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Posts Tagged ‘Jorge Posada’

Posada's playing days as a Yankee may be over, but his legacy will stand along side other greats of the past (Photo: Reuters).

To those like me who were holding out hope that Jorge Posada might return to the Yankees for one more season, the long-time catcher has a message: “It’s not gonna happen”.

Speaking at a fundraiser for his charitable organization, Posada matter-of-factly stated what most people already suspected. Even though his announcement was far from official, the Yankees’ failure to offer a limited role suggests the feeling is mutual. In fact, Posada’s statement was really more acquiescence to that reality than a conscious decision to move on from the Bronx.

I will always be a Yankee. The New York Yankees, for me, is my second family. It’d be tough to put on another uniform for real and learn a new set of rules. But it’s one of those things where I have to see if I wanna keep playing.” – Jorge Posada, quoted by ESPNNewYork.com

It’s too bad the Yankees weren’t able to carve out a role for Posada, but thankfully, the two sides seem to be parting amicably. Unlike during the season, when Posada often bristled at signs of his Yankee mortality, the catcher’s attitude while addressing the issue suggested complacency. That’s good news for Yankees’ fans who value the legacy left behind by great players. So, instead of the contentious divorce some had feared, it seems as if Posada is set to go his separate way for the time being, but with the expectation of eventually returning to the fold. In other words, it won’t be 20 years before we see number 20 on the foul line during Old Timer’s Day.

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Jesus Montero’s major league debut on September 1 was one of the most anticipated arrivals in recent Yankees’ history. So much had been written and said about the 21-year old catcher that his promotion at the beginning of the month almost felt like a second coming. What’s more, the early returns have seemed to justify the heightened expectations. Although Montero may not be a “savior”, with an impressive line of .353/.450/.706 in 20 big league plate appearances, he could be on his way to becoming the most impactful September call-up in recent memory.

Montero's promotion served as the symbolic end to Posada's Yankee career.

Montero’s ascension to a semi-regular role all but marks the end of Jorge Posada’s time in pinstripes. Although the veteran is likely to crack the lineup a few more times before the month runs out, it’s increasingly looking as if he won’t be a part of the post season roster. If so, Posada’s Yankees career will end just as it started: as a cheerleader on the bench during October.

When the Yankees signed Montero as a 16-year old in 2006, Posada was still an All Star catcher. In fact, in 2007, he had the best season of his career. Nonetheless, when Posada was given a four-year extension after that successful campaign, the overwhelming expectation was the new contract would lead right into the Montero era. As things turned out, when the kid was promoted to replace the veteran, it was as a DH, not a catcher, but still, the transition’s symbolism is clear.

The rapidly approaching end to Posada’s pinstripe tenure has been mostly overshadowed by the early brilliance of Montero’s burgeoning big league career. Although excitement about the “next best thing” is certainly justified, Yankees’ fan shouldn’t be quick to cast aside Posada without first realizing they are saying goodbye to a potential Hall of Famer.

Although some might dispute the notion of Posada as Cooperstown worthy, his credentials are compelling. Unfortunately for the Yankees’ backstop, his career happened to coincide with arguably the greatest offensive (Mike Piazza) and defensive (Ivan Rodriguez) catchers to ever play the game, so it’s easy to see why he is sometimes overlooked in Hall-related discussions. Despite these formidable contemporaries, however, Posada’s statistical record still stands out.

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Jorge Posada’s sixth inning home run in the first game of today’s day/night doubleheader was his seventh of the season, but first since April 24. The two-run blast, which gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead, also ended the longest homerless streak in Posada’s career. The 38-game drought was one day longer than a previous power outage that lasted between the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Power Outages Among Yankees’ Regulars

Player Tm Strk Start End G AB BA OBP SLG
Brett Gardner NYY 7/5/2010 4/19/2011 84 273 0.212 0.337 0.297
Derek Jeter NYY 5/10/1997 8/6/1997 75 311 0.289 0.359 0.357
Russell Martin LAD 9/27/2008 6/19/2009 62 222 0.239 0.350 0.279
Robinson Cano NYY 5/9/2008 6/24/2008 41 153 0.288 0.319 0.366
Jorge Posada NYY 4/24/2011 6/19/2011 38 124 0.250 0.329 0.323
Nick Swisher OAK 4/15/2005 6/15/2005 33 117 0.222 0.300 0.274
Alex Rodriguez SEA 7/8/1994 6/11/1995 32 101 0.228 0.248 0.257
Curtis Granderson DET 6/24/2006 7/28/2006 27 105 0.276 0.333 0.324
Mark Teixeira NYY 6/13/2009 7/8/2009 23 92 0.261 0.370 0.326

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Posada’s career-high homerless streaks ranks in the middle of the pack when compared to similar stretches endured by the other regulars in the Yankees’ lineup. Not surprisingly, the longest streak without a homer belongs to Brett Gardner, while the shortest span between home runs is enjoyed by Mark Teixeira. However, it is interesting to note that regardless of each hitter’s profile, their home run drought was also accompanied by a more pervasive slump.

Although Posada has already shown signs that his season-long doldrums are in the past (he was hitting .432/.450/.514 in his previous 40 plate appearances entering today’s action), perhaps this afternoon’s homerun is the final confirmation? The Yankees could definitely use more power from the DH slot, and if he is anywhere near his old self, Posada is more than capable of supplying it.

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During an interview on WFAN, Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman implied rather directly that the extent to which Jorge Posada is no longer an option behind the plate is entirely the result of his own actions.

Posada and Cashman haven’t exactly seen eye to eye this season.

According to Cashman, when Francisco Cervelli was injured during spring training, the Yankees turned to Posada as a potential backup for Russell Martin, but the veteran backstop decided that he would be better off focusing on his new role as DH. Cashman also stated that lingering headaches resulting from last season’s concussion also contributed to Posada’s reticence to get back behind the plate. If Cashman’s version of events is accurate, it would mean that the Yankees could have enjoyed more roster flexibility had Posada decided, or been physically able, to embrace the role as a backup to Martin.

Considering how poorly Cervelli has played since returning to the active roster, and how much Posada has struggled as a DH, it seems as if both problems could have been mitigated if the Yankees and Posada had better prepared for the current predicament. Cashman’s recent revelation is particularly ironic because it has been assumed that one reason Posada has bristled in his new role was because of the lack of an opportunity to catch. What’s more, it also contradicts the prevailing thought the Yankees, not Posada, pulled the plug on a backup role because of lingering health concerns.

Posada has not yet been asked about Cashman’s comments, but one wonders how the feisty veteran will react to the implication that his failure to stay in shape is the main reason preventing him from stepping back behind the plate. Without knowing the extent to which last year’s concussion has hampered his ability to catch, it’s hard to say how receptive Posada would be to the Yankees’ willingness to have him work his way back into being an option at the position. In the meantime, for the sake of harmony in the clubhouse, it’s perhaps even more important that Posada doesn’t contradict Cashman’s account or express resentment at the idea that the end of his catching career has been self inflicted.

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Although it now seems clear that Jorge Posada made a mistake by pulling himself from Saturday’s lineup, the reactions of many have reached absurd proportions. Words like selfish, arrogant, liar and quitter have been freely tossed around, and some have even suggested that the transgression warranted a severe disciplinary action (a feeling reportedly shared by some in the front office).  Based on this response, you’d think the former All Star had committed a felony. In fact, he might have received more sympathy if he had.

Despite his son’s significant health concerns, Jorge Posada rarely took a day off from the lineup (Photo: Daily News).

The most ironic part of the ill-informed articles questioning Posada’s loyalty is very few players have exhibited a comparable level of dedication to the team. I wonder how many of those who have been so quick to label Posada as selfish and pampered realize just how much he has sacrificed over the years?

Even after he found out that Jorge IV would have to undergo serious surgery. Even after the delicate surgery last August on the then 8-month-old. Posada stayed silent and kept playing.” – Buster Olney, The New York Times, February 7, 2001

During the 2000 season, Jorge and Laura Posada quietly struggled with a very painful reality. Their new born son, Jorge IV, had been diagnosed with craniosynostosis, a life threatening congenital skull deformity that would requires years of surgery to correct. Despite the difficult months leading up the first surgery on August 2, however, Posada not only remained a fixture in the Yankees lineup (he played 151 games including 142 behind the plate), but established himself as one of the team’s best hitters.

When the day of the surgery finally arrived, Posada took one game off to be with his son, but then returned right back to the lineup. Two days after fearing that he would never see his boy again, the weary catcher went 4-5 against Seattle.

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When Saturday night’s lineup was first posted, Jorge Posada was batting ninth. Then, he was scratched just before game time. As various rumors about his status circulated, including speculation about a possible retirement, Brian Cashman announced to FOX cameras that Posada had asked out of the lineup. Cashman also stated that no injury was involved. Soon thereafter, a torrent of tweets suggested that the Yankees’ catcher had thrown a fit and refused to play. That news was followed by reports about the Yankees placing a call to the commissioner’s office about possible disciplinary action. Not to be outdone by the one-sided flow of information, Posada’s wife Laura tweeted that her husband was suffering from a sore back. Meanwhile, the rest of the Yankees were busy losing another game by exhibiting the same brand of impotent offense and sloppy defense that has become a hallmark over the last three weeks.

The original lineup card with Posada batting ninth (Photo: Getty Images).

Before the game, the decision to drop Posada in the lineup seemed like more of historical footnote than a burgeoning soap opera. In retrospect, however, Girardi’s decision to drop Posada in such a high profile game on national television seems at least a little shortsighted. After all, what real benefit could be derived from moving Posada down from eighth to ninth? With Nick Swisher batting just as poorly, would anyone have batted an eye if he was slotted last? Considering Posada’s prideful reputation and Swisher’s happy-go-lucky personality, reversing those two players would have provided the path of least resistance.

Although Girardi shares some blame for the imprudent implementation of an otherwise justifiable decision, Posada also bears some blame. His emotional reaction to the slight is perfectly understandable. For years, he has been an instrumental part of the Yankees’ success, but now he finds himself watching the sands of time fall through the hourglass. It’s a long way from starting catcher to last man in the lineup, so if Posada needed a mental day off, what’s so wrong with that? Having said that, he should have been more honest with Girardi once he decided he could not play. By failing to do so, he contributed to the chaotic course of events that ensued.

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Bernie Williams entered June 1995 in a terrible slump, which prompted a temporary demotion to the bottom of the lineup. In order to motivate his young centerfielder, Buck Showalter jokingly suggested to Williams that after ninth, the next stop was the bench. The message must have been received loud and clear because not only did Bernie hit .419 in the eight games spent batting last, but he went on to have a borderline Hall of Fame career.

Girardi has had Posada’s back all season, but could his patience be wearing out?

Although Showalter’s not so subtle suggestion was meant to be in good fun (at least according to Michael Kay, who has recounted the story several times over the years), it also had a purpose. As Paul O’Neill articulated during a recent broadcast, players are well aware of how their position in the batting order reflects the manager’s current thinking. Well, if Jorge Posada was wondering about Joe Girardi’s state of mind, tonight’s lineup should cast aside any doubt.

For the first time since May 14, 1999, exactly 12 years to the date, Jorge Posada is in the starting lineup batting ninth. The demotion, which marks the culmination of Posada’s gradual decent in the batting order, might be a bit startling because of his stature, but certainly not surprising considering his performance to date.

I put myself in this spot. It’s not like I want to hit ninth, and it’s not like I want to hit .100-and-whatever I’m hitting. It’s just a matter of really coming out of it.” – Jorge Posada, quoted by the LoHud Yankees Blog, May 14, 2011

Just last week, Posada publically thanked Girardi for his continued support, and before today’s game, he absolved him of any guilt by graciously accepting the decision. How could he not? A .165 batting average is impossible for even the most prideful player to ignore.

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April has usually been very kind to Jorge Posada. Entering 2011, he had posted an impressive line of .282/.380/.510 during the season’s first month. What’s more, he ranks as the franchise leader for homeruns and RBIs in April (since 1950). In other words, Posada has been no stranger to a fast start.

Most April HRs and RBIs by a Yankee, Since 1950

Player HR   Player RBI
Jorge Posada
54  
Jorge Posada
190
Alex Rodriguez 43   Derek Jeter 183
Mickey Mantle 42   Bernie Williams 160
Jason Giambi 33   Paul O’Neill 135
Derek Jeter 32   Alex Rodriguez 127
Bernie Williams 32   Mickey Mantle 124
Tino Martinez 30   Don Mattingly 122
Graig Nettles 29   Tino Martinez 122
Paul O’Neill 27   Jason Giambi 103
Bill Skowron 27    Dave Winfield 101

Source: Baseball-reference.com

This year, April has been a nightmare for Posada. After going 0-3 in Saturday’s 5-4 victory over the Blue Jays, he ended the month hitting .125/.232/.375, including a 1-28 stretch. The only saving grace for the new Yankees’ DH was that six of his nine hits wound up leaving the ballpark. Nonetheless, you can bet Posada was elated to see the calendar turn to May.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Over any 10-game stretch, even the most accomplished hitter can experience a dry spell. For the most part, such slumps pass by unnoticed, but when they occur at the beginning of the season, there is usually much more scrutiny.

Contact has been hard to come by for Brett Gardner.

For established players in their prime, the early panic is usually unwarranted. However, for aging veterans and younger players without a proven track record, each new season brings with it justifiable skepticism. This year, the Yankees have three hitters who fall into that category.

Derek Jeter’s 2010 was such a deviation from the norm, that it’s only natural to wonder if the great Yankees’ short stop is in the midst of a drastic decline. Unfortunately, the first 11 games of the season have done little to dispel that fear. In almost 50 plate appearances, Jeter has only one extra base hit, resulting in the 13th lowest slugging percentage among qualified batters in the American League. The biggest reason for his lack of power has been an inability to drive the ball in the air. To this point, a whopping 79% of Jeter’s at bats have resulted in a ground ball. What’s more, 25% of his fly balls haven’t let the infield. In other words, Jeter’s .256 BABIP doesn’t point to bad luck, but rather bad contact.

Derek Jeter’s Contact Profile, 2002-2011

Source: fangraphs.com

Amid all the bad omens, there are two positive signs that one can take away from Jeter’s early performance. The first is he has avoided swinging at, and making contact with, pitches outside of the zone. In 2010, Jeter recorded career highs in both categories, but this season, his rates have returned to more normal levels. As a result, Jeter’s walk rate has risen back over 10%, which is where it has been during his best seasons. Another silver lining is the Yankees have mostly faced right handed pitchers. Even in his best years, the Captain has greatly preferred facing lefties (he has a .445 wOBA in 10 plate appearances against lefties this season), so the lack of such opportunities has likely been a drag on his performance.

If you give Jeter an allowance for adjusting to his new batting stance (or reverting back to the old one), and then take into account the way the schedule has broken down, there’s still reason to hold out hope that the future Hall of Famer can at least return to being an above average offensive short stop.

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The Yankees' Ron Blomberg was baseball's first DH.

The early part of a baseball season is about uncovering early clues to help answer all the questions that accumulated in the offseason. Heading into the 2011 season, one of the concerns facing the Yankees was whether Jorge Posada would adapt to his new role as a fulltime DH. With three homeruns in his first four games, the early signs look good.  And, if Posada continues his smooth transition from behind the plate, the real question may be whether he can become the best DH in franchise history.

Many Yankee fans probably know that the team’s first DH was Ron Blomberg, who was also the first DH in baseball history. However, Bloomberg was never primarily a designated hitter. In 1973, the bulk of the job went to Jim Ray Hart.  Since then, the team has featured a revolving door of designated hitters, not only from year to year, but often within a season.  In fact, on 19 occasions, the Yankees used at least 10 designated hitters, including 2010, when 16 different players performed the role. As a result, there haven’t been many opportunities for a Yankee DH to post prolific numbers.

Yankees’ Primary DH, 1973-2010

Player Year G PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Jim Ray Hart 1973 105 370 30 12 50 0.256 0.325 0.416
Roy White 1974 53 239 35 3 22 0.264 0.345 0.370
Ed Hermann 1975 34 118 8 3 13 0.286 0.356 0.429
Carlos May 1976 81 332 39 3 34 0.256 0.341 0.339
Carlos May 1977 54 189 21 2 15 0.222 0.293 0.299
Cliff Johnson 1978 39 123 13 3 11 0.217 0.325 0.396
Jim Spencer 1979 71 220 44 18 37 0.280 0.364 0.606
Eric Soderholm 1980 51 173 26 8 22 0.307 0.384 0.523
Bobby Murcer 1981 33 113 14 5 20 0.284 0.345 0.490
Oscar Gamble 1982 74 268 32 12 38 0.264 0.366 0.485
Don Baylor 1983 136 570 82 21 83 0.303 0.363 0.500
Don Baylor 1984 128 540 81 25 85 0.262 0.340 0.481
Don Baylor 1985 140 562 71 23 91 0.232 0.332 0.432
Mike Easler 1986 130 500 58 11 70 0.304 0.359 0.443
Ron Kittle 1987 49 161 21 12 27 0.278 0.304 0.550
Jack Clark 1988 112 485 63 21 72 0.243 0.386 0.434
Steve Balboni 1989 82 261 29 14 52 0.255 0.307 0.502
Mel Hall 1990 54 184 20 4 18 0.239 0.261 0.375
Kevin Maas 1991 109 436 54 17 43 0.211 0.326 0.386
Kevin Maas 1992 62 239 24 7 26 0.238 0.301 0.374
Danny Tartabull 1993 88 388 57 20 70 0.260 0.374 0.508
Danny Tartabull 1994 78 347 47 13 42 0.224 0.314 0.416
Ruben Sierra 1995 46 200 29 6 42 0.260 0.325 0.424
Ruben Sierra 1996 61 270 31 7 34 0.275 0.348 0.428
Cecil Fielder 1997 89 392 45 13 58 0.263 0.357 0.422
Darryl Strawberry 1998 81 291 36 20 44 0.254 0.361 0.552
Chillli Davis 1999 132 540 69 19 73 0.270 0.369 0.449
Shane Spencer 2000 33 131 15 4 12 0.233 0.298 0.422
David Justice 2001 85 344 49 16 43 0.228 0.323 0.436
Jason Giambi 2002 63 277 43 12 37 0.271 0.397 0.489
Jason Giambi 2003 69 305 37 16 41 0.220 0.377 0.452
Ruben Sierra 2004 56 221 27 13 41 0.236 0.281 0.458
Jason Giambi 2005 60 235 31 8 22 0.209 0.404 0.367
Jason Giambi 2006 70 306 55 21 66 0.224 0.373 0.531
Jason Giambi 2007 57 233 27 9 30 0.246 0.365 0.426
Hideki Matsui 2008 66 273 29 7 33 0.285 0.355 0.423
Hideki Matsui 2009 140 562 71 23 91 0.232 0.332 0.432
Marcus Thames 2010 41 144 18 9 24 0.291 0.326 0.530

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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