Forget the fact that a perennial All Star and borderline Hall of Famer, Jorge Posada, asked out of the line up right before his team was about to take the field against their arch rival, the Boston Red Sox. Forget the fact that the team captain and Posada’s best friend, Derek Jeter, went against the company line and suggested that his “boy” did not do anything wrong, causing a stir within the organization. Compared to what Yankee fans went through in the ’70’s, this latest off-the-field drama is like comparing a fire cracker to a stick of dynamite. The real problem that is brewing at the corner of 161st and River Avenue is that the New York Yankees are reeling and headed in the wrong direction in the standings.
Despite their lack of timely hitting and questionable pitching, the Yankees came into the weekend in first place and were in position to sink their arch rivals further in the standings. Skipper Joe Girardi decided to knock designated hitter(DH) Jorge Posada down two pegs in the batting order from 7th to 9th. For a guy that came into the evening batting .165, Posada should have been grateful that he was not sent down to the minors for some extra seasoning. Nevertheless, Posada took the move as a diss and asked out an hour before the first pitch. Then all Hell broke loose.
General Manager Brian Cashman took it upon himself to conduct an impromptu press conference during the game where he indicated that Posada’s absence was not due to an injury-related issue. That led to all kinds of in-game speculations and the DH was not a happy camper upon hearing about Cashman’s little conversation with the media. During his post-game press conference, the DH did not mince his words about his displeasure about Cashman’s comments. More fuel was placed on the fire when the Captain, Derek Jeter, came to the defense of his long-time friend and teammate, stating that what Posada did was not a crime and happens all of the time. This was after Posada apologized to the team for his self-proclaimed transgressions. After an internal conference call, all parties came away in a united front. That is the way it should have been handled in the first place, in house without all of the public shenanigans. Cashman should have kept this close to the vest while Jeter picked a nice time to speak out after keeping mum on several issues that simmered in that clubhouse over the years.
I hope that this is not the beginning of The Bronx Zoo Part II. That is all we need to have, all of that infighting of the late seventies being played out in today’s all-access intrusive television/radio/internet and social medias. Can you imagine if there were Twitter, camera phones and blogs when Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin and The Boss George Steinbreiner were going at it?
My only concern with Posada’s situation is that this is not a sign of things to come. One of the hardest things for a sports organization to deal with is the handling of their aging superstars, especially those who have helped win multiple championships. You remember that the Steelers of the ‘70’s and Celtics of the ‘80’s dynasties did not end that well.
Both organizations held on to their superstars too long and paid for it dearly for years after Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Jack Lambert and Joe Green all retired. If you think that the Posada situation caused a stir, just wait until Girardi has to tell Jeter, and you know that day is approaching, that he is being bumped down in the batter order or the team needs him to move to another position in the field. I would like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
All of the above referenced off-the-field drama is masking the real problem here: the Yankees collectively are playing lousy baseball. They strand runners on the bases. The starters and relievers blow more leads than the law allows and now they are not hitting at all. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira got off to hot starts and now they are both hitting like Mr. Freeze. Nick Swisher can’t buy a hit. Robinson is hitting 50 points below his average of a year ago. The only everyday player who is having an All Star caliber season is Curtis Granderson.
The pitching is not helping the situation either. We all knew that the starting rotation was the big question mark heading into the season. CC Sabathia has held his own, AJ Burnett has cooled down as of late, while Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia have been a God send thus far. But one has to wonder how long can the team depend on Colon and Garcia, not to mention the unpredictable Burnett. And to sprinkle salt on to the wounds, the No. 3 starter, Phil Hughes, has a mysterious arm ailment that has sidelined him for the past month, with no sure diagnosis in sight. Even the bullpen, which was a strength in April, has become a concern in May with Joba Chamberlain blowing saves and Rafael Soriano on the disabled list.
The pitching woes can be addressed and fixed, especially with the young arms they have developing in the farm system. However, the batters have to pick up the production or it is going to be a long season in the Bronx. The Yankees have nearly 90 million dollars tied up in Tex, A-Rod, Posada, Jeter and Swisher, and neither of them are barely hitting their weight. This team can not depend only on Robinson and Granderson. The batter order should be able to carry a light-hitting Posada but not if the rest of the lineup is hitting below their career stats. Fortunately, the bats came alive in Tuesday’s win when A-Rod hit two bombs and Granderson added another. Let’s hope this is the turnaround the Yanks have been looking for.
Cashman was backed in a corner when he had to overpay A-Rod, Jeter, Posada and even Teixeira. With A-Rod, he would have been killed if he did not resign him at the time. Jeter and Posada capitalized on the favorite son sentiment, although they were well pass their primes and Tex filled a much-needed void in the lineup at the time. No one complained at the times of these respective signings, but the Yankee Universe is scared to death that these guys are getting old fast, right before our very eyes, and the team has very little flexibility to fix this potential mess on the run.
Here in the Bronx, we are use to this sideshow drama, and what we are seeing coming out of the Yankees these days is child’s play compared to the days of Reggie and The Boss. Hopefully, the team will learn to keep their in-family disagreements in house. Are you listening Cashman? The soap-opera drama is the least of this team’s problems. The lack of hitting is the main concern.