Any Yankee fan with a television or internet connection knows by now what happened last night with Jorge Posada. He arrived at the ballpark yesterday and saw that he was batting 9th, and initially seemed (at least publicly) to have no issue with it. Then he “threw a hissy fit” in the managers office and refused to play in last night’s game against the Red Sox. According to Joe Girardi in his press conference after the game, it wasn’t much of a conversation. Posada came in just before game time and told the manager “I need a day off” and that was pretty much it. He said no mention was made of any injury of any kind, so Joe said he took it as needing a day for his “mental health”.
Girardi did his best to downplay it, but there’s no hiding the fact that this was highly unusual. If a player is physically hurt, he’s expected to tell his manager and the manager decides if it’s serious enough to sit him down. If a player is simply slumping, he is expected to take the field and give his best efforts until his manager decides he needs a break. That’s not what happened here. Incidents like this are what forced the Red Sox to trade Manny Ramirez, and we may very well be heading for a similarly ugly ending to this story as well.
On Jorge’s part, it was the ultimate act of selfishness. His team has been struggling to score runs lately, and was facing a pitcher who dominated them just a few weeks ago. Andruw Jones, who arrived at the ballpark thinking he had the day off, was asked to play at the last minute. Never mind the fact that Andruw plays almost exclusively against Lefthanders, and Beckett is not just a Righty, but one of the toughest in baseball when he’s on. And Mr. Beckett was certainly ‘on’ last night. For what its worth, Jorge apparently did give Jones a heads up early that afternoon, so at least Jones got a chance to get his pregame ritual in.
But for all practical purposes, Jorge quit on his team last night, just like Manny did. Since he’s a DH who’s not hitting, his days were likely to be numbered anyway. If anything, Jorge’s actions might have made his eventual exit easier for the team from a PR standpoint. But that assumes he will continue not to hit, and that determination won’t be made for at least another month in my view. In the meantime, the Yankees as an organization have to respond to this in some way. You can’t have a player deciding when he will/won’t play based on his being unhappy with his position in the lineup. For whatever fallout there may be from suspending or benching Jorge, the ramifications are worse if you allow the clubhouse to become a zoo, with players making their own rules. There’s no way to smooth this over with both Brian Cashman and the manager being on the record about there being no injury involved here. You can’t just say “ah, that silly Jorge. He’s an emotional guy”. Sorry, refusing to play goes beyond personality traits, it’s insubordination. You can’t run a team like that.
As to remedy, I think a week long benching is in order. There’s a tough Lefty in Lester going tonight, so you could explain it away for a day or so since Jorge has yet (0-24) to get a hit off a Lefty this year. A suspension is too public, and could get even uglier if Posada returns fire, as we all expect he will. Further, the Yanks should make it known to Posada through his agent or friends of his on the team that they think an apology is in order. What he did last night is something that there is simply no excuse for. The Yanks aren’t going to cut him, releasing him means he could rediscover his swing playing Catcher and come back to haunt you if he lands with one of your rivals. They can’t trade him unless they eat his entire deal, and given his production he would still get you little in return. When they decide he can’t help the team as a DH, I suspect they’ll just DL him with one of his many old, lingering injuries and let him finish out his days with the team that way. I also think that before you cut ties with him, you have to consider fan reaction and Jorge’s long pedigree with the club. He’s one of ‘The Core Four’, a borderline HOF player and will certainly be welcomed as a fixture at Old Timer’s Day once his career is over. But as we saw with Joe Torre (and Ruth, Maris, Berra, Stengel, etc) sometimes these things get ugly. This one already has.
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