Baseball mortality during the dog days of August

The Jays and Stealing Signs
Game 115: Rookie vs. Rookie

As Jorge Posada, the Yanks’ once and former designated hitter, has come to grips with his newfound role on the bench, the hot-tempered elder statesman has not been in the best of spirits. “I’m not happy with it,” he said to reporters this week. “I don’t need to tell you again that I’m not happy with it. But I’m moving on, and I’ll be ready to play whenever I happen to play.”

Of course, Jorge isn’t happy, and he has many reasons not to be. At the tail end of a career that could land him in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, Posada has been told by his one and only employer that he’s no longer with a job, and if he were anyone other than Jorge Posada, the Yanks probably would have flat-out released him a few weeks ago. Since he has a legacy, though, and rosters expand in three weeks, the Yanks will allow him to bow out somewhat gracefully at the end of the season.

For Posada, the end has been jarring. As the Yanks’ seemingly full-time DH for much of the season, he hit just .230/.309/.372 with nine home runs. He hasn’t homered since June 29, the date of A.J. Burnett‘s last win, and Posada posted just a .207/.258/.244 in 89 plate appearances since then. The league average DH is hitting .262/.338/.416. That sound Jorge hears isn’t the end of the road fast approaching.

For the past 15 seasons, Jorge Posada has been a stalwart. Often underappreciated for his hitting, he was a five-time All Star and finished third in the MVP voting in 2003. For the first few years of his career, he split catching duties with Joe Girardi and did not emerge as the Yanks’ full-time catcher until 2000 when he started 136 games the plate. His career numbers — .273/.374/.474 with 270 home runs — are particularly impressive as a backstop.

Posada was one of those Yankees with whom I grew up. We all know the stories of the core of the Yankee Dynasty as the team’s farm system produced Jorge along with his buddy Derek Jeter, their lefty Andy Pettitte, the closer Mariano Rivera and the graceful centerfielder Bernie Williams. Bernie’s slide into baseball oblivion was a quick one, spurred on by a slowing bat and a knee injury. He too was unhappy when the Yanks offered him only a Spring Training invite and only recently has re-embraced his turn in the Yankee spotlight.

Getting older though is what baseball is about. It’s a game dictated not by a clock but by the more leisurely pace of outs. As our favorite players age, the outs melt away much like innings on a scorecard. Jorge Posada isn’t the first former great to grow old before Yankee fans’ eyes, but he’s the first of the group that formed the core of my first Yankee Dynasty to suffer the fate. Andy Pettitte retired because his body couldn’t withstand the beating of another season, but he still had the skill to match.

Jorge isn’t alone here. We’ve seen Derek Jeter’s magical age-defying offensive streak come to a screeching halt lately as well. Even though he’s hitting better after coming off of the DL, his numbers are right-handed pitching are painful to see, and his overall line is a far cry from the halcyon days of 2009. The .273/.335/.360 slash line makes him seem like just another middle infielder and not Derek Jeter. One day in the future, in 2012 or 2013, the Yanks will be faced with a Jorge Posada situation with Jeter, and the boyish short stop won’t seem quite as timeless.

On the mound too, we’ve seen Mariano Rivera lose a little something. It’s not much, but it’s enough. Last night, it was the difference between missing middle-in on a 3-1 pitch that didn’t cut enough at 91 and missing middle-in on a 3-1 pitch that didn’t cut enough at 93 or 94 as he would have thrown five or six years ago. At 41, Rivera is the oldest Yankee, and baseball time marches on.

But baseball too is about renewal. Although no one will be the Next Mariano Rivera, young kids with live arms and lots of promise pass through the Yankee Stadium doors. We know the names of the players who are supposed to be the Next Big Thing, and we see a pitcher like David Robertson turn into a star. Soon, in ten or 12 weeks if the Yanks make a big October run again, it will be time to say good bye to Jorge Posada. But another feisty player with a hot temper will take his place. That’s the circle of baseball life.

The Jays and Stealing Signs
Game 115: Rookie vs. Rookie
  • Monteroisdinero

    Montero not feisty and no temper.

    Cool, calm, collected, Jeterian.

    He and Jorge do share a lack of speed on the basepaths though.

  • Scully

    This makes me remember him standing on second in Game 7 of 03 after his bloop double tied the game. He had his fists clenched and he was roaring at Pedro. It was especially gratifying since it was well known they didn’t like each other and after Martinez threw above Karim Garcia’s head him and Posada were famously jawing at each other. I know people have been giving him a lot of flack about the way he’s handled his demotions. Most of us would handle it the same. It’s his last go around with the Yankees, but I’d love for him to deliver a big post-season hit as a nice bookend to a very good career.

  • nedro

    “Feisty and hot-tempered”? I thought the narrative was “bored and entitled”.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      Just to clear this up: That wasn’t a reference to Montero. I just meant that someone else will come up with that Jorge Posada-like personality.

  • Matt Imbrogno

    Well done, Ben.

  • Sayid J.

    Posada. Wow. What a competitor. It’s sad to see his career come to a crashing halt this year, but damn did I enjoy watching him the last 10+ years.

  • David, Jr.

    Always lots of focus on whether Jorge is angry or unhappy with his situation.

    The fact is that he was given the DH job. Switch hitter, full time. It has been a black hole, definitely detrimental to the team. Their DH batting average is .231, which is 11th out of 14. OPS of .702, which is 12th out of 14, OBP of .311, which is 13th out of 14. All of his numbers are worse than those overall numbers. Also can’t run the bases at all. Also has virtually no position that he can play.

    Why again is he occupying a roster spot?

    • Xstar7

      Because he’s Jorge Posada.

  • John F

    I hate to say this because I love Jorge, but I think the final indignity here is he won’t be on the playoff roster. I hate seeing him go out this way, but he just hasn’t produced the way he was once capable of. I’m attending Saturday’s game and I would love to see him in the lineup one last time, but I’m not holding my breath. I do think he’ll give us one more big hit before he’s an ex-Yankee. They should let him catch a game or two before the season ends too. He’s been a warrior for us, he deserves better than this. No reason to make these big announcements (batting him 9th, taking him out of the lineup) before nationally televised games either. Just my two cents.

    • YankeesJunkie

      I agree on all points. The only reason that Posada is still on the team right now is because he is making 13 million and the Yankees don’t want to pay for him to hit for some other team. Watching Posada since 04′ he has been one the best offensive catchers in all of baseball and that 08′ season was beyond spectacular for a catcher. Hopefully, Jorge will get one last swan call at Yankee Stadium before his days as a Yankee are done.

      • David, Jr.

        I think that was 2007. .970 OPS, very high in MVP voting.

        • YankeesJunkie

          You are right it was 07′. Posada had career highs in BA, OBP, SLG, wOBA, wRC+, and finished sixth in the MVP vote. The only bad thing was that was also his contract year so he probably earned himself another year on that contract because of his amazing performance that year.

          • Ed

            The 4th year on this contract was because the Mets were offering at least 3 and the Yankees believed that he was willing to play for them. There weren’t any other good catchers available, so the Yankees had to up their offer.

            The quality of his season probably had more to do with the dollars he received. At the time of the deal, I think the only catcher to receive more money was Piazza.

      • Ed

        Not wanting to pay him to play for another team is one thing, but I think the Yankees are quite convinced that he’s not going to hit regardless of who he’s playing for. From a strictly on the field perspective, they’d be better off if he was occupying a roster spot for another team.

        I think they just don’t want to deal with the fallout of releasing a potential hall of fame player who played his whole career on the team. It would get ugly in a lot of ways – the press coverage, Posada’s relationship with the team, and could potentially piss off Jeter and make things with him get even uglier in a few years. Not necessarily saying this stuff will definitely happen – if the Yankees think it might happen, that’s really all that matters.

        • YankeesJunkie

          There is a good chance that Posada won’t hit regardless of what uniform, but they are also aware of what Pat Burrell did last year and he was a horrendous hitter that year as well. If the Yankees were to outright release Posada the fallout would not only be bad, but there will definitely be a team willing to pay him minimum to see if Posada can hit anywhere close to what he did in the past fifteen years.

          • Ed

            Pat Burrell is probably part of why they waited until August to do anything.

  • Chuck

    Regardless of the final Red Sox game blown save I never understand why they keep bringing in Mo in tie games. I mean I understand.. But if there is one situation that I remember him screwing up the most it is tie games.
    Is this what other people recollect?

    • Monteroisdinero

      Hey, they (Joe) bring him in when we are up by 5 in the 9th and have also had him warming up when we were up by even more than that in the 9th. Don’t ask me.

  • Peepee Hands

    The pitches that Mo has thrown that have been hit hard the last few days were all cutters that didn’t cut. I am less worried about his velocity and more worried about his non-cutting cutter. I really don’t see it as a problem though, I remember 2 years ago in September, Ichiro hit one off him on the exact same pitch that Abreau got… a straightball. I really think its not that big of deal but only time will tell.

    PS. Jorge needs to be offered a bench coach position IMHO.

  • Monteroisdinero

    I think Mo may have to go outside against lefties a bit more if last night was any indicator. Two, 2 strike hits in the air to rf (single and HR) is worrisome. Maybe mixing up location a bit more is the answer.

    • Neil

      Somebody could also question Russel Martin never calling a pitch away to Abreu. A walk would not be the worst thing in the world with Torii Hunter a free swinger coming up next. Also why keep throwing curves to Mathis when AJ did have a good fastball most of the night.

  • Multiple Personalities

    ben did you pass the bar exam?

    • Benjamin Kabak

      Ask me in November. I have to wait that long to get the results.

      • Pat D

        As someone who’s actually studied for and taken the bar exam, do those Coors Light commercials bother you?

        I know they annoy the shit out of me.

        • Benjamin Kabak

          I absolutely hated them. Besides the fact that Coors Light is terrible beer, it was a constant reminder of all the work I needed to do.

          • Chuck

            As a former smoker I love Coors Light. Tastes like someone put a cigarette out in my Olympia. haha

      • YankeesJunkie

        That is ridiculous that it takes so long to grade the exam. Was it more of an essay exam, a multiple choice exam, or a mix of both of the two.

        • Benjamin Kabak

          6 essays, 250 multiple choice questions.

      • Sarah

        I recall that wait. Long horrible months of waiting. In California the results come right before Thanksgiving. Way to ruin the holiday if you fail.

        Good luck!

        • Tyrone Sharpton

          Ben don’t fail tests. Test fail him

  • Pat D

    T-Shirt idea: Goodbyes stink.

    /Michael Scott’d

    • JM


      Goodbyes cannot stink because a goodbye is not a physical object, so it cannot hold an odor.

      /Dwight Schrute’d

      • Pat D

        You are a killer of joy.

        Or did Michael say that to Toby? I can’t remember.

  • Bronx Byte

    Tell Burnett that Dennis Eckersly went to the bullpen later in his career and excelled as a reliever. Bullshit him blind and tell him he can be the next Mariano. Then give him low leverage junk innings and tell him it takes time.
    By then his contract will expire.

    • David, Jr.

      He would be the guy who would buy that.

  • Josh

    Just curious to know – what do others think the odds are that Jorge will be left off the playoff roster?

    I say 10% chance – the only way this happens is if Montero gets a September call up and starts hitting the ball all over the place. Believe he is eligible for postseason still as I think someone on 40 man could be moved to 60 day DL.

  • JT

    Was Posada so bad defensively last year that he couldn’t be the back-up to Martin and catch 50 games this year? Its not like Cervelli was Jose Molina back there.

    I just wonder if becoming a full-time DH just messed with Po’s psyche too much.

    He was still a good offensive player last year. I find it hard to believe that he physically lost so much in less than a year.

    • BigDavey88

      Jorge was awful on defense last year, but the reason he doesn’t catch anymore is because of the multiple concussion injuries he’s suffered.

  • Jorge

    I think Jorge will be on the playoff roster for the forementioned “because he’s Jorge Posada.” I don’t necessarily disagree with that, although I understand the cries of some of the boo-birds.

    Retirement is not easy for any player of his caliber. I think we want to pee on his final year a bit too much on here. It is what it is. I look forward to “Jorge Posada Day,” if it ever occurs.