Forget for the moment what is going on with the New York Yankees on the field. A three-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox this past weekend, and their continued failure to drive in runs, does not solve an immediate problem that started with the entire Jorge Posada escapade.
The Yankees are showing their age, led on also by the contracts granted to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and down the line possibly the deal that Mark Teixeira has. And forget about the rumors Monday surfacing that the Yankees had a potential deal going with the cross-town Mets for Carlos Beltran.
With the first installment of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium Friday night, Beltran rumors only add to headlines as the two teams play the first of six games, the other three next month at Citi Field. But, seriously speaking, with the Yankees slipping and the Mets trying to stay competitive, it certainly is different to see the Yankees getting controversial headlines.
Does Posada get the blame for pulling himself from the lineup an hour before the first pitch Saturday night, reportedly because he was put ninth in order of manager Joe Girardi, or was it a bad back that Posada reportedly had? And was the situation handled properly by the Yankees? That is a question still under review, though the Yankees say that the problem is in the past and it is time to move on.
But where do the Yankees go from here is the ultimate question. Girardi handled the awkward situation graciously and offered a sympathetic tone about Posada, a catcher turned to a fulltime designated hitter with a .155 batting average and hitless against left handed pitching.
This is drama, maybe more than the theatre that was played when the late George Steinbrenner picked up the phone in anger and called the Yankees dugout as a game was in progress. Posada, from reports, wanted an immediate release form the team, but the realization is that would be difficult to do with the huge salary and last year of a contract.
But from all intents and purposes, and from a perspective of those who analyze and break down baseball, the beginning of more to come is now a part of these New York Yankees. How do you part with Posada, a 17-year career Yankee, a five-time all-star and part of that core four of players that contributed big time to five world championships?
It is a dilemma that the captain, Jeter, also has to address. Because Jeter, the 36-year old shortstop and showing signs of decline, signed a lucrative contract that takes him through the 2013 season with an option for another year. And on the verge of reaching the 3,000 career hit milestone, and if Jeter continues to decline, do the Yankees have another aging player and another Posada situation?
In all probability, the Yankees look to avoid any similarity. But listen to how Jeter responded to all the Posada talk. He defended his longtime teammate. But the Yankees hierarchy spoke to their captain Monday down in Tampa Florida before the start of a series with the first place Rays.
“If I thought he did something wrong, I’d be the first to tell him,” Jeter said when asked by reporters about Posada. He said there was no need for Posada to apologize to his teammates, yet reportedly team President Randy Levine, general manager Brian Cashman and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner seriously contemplated releasing Posada.
And after speaking with Jeter Monday, everyone is on the same page. But are they? Because Posada is not helping the Yankees with his lack of hitting and the damage has been done. When Jeter supported Posada, it was more than being a longtime friend or, as he said supporting someone that he considers a brother.
It was also about Jeter’s future, and the long term commitments that the Yankees have made with an aging roster of players. The Yankees learned a lesson about Posada and Jeter was obviously consulted about not putting the organization in a similar situation, if and when the skills of Jeter continue to decline.
There is a consensus that owners are getting away from the long term contracts and going more towards homegrown talent from their minor league system. The Kansas City Royals offer an example. In the Bronx last week, the Royals took two of three from New York.
A Royals franchise with a $50 million dollar payroll, enriched with young talent that has Baseball America listing them with the top prospects in the game and on the verge of being one of the premiere teams in the game. In essence getting away from the long term lucrative contract may be something for the Yankees to examine as an aging roster of players is coming to fruition.
Posada has become a victim of the aging ballplayer with a contract granted out of loyalty, as the Yankees do have that generous approach of taking care of their core/franchise player. Perhaps, when Bernie Williams felt insulted a few years ago, and then walked away, it was the right move.
For the moment, as the Yankees say, the Posada dilemma is over. But is it? Because through all of this, the Yankees have to still figure a way to win ballgames and hope the Mets don’t cause additional embarrassment when they come to the Bronx Friday night.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]