It’s a common meme in the comments — not only here, but on other blogs and message boards — that Jorge Posada does not call a good game. I admit to having similar thoughts from time to time, but then I think to the pitching staffs Jorge has handled in the past. Few of them had any problems. The problems with the Yanks starting pitching began, without a doubt, when they trotted out an inferior staff, starting in 2004. Jorge, in other words, has worked with lesser pitchers in general since the days of Roger, Andy, Wells, Cone, Duque, Mussina, et al.
We all know Jorge has an abrasive personality. If he doesn’t like something he’s not going to sugar coat it. The media has often observed that while Derek Jeter‘s leaderships stems from the example he sets, Jorge is the more vocal presence in the clubhouse. He will let you know when you screw up, and if you have something coming to you, you can bet Jorge’s the one to deliver it.
Pitchers, it is said, have fragile egos. Clearly that’s a generalization and doesn’t extent to pitchers a baseball species. There are many pitchers, though, who don’t like that tough-minded catcher personality. Hence, a number of pitchers over the years have preferred to work with the backup catcher, whether that be Molina in the last year and a half or Cervelli this year. This isn’t to say that the pitchers in question — most notably Mussina and Sabathia — can’t handle Posada. It’s that their styles don’t exactly match up.
Mussina and Sabathia know what they’re doing. They know their bodies and their know their repertoire. They know situations and what to throw in different ones. Jorge has his own ideas. Jorge has a strong personality. Perhaps Jorge is just a bit over-assertive in these cases with veteran pitchers. It can, after all, be frustrating for both parties when Jorge wants a fastball and the pitcher knows he can bury a curve to finish off the batter.
This leads me to the title of this post. Last night, Joba was shaking off Jorge left and right. Jorge would signal, Joba would shake. That process would repeat a few times. This led to a number of mound visits so the two could talk over the situation. The two went through this a number of times in the super-long third inning. They were not on the same page, and I’m sure that was evident to anyone watching. However, when Joba got his way — which was basically when you saw him throw a breaking ball in a questionable count — he was all over the place.
After yet another walk, you could see Jorge walk halfway out to the mound and say something. I was watching the SNY broadcast so I don’t know if his words were shown on the YES counterpart. However, I imagine he said something to the effect of “now we do it my way.” From that point on we saw Joba throw more fastballs and — surprise surprise — more strikes.
Joba is only 23 years old. He might think that hanging out with vets like CC and Burnett makes him a better pitcher, but all the talk in the world will not make him older and wiser. The idiocy of youth is still present in a 23-year-old, and Joba certainly shows it sometimes. He’s a very good pitcher. We can all see that in his stuff. However, he needs to step back and recognize where he is right now. He needs to listen to his catcher. From the way I watched the game last night, it seemed like he was much better when he did.
This, of course, is just an observation and is not based on some kind of insider knowledge. I do want to foster this discussion, though. Should Joba just listen to what Jorge says? I vote yes. Jorge’s not always right — he called for a curve when Wright was down 0-2, but Robertson knew that an outside fastball would do the trick. In general, though, Joba needs to have more faith in his fastball and throw it when Jorge calls it. Whether the radar gun reads 91 or 96, he still pumps that thing, and it’s a veritable weapon. If he commands that — and to command it one must throw it often — he’ll be fine. If he insists on using his (good) breaking stuff too often, he’ll work up his pitch count as he did last night.