Jorge Posada Sunday apologized to manager Joe Girardi for refusing to play on Saturday. Girardi seemed ready to move on. Posada got support from aging veteran icons Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. He received a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd when he appeared as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning Sunday night against the Boston Red Sox.
Does that mean all is well in the Bronx between the Yankees and their proud veteran catcher-turned-designated hitter? Hardly.
Handling the decline of an aging star is never easy, especially when that star is a popular one who has been a great contributor to championships, or great moments in the history of a franchise. It isn't easy for the player, who doesn't want to recognize his diminished skills. It isn't easy for the manager, whose job is to win and often has to tell a former star he can no longer help do that on a regular basis. It isn't easy for the fans, who grow attached to players over a period of years.
Think about what the Yankees went through with center fielder Bernie Williams. His last season in the Bronx was an uncomfortable one as his role diminished, and the following season the Yankees basically told him flat out they did not want him any more. He could no longer help them win. It took Williams and the Yankees a couple of years to patch up a broken relationship.
Posada and the Yankees are headed to a similar, ugly ending.
Girardi played for the Yankees, and with Posada, He, in fact, watched the young Posada eat away at his at-bats and eventually take his job. He knows dealing with the decline of Posada and other Yankee veterans like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez won't be easy.
"I’m managing some Yankees that have had wonderful careers that are aging in front of us, just like all of us have," Girardi said on Sunday. "And there’s no manual on it."
Maybe David Ortiz is right when he says of Posada that the Yankees are "doing him wrong." Maybe the Yankees could have handled his removal from catching with a little more grace. Maybe Girardi could have called Posada into his office for a chat prior to posting Saturday's lineup, which had Posada demoted to the ninth spot.
What, though, are the Yankees supposed to do? Posada can no longer catch. In fact, it has been obvious for a couple of seasons that he really was no longer a competent major league catcher. He is hitting just .165. He has no hits this season in 24 at-bats against left-handed pitching. A big-league team in a fight to reach the playoffs, and the Yankees are without doubt in one, cannot carry a designated hitter who can't hit.
ESPN's Buster Olney said flatly on the 'Mike & Mike' show this morning that Posada is "going to get released" if he doesn't start to hit -- and soon. Olney also has a tremendous in-depth look at the complicated relationship between the emotional Posada and the Yankees -- one that certainly is more fragile right now than ever.
General Manager Brian Cashman said the Yankees are not ready to move on from Posada just yet.
"We know it’s a very difficult thing we’re asking him to do, but we’re also running out what we think’s the best lineup to help us win, and we’ll continue to do that. And at some point, if we feel we have to do something different, we’ll do something different. But we’re not at that point right now."
The Yankees are about winning. They have 27 World Championships, and the expectation is that they will do everything they can to add to that total. Unfortunately, that may include wounding the pride of players like Posada who have been part of a glorious past, but may not have enough in the tank to help in the present.
"The reality of it is, my job is to manage to win today, and I have to deal with that," Girardi said. "And I try to show respect and I try to show sensitivity and truly care about my players. That’s the thing that I have to balance, and that’s not always easy, because players always think they can still do it at the same level, or today’s going to be the day that it turns around for them. If they didn’t think that, they wouldn’t have been successful in their career."
The problem in Posada's case is that the Yankees gave him a contract that was too long. In reality, they face the same situation with Jeter and Rodriguez -- and maybe even CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. In trying to honor their past, they have tied themselves to these players for too many years into the future.
The Posada situation -- on top of losing three straight to Boston and nine of their last 12 games overall -- turned the weekend into the Bronx into an ugly one.
The Star-Ledger's Steve Politi wrote that the Yankees "better get used to days like this."
Unfortunately, he is probably right.
I feel badly for Posada, and any other veteran who eventually gets cast aside after a terrific career. The Yankees, though, are not in the hospitality business. They are in the business of winning. Either Posada shows the organization he can still help them do that -- soon -- or the Yankees will bring in someone who can.