Earlier today, I had a chance to read an interesting (albeit depressing) article by ESPN’s Ian O’Conner (insider req’d) — yes, the same guy who wrote “The Captain.” The article explored some of the mounting performance pressures that have been placed on Jorge Posada‘s veteran shoulders, and the presumable angst that’s thusly stemming from it.
O’Conner opines, “…If he fails in that pursuit [improving offensively], his distinguished career in pinstripes will end. The Yankees would never release Posada before his best friend’s milestone achievement, likely arriving by the end of next week. They don’t want to release him at all, in fact, not after he’s given them so many years of Thurman-like grit… But they will do what they have to do if Posada’s play forces them to do it… .”
We’re all conscious of the scrutiny that Posada’s received this season for his declining offense. Frankly, for much of the season thus far, he’s essentially been an empty shell of his former productive self and the critiques have been warranted. That being said, I hadn’t really considered the possibility of Posada being released midseason — such an undignified conclusion to an otherwise glorious career simply didn’t resonate with me. Instead, I basically resigned to the fact that Jorge would continue to make considerable money for the remainder of the year in a limited capacity, and then either leave on his own terms or be “encouraged” to retire after season’s end. Other than brief spats of reoccurring frustration during his plate appearances, I don’t even really begrudge him for being a fossil either; after all, the Yankees really lucked out in terms of what they got out of a then 36 year old catcher beginning a brand new multi-year deal (on top of the durability and production generated up to that point).
As Ian indicates, the Yankees do not want to release Posada any more than NY fans want to see him fail when he’s at the plate, especially given his salary and the bad publicity that a premature departure could potentially cause. Ultimately though, iconic status won’t be enough to hinder a change nor will it be enough to sway the fickle nature of the mob fans. The Yankees (just like any other competently managed organization) will always act in a manner of self preservation, even if it means alienating a ballplayer who’s delivered “Thurman-like grit” for almost two decades.
In short, Posada must be cognizant of the fact that each at bat is an opportunity to help his cause (he’s even gone on the record saying he may want to continue playing after this season!). Unlike Jeter though, who effectively has the organization by the proverbial balls, Posada has limited leverage with the Front Office. He has no additional years on his contract, no player options, a substantial salary that no other team in their right mind would want to assume via a theoretical trade, on top of the fact that the overall roster has very little flexibility partially because of him.
Unfortunately, Posada can’t consider accepting the “useless backup catcher” role either (similar to the role Jason Varitek has since assumed) as Russell Martin, Francisco Cervelli, and Jesus Montero are all in the fold. For the first time in Jorge’s esteemed career, his responsibilities have been substantially relegated. It’s early June and he’s already essentially transformed from a DH into a platoon hitter. Compound his age, the state of the club, and a Front Office that still remembers Jorge’s clubhouse meltdown (over batting order no less!), and it really doesn’t take much imagination to envision a scenario that ends in tears. Or, as O’Conner argues, each hit seems to have become critical to his survival as an actively contributing Yankee.
My guess is Posada will most certainly be around for his buddy’s 3,000th hit. I bet that he ends up lingering on with the team in some capacity for the remainder of the year. That, of course, is merely my prediction and reality could prove completely different – especially if he continues to be baffled against left handed pitchers (or pitchers in general). Now, if you’re reading this site, you probably spend more time focusing on Yankee baseball than what’s typically recommended. How would you feel if after the Allstar break, Posada and the team went in separate directions?
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