It happened to Joe DiMaggio. It happened to Mickey Mantle. It happened to Willie Mays. It happened to Bernie Williams. It even happened to Babe Ruth. They got old, their skills eroded and they had to move to a different position or become a part-time player. It's clear that Posada is not a fan of Joe Girardi. But that troubled relationship is nothing new, as DiMaggio butted heads with Casey Stengel and Mays and Yogi Berra coexisted uneasily in 1973. In Ruth's final season in 1935, playing for the Boston Braves, he only batted .181 (though he had a .359 OBP and slugged .431) in 72 at-bats, and he called it a career on May 30th of that year. DiMaggio remained in center field for the most part and put up a respectable, but un-DiMaggio-like, .263/.365/.422 line, in his last year, in 1951. Mantle had to move to first base for the 1967 and '68 seasons, and only hit .237 (.385 OBP, .398 slugging) when he bowed out. A lasting image of a hanging-on-too-long Mays is one of the legendary player stumbling around the field in the 1973 World Series. He could only muster up a .211 average with the New York Mets in his final year. But none of those guys had to hit in the lower part of the lineup. Mays often led off for the Mets, but the others remained in the middle of the batting order. A closer-to-home example to Posada was Williams' last days with the New York Yankees. Though he hit a reasonable .281 (.332 OBP, .436 slugging) in 2006, he played more right field and DH than center, and in his final two seasons, he batted ninth 16 times.
Jorge Posada is having a difficult time accepting that the end may be near, and it resulted in his "bad day" on Saturday. His catching abilities faded quickly, as he no longer could throw out would-be base stealers and he often had problems just catching the ball behind home plate. He's sulked about the Yankees not allowing him to catch, and now his offense is a shadow of its former self. He handled things the wrong way on Saturday. The Yankees handled things the wrong way. And even Derek Jeter did also. Refusing to play in a game? There are worse crimes in baseball, but it's not an acceptable one. And as the captain and leader of the team, Jeter should have shown some leadership skills and called out his friend for the good of the team. He could have done it in a respectful way, but the gamer and winner that Jeter is, deep down he has to know what Posada did was not right. Diminishing skills happen to all the greats, but some handle it better than others. And Posada is not handling the twilight of his career well at all. Is it easy? No. And often, the star is the last person to know that the end is near.
And now on to the other top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
The (Almost) Bronx Zoo Redux: Ok, things are not quite 1977-'78 Bronx Zoo-like, but the Yankees have been in a bit of disarray. The front office, the manager and the players are not on the same page. And on the field, they've been in a collective slump, whether it be hitting, fielding or pitching. In the 2010 ALCS, the Yankees looked old compared to the energetic and youthful Texas Rangers, and after a good April, the Bombers have resembled that stuck-in-the-mud, elderly team of last fall. And while senior citizens Posada, Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have struggled, the young guys haven't been carrying their weight either. But with three consecutive wins, will all of their problems disappear? Was the six-game losing streak just a bump in the road? A-Rod is bashing the ball again, Bartolo Colon not only pitched a gem but was as efficient as could be, youngster Hector Noesi made an impressive debut that led to a victory, CC Sabathia got back on track on Thursday, Nick Swisher pounded the ball in Baltimore and Posada even banged out three hits in his last two games, and he may reach the .200 mark yet. Maybe Jorge-Gate will be looked at as a turning point in the season for the Yanks.
The (Almost) Buffalo Mets: The New York Mets are pretty much fielding a Triple-A team these days, but that doesn't stop them from winning, going 4-2 this week. And one thing we haven't heard from Terry Collins is the old Jerry Manuel mantra -- constantly talking about guys who are injured with a "we just have to wait until we get [injured player] back." Former Buffalo Bison Justin Turner has been a revelation. In the six games this week, the Mets scored 21 runs, and Turner was directly involved in 14 of them, with 10 RBIs and four runs scored. Will his productivity last? Who knows, but the Mets sure need it, with Ike Davis, Angel Pagan and now David Wright on the DL. Former Buffalo Bison Fernando Martinez belted a huge pinch-hit two-run home run in Friday's win. Former Buffalo Bison Dillon Gee threw seven and 2/3 scoreless innings on Thursday, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Former Buffalo Bisons Jason Pridie and Ruben Tejada are also contributing. In fact, the Mets now have eight players on their roster who were toiling in Buffalo at one point or another earlier this season. And after the Mets got their first shutout of the year on Wednesday thanks to Jonathon Niese, they did it again on Thursday, making the Yankees the only team in the majors without a whitewash.
R.I.P. Derek Boogaard: The New York Rangers winger/brawler was found dead in his apartment on Friday, at the much-too-young age of 28. A friendly enforcer, a gentle giant, a tough guy, a nice guy, an everyman -- he was all of those things. And his good-deed-doing will live on, as his family is graciously donating his brain to science so we can advance the study of concussions. It's unfortunate that we never got to know him or root for him the way fans in Minnesota did. His death is tragic, and he'll be missed.
(Almost) New Year's Day: In thankfully lighter hockey news, the Rangers will be taking on the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, Jan. 2, in next season's Winter Classic. And Michael Grabner, who went from waiver pickup to Calder Trophy finalist, signed a five-year deal with the New York Islanders.
R.I.P. Harmon Killebrew: He didn't have any New York ties, but he was another gentle giant who passed away this week. The Killer (an oxymoron of a nickname if ever there was one) belted 573 home runs in his Hall of Fame career playing for the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins franchise with a final season as Kansas City's DH. He's tied for second behind Babe Ruth with eight seasons of 40 or more home runs, was an 11-time All-Star, led the AL in home runs six times and won an MVP award in 1969. And he may have been even more appreciated in these on-base-percentage-obsessed times, with his lifetime .376 mark, to go with his middling .256 batting average. He was 74 years old.
2011 Football? Still waiting . . .