First things first: It never ends well with superstars.
Jorge Posada might not be Derek Jeter, but he’s a member of the Core Four, a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, a proud Yankee since 1996. No matter how club officials treat him, his tenure with the team is not likely to end smoothly, or happily. Particularly if he keeps hitting .165.
That said, the Yankee dramas keep getting unnecessarily messy. Jeter bristled at the way the team handled his free-agent negotiations last winter. Now Posada is experiencing his own form of disconnect with both manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman.
For all the he-said, she-said that went on Saturday night, no one is completely right or completely wrong. The whole thing, though, just makes you want to scream. Posada asked out of the lineup about an hour before the game. Not cool. The Yankees reacted by intimating that he had breached his contract. Not appropriate.
This all should have been settled behind closed doors, with everyone getting on the same page, getting their stories straight. Instead, Posada expressed frustration that Cashman discussed the situation during the game both with reporters in the press box and in an interview that I conducted with the GM on MLB on Fox.
"That’s the way he works now," Posada sneered.
Girardi, meanwhile, said that he didn’t have time to engage in a prolonged conversation with Posada. A last-minute scramble ensued once Posada informed the manager that he needed a day off, and Girardi had to turn to Andruw Jones as a replacement.
Fair enough — Girardi was busy preparing for the game. But if Posada was in such a fragile emotional state, why didn’t Girardi know it beforehand? It’s the manager’s job to take the daily pulse of all of his players.
Then again, Posada seemed in a decent frame of mind before the game when discussing Girardi’s decision to bat him ninth, telling reporters, "I put myself in this spot." Afterward, too, Posada said he had no problem with being dropped in the order.
The back stiffness that his wife Laura revealed on Twitter and a separate source mentioned to FOXSports.com? Posada said it was part of the reason he didn’t play, but nothing serious, he didn’t even tell Girardi about it in their pre-game meeting.
Cashman didn’t know about any back issue, either — that’s why he said that Posada was not injured. And why was it that Cashman spoke during the game? Because he received numerous requests from reporters, including one from MLB on Fox, after the Yankees initially declined to reveal why Posada was not playing.
It’s Yankees-Red Sox. It’s national television. Fans deserve an explanation if a player as prominent as Posada removes himself from the lineup. Simple as that.
Cashman later told Newsday, "It’s disappointing. Jorgie knew what I was going to say, as did his agents." Whatever. Posada’s resentment of Cashman was not triggered by this one incident. It dates to the Yankees’ decision last November to no longer use Posada at catcher, and several subsequent slaps. The decision, of course, was correct. But that doesn’t make it any easier for Posada to accept.
Fifteen years at catcher, then — boom! — the door is slammed shut. The Red Sox’s David Ortiz spoke sympathetically about the difficulty of Posada’s transition Friday, equating it to an English-speaking adult being asked to learn Spanish almost overnight. "People have no idea how hard it is to be a DH," Ortiz said. "I guarantee when Posada goes 0-for-4, it’s not the same as when he’s catching and goes 0-for-4."
Ortiz was even more passionate in his defense of Posada after Saturday night’s game, telling reporters, "(The Yankees) are doing that guy wrong." This was a case of player defending player — Ortiz, remember, was in a similar position to Posada in April 2010, when his own demise seemed imminent. But Posada essentially has been stripped of his identity. It has to hurt.
Girardi is a former catcher himself — in fact, a former Yankees catcher who lost his job to Posada. The manager spoke eloquently after the game about how players go through difficult times, particularly older players who are near the ends of their careers. He spoke of his own struggles, both personally and professionally. And he spoke of trying to be sensitive to all of his players, young and old.
It all sounded quite sincere, but either Girardi isn’t conveying the message to Posada properly, or Posada isn’t hearing it. Posada said he felt "a little bit" disrespected by the Yankees. Asked if he had a problem with Cashman and Girardi, Posada said, "I don’t know. I hope not. I hope we can move on and go out and play the season."
At the same time, Posada indicated he might not want to play Sunday night, saying, "I need a little bit more time." The Yankees likely will give it to him — Posada, a switch-hitter, is 0-for-24 batting right-handed this season, and the team next faces Red Sox lefty Jon Lester and Rays lefty David Price. The time off would do Posada good. It would do management good. Everyone needs to calm down.
Anyone who has watched the Yankees the past 15 seasons recalls Posada playing through pain, knows that he is not a quitter, understands that he deserves, at least this once, the benefit of the doubt.
The problem is, Posada is falling and can’t get back up. He has said he is not going to retire — "What?!" Posada said when a reporter posed that question. He is also not going to get released, at least not yet. The Yankees owe him about $10 million for the rest of the season.
In the end, it always comes down to results. The Yankees are not going to play all season with a DH hitting .165. Jesus Montero, a top prospect is getting hot at Triple A. Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and other veterans might benefit from an occasional start at DH. At some point soon, Posada needs to produce.
It never ends well with superstars.
But if this was the beginning of the end for Posada, does anyone even want to see how the final act plays out?