup in favor of Andruw Jones.
And so it was that modern methods of information distribution took over.
“At 6 pm, Posada went to Girardi’s office and ‘asked to be removed’ from the DH slot batting ninth tonight. There is no injury.” … So read the initial tweet from YES’s Kim Jones.
Bob Klapisch had an incredible string: “Posada clearly miffed at batting ninth, against Red Sox, on national TV. No doubt angered Girardi singling him out over Tex and A-Rod.”
“Constant, underlying tension between Posada and Girardi finally boiled over …” Wait, what?!? This is getting good.
“Posada initially put blame on himself for lineup change, then took it out on Girardi. No justification for what he did.”
From Ken Davidoff: “For those who ask why Posada got dropped while Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira spared: Posada is more disposable than those guys.”
And there may be something to that. Jeter won’t be dropped in the lineup. Not now. Not when he’s suddenly figured it out at the plate and has his average up to .267 thanks to 14 hits in his last 10 games. Two weeks ago, he was the guy the Yankees needed to drop in the order. He was the guy who was done.
Now, it’s Posada. Such is life for the 39-year-old, who at .165/.272/.349, is officially the offensive scapegoat on a Yankees team that despite leading the American League in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, entered Saturday’s action with a team batting average of .252, .236 with runners in scoring position, and its best hitter at .285. 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. He’s been open about his struggles to stay mentally focused.
Jason Giambi used to say the same thing when he discussed his troubles hitting as a DH versus his success at the plate when was in the lineup as the first baseman. He’d discuss how it was easier for him to be in the moment; being in the field helped him take his mind off bad at-bats. He wasn’t looking for something to do between at-bats. He didn’t gripe when Joe Torre would drop him in the lineup, usually to 6th or 7th, in an effort to “hide” him. He knew it was a message.
Sherman tweeted that the best comparison he could make to the events that took place Saturday was July 1, 2004, when Nomar Garciaparra refused to suit up for the Red Sox in the epic extra-inning game at Yankee Stadium when Jeter famously tumbled into the stands snagging a Trot Nixon foul pop. He was traded a few weeks later. Word is that the Yankees, if Posada chooses not to play tomorrow, could investigate terminating Posada’s contract.
There was a ton of speculation, ranging from Posada being ready to announce his retirement, to Laura Posada saying the situation was injury-related (“back stiffness”). Jack Curry spoke to Posada’s father, who confirmed that his son was not retiring. Jorge Posada, Sr, said that his son should have played. Cashman, during that FOX interview, said he didn’t know what Posada’s future was, and didn’t want to comment on anything beyond the events of the 6 pm meeting beyond the fact that Posada’s removal from the lineup was not injury related.
We were, and are, left with a series of contradictions. From a baseball perspective, something had to be done, though. Posada was the subject of much talk on WFAN earlier today. During Evan Roberts’ midday show, several callers chimed in saying either, “Take him out of the lineup,” “Move him down in the lineup, because something has to be done eventually,” or “Why not put him behind the plate, have him catch a few games to see if that gets his head right?” Do anything to get him on track to help instill some confidence, which could cause a trickle-down effect in the lineup.
Roberts said, “When is eventually? May 15th? I think you have to give it until July.” We now know “eventually” was May 14th.
The postgame pressers were illuminating: Some highlights from Posada: He saw a chiropractor, said he had back stiffness from taking ground balls at first base and “used that as an excuse to not play.” He went into the manager’s office and said he needed a mental health day. Kim Jones pointedly asked if he was weighing a bigger decision, and he said, “No. I still want to be here. And I love playing for this organization.” KEY: Posada didn’t tell Girardi or Cashman about his back. When a reporter informed Posada that Cashman, during the game, said the situation was “not injury related,” Posada said, “I didn’t know he made a statement during the game. I don’t understand that. That’s the way he works now.”
Girardi’s postgame press conference: Only two questions pertained to the game. Everything else was about Posada. The manager said the conversation was short, and that Posada told him “he needed a day.” He acknowledged Posada’s frustration at batting in the .100s, and how much of a struggle this season has been for him. He said that the situation was one that “we (the organization) would take care of.”
It wasn’t a good night for Girardi, aside from the Posada stuff. He was ejected in the 7th inning after arguing balls and strikes. His team lost its fourth straight game, this one by shutout, and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Teixeira got just his first hit in 31 at-bats versus the Red Sox. Are we at rock bottom?
Will Posada be in the lineup for the series finale? Posada is 0-for-24 against LHP this season, and the Red Sox are sending Jon Lester to the mound. This could be another mental health day for Posada, who thinks he could play.
The “he said / he said / he said” will likely continue. Especially since Cashman spoke with reporters post-game, which led to the following quotes being tweeted by Davidoff:
“It’s disappointing. Georgie knew what I was going to say (during the game), as did his agents. … It’s a situation created by Georgie and it can be explained only by Georgie.”
Perhaps the most poignant message of the night came from Joel Sherman, via Twitter: “Hardest thing to do in management is handle fading stars as #Yankees finding out with Posada. Ego, history, fan loyalty etc complicates.”
The Yankees don’t need this right now, but unfortunately, that’s where we are. And they don’t need David Ortiz telling reporters that they’re doing Posada wrong. They need their pitchers to pitch better, their hitters, whether or not Posada is in the lineup, to start producing runs in clutch situations, all of which will lead to … duh, winning.
Won’t that solve all this b.s.?
For all the hand-wringing regarding Derek “4-3ter” Jeter, the Yanks are getting even less out of their DH, mainly in the form of Jorge Posada.
Posada’s current .152/.257/.354 line in 113 plate appearances is ugly enough. Of the 173 players who have amassed at least that many plate appearances this season, Posada ranks dead last in batting average (Kelly Johnson is next in line, at a comparatively gaudy .175), tenth-lowest in OBP (though still higher than the $142 million man Carl Crawford’s .250), and 118th-best in slugging (between Michael Cuddyer and the recently-exiled Milton Bradley).
If we consider only DHs, Posada fares no better. Of the DHs with 75 or more plate appearances, Posada is last (out of 13) in BA, next-to-last in OBP (ahead of only Magglio Ordonez) and fifth-worst in slugging. And its not like its all about age, as 4 other DHs are 37 years old.
We all know that offense is down again in 2011, and DHs are not immune to this, as they’ve hit a composite .257/.339/.394 so far. But the question remains, could someone (anyone) provide more offense for a role that is ONLY about offense?
We know the Jeter slippery slope towards (and below) mediocrity still has a while to play out. The Yanks have no better internal option in the near-term. But what about Posada? The Yanks owe him nothing after this season, and swallowing the remainder of his 2011 salary (roughly another $11 million) would certainly sting a bit, even for the Steinbrenners. But the Yanks do have a viable DH option down in Triple A, and we all know Jesus Montero’s value is heavily tilted towards his bat.
Looking forward towards the July 31 trade deadline, promoting Montero to full-time DH now would allow for roughly 70 games/280 at-bats to showcase what he can do at the major league level. Assuming the Yanks will throw enough money at Russell Martin to bring him back for 2012 (when he’ll still be only 29), Montero can be safely dealt for whatever needs the Yanks may have at that time (starting pitching most likely, and middle infield help better than Pena and Nunez).
Or . . . the Yanks could hold onto Montero through the end of the year (presuming he’s putting up a 800+ OPS), and then value the free agent market before involving him in a deal.
Rob Neyer wonders the same wonder as I do, and comes down on the status quo side:
. . . nearly all of Montero’s value as a hitter this season is due to his batting average … and batting average is highly subject to luck. Which isn’t to say Montero’s not a high-average hitter; he’s got a .315 career batting average in the minors. But he might not really be a .337 hitter in Class AAA, and he might not be a .300 hitter in the American League. And given the paucity of walks and power, if he’s not hitting .300 he’s not creating many runs. Not yet, anyway.
That said, I do not think the timing is a real issue. Since when do the Yankees care about someone’s “Super 2″ status? Plus, the rules regarding such things might well be different after this season, since they’re a part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that expires soon. What the Yankees probably do care about is Montero’s development. Do they want a 21-year-old catcher serving as their primary DH? Alternatively, do they want their primary catcher learning on the job, while Russell Martin or someone else is DHing?
No, probably not.
The Yankees have a lot of parts that could use some fixin’. The team has decided to focus on the starting rotation despite the many young starting pitching prospects working their way up through the organization. Last week, I largely focused on first base, where the Yankees have a big hole and the free agent market offers the perfect player to fill it. During the 2008 season, two major areas of concern were second base and catcher, but the Yankees have very talented players signed to long-term contracts at each of those positions, both of which are very shallow in terms of the talent available league-wide. Third base is not broken, nor, for the moment is shortstop or the bullpen, but the Yankees’ outfield and designated hitter situation very much is.
Here are the players who started for the Yankees at the three outfield positions and DH last year:
*adjusted for position
Center field was a disaster, the aggregate numbers at the position having been inflated slightly by Johnny Damon’s .294/.378/.529 line in 33 starts there. With Damon helping out in center and DH, the team’s performance in left field dipped below average. Designated hitter was also buoyed by Damon, but even moreso by the outstanding work of Jason Giambi, who has since departed as a free agent, as well as seven strong starts from Alex Rodriguez (.333/.414/.625). Meanwhile, Bobby Abreu, who started all but ten games in right field and kept that position in the black, has also headed off to find perhaps his final fortune as a free agent, leaving right field in the hands of Xavier Nady, whose .268/.320/.474 line as a Yankee was a far more accurate representation of his abilities than the .330/.383/.535 he hit in Pittsburgh over the first four months of the season. Last year, the average right fielder hit .276/.347/.451. Nady’s career line is .280/.335/.458, and he’s a sub-par defender.
Here are the Yankees’ other in-house options in the outfield:
*on Opening Day 2009
The problem with this list is that the Yankees’ best outfielder (setting aside the career year Nady won’t repeat) is their oldest, while their youngest (from among those with major league experience) is their worst. As it stands now, the Yankees have a giant hole in center field, a rapidly aging DH coming off knee surgery who is no longer viable in the field (Matsui), an average-at-best right fielder, and a 35-year-old Johnny Damon in left with little on the way other than Austin Jackson, who just hit .246/.298/.377 in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League and has yet to play above Double-A.