Monday, May 16, 2011

For Posada, this can only end badly

The events of Saturday night at Yankee Stadium have been dissected, analyzed, torn apart and rebuilt again, and that was before the final out of the Yankees' 6-0 loss to the Red Sox, the middle of a three-game sweep that led to a fair amount of preening in Kenmore Square and pouting on the 4 train in the Bronx.

We've heard different versions and details, from tweaked backs and lineup cards to tweets from Posada's wife, who felt the need to defend her man after Posada and his .165 batting average were only deemed worthy of the No. 9 spot in the batting order by Yankees manager Joe Girardi. That led to what Jack Curry, a respected New York sports reporter on the YES Network, called a "hissy fit" and Posada asking out of the lineup, much to the consternation of GM Brian Cashman and the bewilderment of Girardi, who when pressed afterward said Posada asked him for "a mental day" to "clear his head."

The journey in time back to the Bronx Zoo era seemingly ended Sunday evening, when Posada apologized for his actions, admitting it was his ego, and not his back, that was bruised.

"It's just one of those days that you wish you could have back," Posada said.

Why someone making $13.1 million for playing a game needs a mental day is another issue entirely, but all seemed forgiven. The "Bleacher Creatures" honored Posada in their nightly "roll call," and Girardi was satisfied. "This has been a great player for a long time," he said.

Fair enough. Posada's eventual plaque in Monument Park will include nothing of this incident, and it will do nothing to tarnish his legacy as a "great Yankee."

But it is reason to take pause, as a more nefarious opponent is lurking to stick voodoo pins between the pinstripes -- time.

Posada is the first member of the Yankees' esteemed "Core Four" to careen down the slide that eventually claims every athlete of a certain age. Some handle it more gracefully and adroitly than others. For every Sandy Koufax and Jim Brown, legends who retired at the top of his game, there is a Willie Mays and Brett Favre, who stubbornly live in denial of their declining skills and play on.

Andy Pettitte went out on his own terms and Mariano Rivera is still Mariano Rivera. It can be argued that Derek Jeter has already arrived at the playground, climbed the ladder and is staring stoically down the slide in the only direction he can go -- down -- but he remains an icon in the Bronx and will soon become only the 11th player in major league history to amass 3,000 hits with the same team.

Jeter has not been dropped to the No. 9 position in the batting order, a spot traditionally reserved for pitchers, as Posada was. His off-season contract negotiations were contentious, but he was not "disrespected" while in uniform, which Posada claimed he was Saturday. Jeter has not been moved to full-time DH duties, as Posada was this season. And Jeter was not forced to face a sea of microphones and tape recorders to apologize, as Posada was Sunday.

Posada enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2007 (20 homers, 90 RBIs, .338 BA), the last of an eight-year run in which he played no less than 137 games in each season. But since suffering an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder in 2008, Posada's decline has accelerated:

2009: 111 games, 22 HR, 81 RBI, .285 BA.
2010: 120 games, 18 HR, 57 RBI, .248 BA.
2011: 33 games, 6 HR, 15 RBI, .165 BA.

Even more telling are the games Posada spent at catcher, DH and first base:

2009: catcher 100, DH 9, first base 2.
2010: catcher 83, DH 30, first base 1.
2011: DH 32.

The bottom line is that this will only get uglier for Jorge Posada. The proud Yankee may have said, "I'm sorry," but there can be no apologies that will soothe what lies ahead, for the specter of time forgives no one.

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