"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Jorge Posada
Older posts           

S’Long Brother

Jorge Posada officially retired today.

Here’s video of Diane Munson from the YES Network:

Observations From Cooperstown: Posada, Pineda, and Pena

Jorge Posada still hasn’t made his decision official, but it’s become common knowledge that he has decided to retire rather than continue his career as a backup catcher in Tampa Bay, Baltimore, or Philadelphia. While I would never begrudge a player who wanted to prolong his career as much as possible, there is some artistic symmetry in Posada beginning and ending his playing days in the same place.

Posada represents the latest in a long line of great Yankee catchers, a succession that began with Bill Dickey before continuing with Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, and Thurman Munson. Dickey and Berra are members of the Hall of Fame, Howard and Munson are not, and Posada will become the focal point of what should be an interesting five-year debate over his worthiness for the Hall of Fame.

The comparison of Posada and Munson has long fascinated me. Based strictly on OPS (.848 to .756), one would conclude that Posada was the superior of the two. Posada certainly had more career value, thanks to luck and longevity. But using an eyeball approach–assuming you’re old enough to have seen both players–Munson was the better player, especially when you factor in the areas of fielding and baserunning.

As much as I like Munson, he just didn’t have the career longevity that is needed for a Hall of Fame player. I would also vote “no” on Posada’s entrance into Cooperstown, though I’m open to change my mind. The relatively late start to his career, along with his defensive deficiencies and baserunning misadventures, render him just short of my personal Hall of Fame line. But that should not be interpreted as some kind of insult. Any player who is even considered for the Hall of Fame is a player of achievement, a player of longevity, a player who is worthy of praise and appreciation. Posada’s offensive excellence—encompassing his ability to hit with power, draw walks, and do damage from both sides of the plate–made him a modern day version of Ted Simmons.

And let’s not forget that early in his career, Posada was a respectable receiver who generally developed good rapport with his pitchers. For every A.J. Burnett, there have been dozens of pitchers who came to trust and rely on Posada’s enthusiasm, passion, and leadership abilities. By all accounts, Posada has been a good and well-liked teammate who has blended well with the vast array of personalities the Yankees have had over the last 15 years.

Posada’s career path is rather remarkable given its origins. It’s worth noting that he was not a highly touted player when first signed by the Yankees. He was a 24th round selection in 1990. He started his professional career as a second baseman with the Oneonta Yankees, a short-season Class-A franchise in the NY-Penn League, before someone in the organization had the foresight to convert him to catcher. When the Yankees first brought him to the major leagues, they often used him as a pinch-runner. It’s almost as if the Posada of the 1990s was someone else, some alien life form who possessed the powers of self-transformation. I guess his makeover is proof that players are adaptable, than they can evolve, and that a longshot can become a success in the game of major league baseball.

Farewell, Jorge. Next stop, Old-Timers Day. I think you’ll be pretty popular that day.

***

I think I’ve been as big a booster of Jesus Montero as anyone who writes for The Banter, so you might expect that I’d be unhappy with the trade that sent him and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos. Granted, I’m a little disappointed that I won’t have the opportunity to see Montero play every day in pinstripes, primarily because I think he is going to be a star hitter, the kind of player who will hit .300, slug .500, and carry a team’s offense for days at a time.

As much as I like Montero, I love the trade. Scouts praise Pineda the way I rave about Montero. At six-feet, seven inches and 260 pounds, he’s been described as a “monster,” even as a “leviathan,” which may be the first time I’ve heard that word used to refer to a ballplayer. (He looks like a bigger version of Lee Smith, if such a thing is possible.) With his 95 to 98 mile-an-hour fastball and bone snapping slider, Pineda makes mitts pops and heads turn.

If Pineda duplicates the way he pitched for the Mariners, particularly over the first half of the season, the Yankees have a perfectly formidable No. 2 starter. If he adds a third pitch to his repertoire and pitches to a reachable higher level, he becomes a full-fledged No. 1 starter, someone who can eventually wrestle with CC Sabathia for the mythical top spot of the Yankee rotation.

As a bonus, the trade with the Mariners also netted Campos, whom some scouts project to be better than Pineda. With his smooth delivery and live fastball, the 19-year

-old right-hander will start the season at Single-A ball, but could move up to Double-A by midsummer.

While the Yankees often deal prospects for established veterans, they don’t often make trades where they deal young talent for young talent. In fact, I can’t remember Cashman making this sort of transaction in the past. This deal reminds me of the 1978 trade in which the Yankees traded Mike Heath, a highly touted young catcher, to the Rangers for a power-throwing left-hander named Dave Righetti. (The deal also included a longtime veteran in Sparky Lyle, but Heath and the three other prospects going to Texas were really the keys to the trade.) Righetti became a serviceable starter before Yogi Berra made the controversial and still-debated decision to move “Rags” to the bullpen, where he had some level of success but never became a dominant closer.

I think Pineda will turn out to be a better pitcher than Righetti. He’ll need to stay healthy, and have some luck along the way, but I think his chances of success are pretty good. With Pineda and the bonus addition of free agent Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees now have their deepest rotation since the days of Clemens, Pettitte, Mussina and Wells…

***

As with any trade, the Pineda deal leads to the inevitable question: what is the next move? The subtraction of Montero leaves the Yankees without a DH. Joe Girardi has said he wants to rotate some of his resting veterans into the DH slot, but that’s not a fulltime proposition that can be sustained through 162 games. There will be plenty of days when the Yankees will want–make that, need–a proper DH who can put up some raw numbers. Two free agent candidates appear to be at the top of the list. They are Johnny Damon and Carlos Pena.

I’d be fine with either one on a reasonable one-year contract, but my preference would be Pena. At 33, he’s five years younger than Damon, outslugged him by 44 points in 2011, and has a history of launching long balls at Yankee Stadium. With 28 home runs and 101 walks for the Cubs in 2011, Pena fits the Yankee offensive blueprint to a tee.

Pena can no longer hit for much of an average, and he must be platooned, because he’s become like Oscar Gamble against left-handed pitching. The Yankees have a solution for that in the re-signed Andruw Jones, whose prowess against left-handed pitching has been well documented. A Jones/Pena platoon would be an ideal fit for the seventh position in the Yankee batting order.

On the other hand, Damon still has something to offer. He can hit the long ball (16 home runs) and can still steal a base (19 stolen bases in 2011). He would bring more of a contract presence to the lineup, an ingredient that was sometimes missing in 2011. And we know that Damon would have no trouble fitting into the clubhouse dynamic or dealing with the New York City press.

Damon or Pena, which is your choice?

[Photo Credit: Seattle Mariners Musings]

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times and can be found from time to time on Facebook.

No Funny Stuff

Our man Cliff has a piece up at SI.com about Jorge Posada’s chances at making the Hall of Fame:

He was the funny-looking one. The last to join the quartet, he had a big nose, a weak chin, a penchant for rings and worked sitting down. His contributions to arguably the greatest ensemble in his field have always been overlooked. Yet, even moreso than his Beatles analog, Ringo Starr, Jorge Posada was an equal partner in baseball’s fab four, the quartet of Yankees teammates who debuted in 1995 and won seven pennants and five World Series together (though Posada, who played in just eight major league games in 1996, sat out the first of those).

That Posada is so comparable to Ringo, “the funny one,” who wrote just two Beatles songs and two of the worst at that, helps explain why he has had such a hard time being taken seriously as an all-time great at his position. However, news of his impending retirement, first reported by WFAN beat reporter Sweeny Murti last weekend, gives us a much-needed occasion to revisit Posada’s significance in baseball history. It’s fitting that the news about Posada arrived just days before the announcement of this year’s Hall of Fame class, as a case can be made that Posada is worthy of enshrinement, and it has nothing to do with his having kept time with sure-fire first-ballot inductees Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera or fellow borderline case Andy Pettitte, his Core Four brethren.

So So Def

Tom Verducci and Rob Neyer write about how underrated Jorge Posada was during his career.

Oh, You’re a Good One

According to a report by our pal Sweeny Murti, Jorge Posada will announce his retirement in a few weeks.

The old bastard will be missed.

He was one great Yankee.

 

As Expected…

Last night, Jorge Posada told reporters: “I don’t think there’s even a percentage of a chance that I can come back,” Posada said. “It’s not going to happen.”

Mark Feinsand has the story.

We’ve talked about Posada’s fine Yankee career a lot this year. Tomorrow, William J will weigh-in on Posada’s case for the Hall of Fame.

Second to None

Can We Talk?


Joe Posnanski on the AL MVP race:

Right now, I firmly believe the best player in the American League is Jose Bautista. And, right now, he’s my MVP. There are plenty of good candidates who can catch him — and most of them are on teams in contention. The Red Sox have Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, both are having great years. One of my favorite players in the game, Curtis Granderson, is having a marvelous season for the Yankees. Ben Zobrist, one more time, is having the best year nobody’s noticing. Miguel Cabrera continues to slug. It’s difficult to compare pitchers and hitters, but Justin Verlander has been almost unhittable — at time actually unhittable — and others like C.C. Sabathia and the Angels pair of Dan Haren and Jered Weaver are pitching extremely well.

But, for me, it’s Bautista by two or three lengths heading into the home stretch. Somebody has to catch him. And, no offense to the quality of leadership or hustle or RBIs or wins or any other sort of unnoticed value, but they’re going to have to catch him with production I can see.

Agreed. Be interesting if Verlander makes a push, though.

And over at Grantland, here’s Jonah Keri on Montero vs. Posada:

The Montero Legend took a huge leap forward Monday night. Playing the remainder of a suspended game plus a full game in what amounted to a virtual doubleheader, the 21-year-old slugger exploded, going 5-for-8, blasting two homers, and knocking in seven runs. After a slow start, Montero’s up to .290/.349/.456 for the year. Although skeptics wonder whether he can handle the defensive rigors of catching in the big leagues, most believe he’ll be a great hitter.

… Posada has actually put together a half-decent season as a platoon guy (.249/.354/.453), after a disastrous start to the year. Despite Montero’s recent surge, Posada’s line against righties compares favorably with the kid’s overall numbers. The old man may not be quite dead yet.

So what to do? Montero’s tantalizing talent still has Yankees fans drooling to get a look at him — a chance they might get in September. If Montero succeeds, Posada might get left off the postseason roster, his days as a Yankee over for good. Whatever decision gets made, Yankees fans should hope it’s based on performance, not politics. You can get away with a sub-optimal roster when the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners are on the schedule. But in the postseason, you’d better bring your best 25 with you. Or else.

[Montero picture via Bronx Baseball Daily]

Hip to Be Square

He might not have much left but Jorge Posada made the most of his first start in a week today. In the second inning he hit a two-run single and in the fifth he hit a long grand slam home run as the Yanks beat-up on the Rays, 9-2. Phil Hughes pitched well, giving up a couple of runs on four hits over six innings, but it was Posada who gave the fans the big thrills. His buddy Derek Jeter was honored before the game–more 3,000 hit love–so it was lovely to see ol’ Jorge rip shit up.

One for the money, two for the show…a fun day in the Bronx.

Elsewhere, according to Brian Heyman:

Freddy Garcia cut a finger on his pitching hand four or five days ago in a kitchen accident, according to Joe Girardi, so he has been scratched from tomorrow’s start and the decision about who to cut from the rotation will now be delayed. A.J. Burnett will take the start tomorrow, weather permitting, because the forecast sounds bad.

/> value="always" /> value="tl" /> type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="never"
allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="305" scale="noscale" salign ="tl"
/>

[Photo Credit: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images]

Observations From Cooperstown: Po, Simmons, and Mo

Brian Kenny of ESPN Radio is one of the best sports talk show hosts when it comes to talking baseball. He knows the history of the game, but he also knows how to apply Sabermetric concepts in a meaningful and understandable way. So I was honored to have the opportunity to do a guest spot on the Wednesday night edition of his show. Right off the bat, Brian asked me about Jorge Posada and whether I felt he was worthy of election to the Hall of Fame. In trying to assess his case objectively, I looked at Posada’s career year by year and determined that he has put up about eight Hall of Fame seasons, based on OPS and fulltime playing status. That puts him roughly two to three seasons short of the call to Cooperstown. For those who prefer Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Posada has accumulated 44.7 of WAR for his career. That’s a respectable total, but well short of another contemporary catcher, Pudge Rodriguez, who stands at 67.2 for his career.

During the radio show, I compared Posada to Ted Simmons, another switch-hitting catcher, albeit from the decades of the 1970s and eighties. Simmons posted about ten Hall of Fame seasons, and did so in an era in which conditions were far less favorable for hitters. Simmons also had the advantage in WAR for his career, at 50.4. All things considered, Simmons’ ledger is probably sufficient to deserve entry to the Hall of Fame.

Right from the start, Simmons had a major advantage over Posada in that he arrived in the major leagues at a much earlier age. Simmons was 18 when he made his debut; Posada had to wait until he was 23. More importantly, Simmons established himself as a regular catcher by the age of 21, while Posada did not become the Yankees’ fulltime catcher until he was 27. That’s a six-year difference. So practically from Day One, Posada has had to play catch-up with his career. He did a terrific job right through last year, when he turned 39, before falling off a cliff in 2011. Barring some kind of late hitting surge this summer, Posada will likely be forced into retirement at season’s end, thereby preventing him from building up any further Hall of Fame value.

While I think that Posada is at least close to Cooperstown requirements (I mean, it wouldn’t be like putting Ron Hassey in the Hall of Fame), I suspect that the mainstream media will treat him less kindly in the Hall of Fame elections. Simmons received only three per cent of the vote in his first season on the ballot; in falling below the five per cent threshold, he fell off the ballot immediately, as the Hall of Fame rules dictate. And he hasn’t received much support from the new Veterans Committee either.

So if Simmons received such a small level of backing, Posada will likely struggle when his turn comes up for the first time in 2017. Yes, he’ll receive a boost from playing in New York and being such an important part of four world championship teams. But I don’t see him coming anywhere near the 75 per cent minimum needed for Hall of Fame selection. He’s more likely to fall somewhere in the 20 to 25 per cent range. That’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it won’t allow him to stand on the Hall of Fame stage next to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

Of course, none of this is pertinent to the Yankees in 2011. Posada is having his worst season, and has been so thoroughly unproductive that he has been demoted from his job as the primary DH. I believe that Joe Girardi is completely justified in making the move; if anything, Girardi gave him more games and at-bats than he deserved because of his status as one of the Yankee icons.

The demotion leaves Posada as a glorified pinch-hitter and backup first baseman, a pair of roles that will translate into little playing time. Given such insignificance, some have argued that the Yankees should just release Posada and replace him with a more versatile and useful player. Ordinarily, I would agree with such sentiment, but releasing Posada is one of those rare cases where the affect of team morale is potentially more damaging than any gain that comes from replacing him with a better bench player. In spite of his paltry power and inability to hit for average, Posada remains one of the team’s respected veterans. He is regarded highly enough by the majority of his teammates that his mere presence in the dugout and clubhouse can be justified–at least for the remainder of the regular season. Simply put, the Yankees don’t need the disruption that would occur with the unconditional release of their catcher-turned-DH.

I’m not usually one for sentimentality when it comes to the cold, hard facts of constructing the 25-man roster, but for the moment, the Yankees are playing it right with Jorge Posada…

***

Am I concerned about the recent struggles of Mariano Rivera, another of the Yankee icons? Not in the least. Yes, he had a bad week, but it has only comprised three games. The start of the slump coincided with an appearance against the Red Sox, who have historically had their way with the great closer. Rivera’s velocity remains very good; it’s just the movement of the cutter that has been subpar.

It seems to me that Rivera ran into a similar slump last year, but it ended quickly and was not a factor in the postseason. So let’s give Rivera a few more days before we decide that time has finally caught up with the Baron of the Bullpen.

I still don’t understand why Girardi did not give Rivera an extra inning on Sunday night against the Red Sox. Though he had coughed up a one-run lead, he needed only nine pitches to get through the inning. He could have easily started the tenth. Even a subpar Rivera is a better bet than Phil Hughes making his first relief appearance of the season, pitching in the frying pan of Fenway Park, and having to do so with no margin for error.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.

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]

It Ain’t Easy

The end, well, it usually ain’t pretty.

From Joel Sherman:

Girardi met with Posada to tell him he was “going with his best lineups,” which after all of these years meant ones without Posada.

…For now, the Yankees are holding off on summoning Jesus Montero. He is hot at Triple-A (.333 with seven extra-base hits in his past 13 games). However, there remains infighting among Yankees decision-makers if it is the wrong message to promote Montero when he has not dominated Triple-A and at times projects indifference about being there. Nevertheless, if the new DH structure does not work, Montero will be called up; yet another sign the Yankees are in a DH phase of anyone but Posada.

“I’m not happy about it,” Posada said. “But right now I can’t do anything about it.”

In reality, if he were not Jorge Posada he would be treated like Jack Cust and Lyle Overbay, two veterans with somewhat similar numbers to Posada who were released recently by the Mariners and Pirates, respectively. Instead, the Yankees will keep Posada on the 25-man roster in a nebulous role that could include pinch-hitting or an occasional DH start or maybe a game at first.

Bummer for Posada. Truth hurts.

[Photo Credit: Nisa Yeh]

Up Against It

Over at SI.com, our man Cliff takes a look at the Yankees’ aging roster:

The Yankees’ success over the last two decades was largely built around a core of home grown stars in Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, but it’s clear that the end is nigh for each of them. Williams and Pettitte are retired, Posada is 39 and batting just .179 in the last year of his contract, Jeter is hitting a career-worst .255 as he approaches his 37th birthday and Rivera, though still pitching brilliantly, is 41 years old.

The decline of those players has brought attention to the advancing age and cost of the Yankees roster, which currently boasts five players who are at least 34 and earning eight-digit salaries and two other players earning annual salaries north of $20 million signed through or beyond their 34th birthdays. Setting aside Posada, who will turn 40 in August and is in the final year of his four-year, $52.4 million deal, here is a look at the six players the Yankees have signed through their age-34 season or beyond.

[Photo Credit: Ralph Gibson via This Isn't Happiness]

Ain't No Sunshine When Yer Old

In November 2008, not long after Mike Mussina announced his retirement, I wrote a column about the concept of “dying at the right time.” In short, dying at the right time involves deciding to leave the game, or, “die” on your own terms. I commended Mussina for having the courage and self-awareness to know that after a 20-win season, ending his career was a better option than returning for another shot at a title, at age 40, with diminished stuff.

That column was written in the context of a well-thought, fully formulated decision that likely took weeks, maybe even months, to plan. Andy Pettitte weighed it several times and took a similar path after last season.

Longtime Banterer The Hawk had some great comments on the Mussina piece, including this one:

I appreciate tenacity, competitiveness and a never-say-die spirit in athletes far more than a sense of decorum or the good taste to retire without “embarrassing” themselves. I can’t say I believe this across the board but in general I love the guys who can’t let go, who’s desire to compete wins out over pride or legacy-building.

Do you love Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada now? Sure, their desire to compete — save for Saturday’s Posada drama — is unwavering, but do you want to continue watching them turn into Benjamin Button? We want to see the youthfulness and greatness demonstrated in the first 10-12 years of their careers, but the reality is that this season they are aging rapidly. We know it. They know it. They’re holding on. Barely.

Jeter gave us a glimmer of hope with his two-home-run effort in Texas. But watching him since then, even though he’s gotten hits and his march to 3,000 is going strong, he’s still hitting less than .260. His at-bats used to be filled with expectations of line drives to right field. Now the expectations are anemic groundballs to second base. Every out he makes is riddled with Tweets and jeers of “THREE MORE YEARS OF THIS!” We know. But who’s a better option? Eduardo Nuñez? We won’t touch the defensive range issue with Jeter.

Posada should have had the easiest route. He moved away from being the everyday catcher to designated hitter, but his pride, hubris, whatever, is preventing him from accepting the current role and producing. It’s not like Posada has forgotten how to hit; he still has a good eye and can draw a walk. He isn’t adjusting to seeing more sliders, and isn’t adjusting to channeling his entire focus into four or five individual at-bats.

Sometimes, the game lets you know when it’s your time. It did for Ken Griffey, Jr., last year. Jeter and Posada are on the brink.

Would you rather see them continue to try to recapture the magic of 3 or 5 years ago, at the risk of their efforts being a detriment to the team and their own legacies? Or would you rather see them accept their fates, recognize the end of their respective careers and act accordingly?

No Country For Old Men

The Yankees are a mediocre team right now and are dealing with the inevitable ugliness of their aging core. Jorge Posada is the first on the firing line, and Derek Jeter, who came to his friend’s defense, is next. Yesterday, team executives met with Jeter.

Tyler Kepner has a good piece on the latest behind-the-scenes business today in the Times:

The Yankees could have publicly ignored Jeter’s all-is-well stance on Sunday. But to do so would have let his words hang there as the official record of the Yankee captain’s stance on quitting. And if the captain were to condone a player bailing on his teammates and fans … well, then what?

…They were not afraid of further angering Posada, because they knew he was wrong — and, ultimately, he knew it, too. And they were not afraid of taking on Jeter, who clearly gave up his bulletproof status when he signed his new contract last off-season.

It was all to prove a point: that a player cannot quit on his team and expect the team to pretend everything is fine. It was a teaching moment for everybody, from aspiring young players to veterans like Posada and Jeter. Someone, it turns out, actually reads those hokey signs in spring training.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (and his name is Lester)

As expected, Jorge is not in the line-up tonight. He’s at the park and told reporters, “I just talked to Girardi, and I kind of apologized to him. Just had a bad day. Had a bad day yesterday. Reflecting on it and stuff, everything, all the frustration just came out.”

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Andruw Jones DH
Russell Martin C
Brett Gardner LF

Photo Credit: Keep Cool But Care…

Georgie Juiced One

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.?

The Ex-Catcher is Awry

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.

Opinions?

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

The Score Truck’s lights … are shining bright … *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* … Deep in the Heart of Texas.

The Score Truck indeed bypassed Detroit and showed up in Texas. The good: In the first two games of the Yankees’ series in Arlington, they nearly doubled their output of the entire four-game set against the Tigers (9-5). The bad: On Saturday night, the Rangers’ Score Truck showed up too.

Rangers light up Bartolo Colón to take a 5-0 lead, Yankees rally to tie, Boone Logan doesn’t do the job against lefties Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis; Texas scores go-ahead run on a suicide squeeze and tacks on another, and the relief combination of Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver, who have the combined age of Yoda, kill any hope of another Yankee comeback.

That’s the quick and dirty. Diving into the game a bit more, some observations:

* Colón isn’t the power pitcher he once was. He can still throw 90-plus, but relies more now on movement and changing speeds — on his fastball. Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina were masters at fastball variation. But some nights are better than others. When Mussina had nights like this, Joe him as being “wild in the strike zone.” David Cone hinted as much with Colón, when after David Murphy’s solo home run, he noted that the home run pitch had “too much movement” and ended up too far out over the plate. This allowed Murphy to get his arms extended and pull it into the seats.

* Derek Jeter can hit the ball out of the infield, and hit the ball hard. Small sample size, yes, but nice to know it can still happen.

* The Yankees had another efficient night in terms of run / hit differential. Five runs on six hits, compared to seven runs on 13 hits for the Rangers. For the season, Yankees opponents have outscored their opponents 158-127, but have been out out-hit 265-249.

* If Boone Logan can’t serve the LOOGY function, and Lance Pendleton isn’t an option, then something has to give. His performance in the 10-inning loss to Minnesota at Yankee Stadium on April 6, led ESPN New York’s Rob Parker to include him among the “Bad Yankees.” Left-handed relief was also an issue two years ago, when the Yankees won the World Series, with Phil Coke was a combination LOOGY/Mike Stanton type. Coke yielded 10 home runs, six of them to lefties.

The Logan piece is significant because he couldn’t do what Colón did effectively in the third inning: put up a zero after the offense did him a solid. David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain cleaned up the mess Logan left, but the damage had already been done.

* Courtesy of Wally Matthews: Russell Martin made six outs in his four at-bats.

* Jorge Posada is now hitless in his last 13 at-bats, with 5 strikeouts. Overall, the 7-8-9 hitters were 0-for-9 Saturday with two walks and three strikeouts. The issue: there isn’t a better DH option. Andruw Jones is hitting .226, Jeter isn’t hitting for any power to merit his placement as a DH, even periodically. The Yankees will likely ride this out for as long as it takes and hope their big bats can come out of their funk.

As starting pitching goes, so goes the Yankees. Mr. Ace Man goes tomorrow. A 3-4 record on this road trip looks better than 2-5. It’d be nice to come back home still in first place. No better guy to have on the mound to give it a go.

Father Time…Marches On

Jorge Posada is swinging the bat better from the left-hand side of the plate this week (although he is hitless from the right side this season). He thanked manager Joe Girardi for sticking with him. The Post has the story. Posada has already been relieved of his position as catcher and I could see him unceremoniously benched in favor of Jesus Montero come the middle of the summer if he doesn’t start hitting.

Derek Jeter is another case entirely. I just got back from the vet with one of my cats and the vet, a die-hard Yankees fan, spent most of the appointment talking about not giving up on Jeter even if he’s no longer a great player.

He told me how all he hears on talk radio is shouting about how the Yankees should trade for Jose Reyes. I haven’t listened to that noise but it doesn’t come as a surprise. Part of it is our insatiable urge to tear people down. Jeter is lordly and cool–so controlled–and has enjoyed such great fortune over the course of his Hall of Fame career that is must be delightful to some–they can have at him now that’s he’s vulnerable. As is the case with most great players things will likely not end well for Jeter.

There is no place to move him. So, like Cal Ripken, Jr, Jeter will be called selfish as his skills decline if he’s not prepared to be a part-time player. The rub is that the same characteristics that made Jeter great–the skill, drive, ego, the competitiveness–can turn on him, make him out-of-touch, or worse, a detriment to the team’s success.

It must be the hardest thing for a player to admit he’s losing it, that he’ll never be what he was, and also the easiest things for fans to see. You can’t blame him for not being ready to call it a day yet, and I don’t think you can blame management for giving him some leeway here. We’re not dealing with absolutes and in Jeter’s case there is more to the story than simply what is best for the team on the field. You may disagree, but that’s just the cold, hard truth of it.

If the Captain doesn’t improve offensively I can see Girardi moving him down in the line up this season but I don’t see him being replaced as the regular shortstop. If he has a lousy season, that will be addressed this winter. In the meantime, the Yankees are going to play with an average shortstop. Okay, you may argue he’s below average, but he’s the also most famous Yankee since Mickey Mantle and that’s part of the equation. I’m rooting for him, and will not be surprised if he has a couple of big moments left. If he doesn’t, so be it. Then it’s up to the rest of the team to pick him up.

Older posts           
feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver