August 08, 2011
It's the last thing any athlete wants to hear from a coach: We think we're a better team without you.
Hearing that has to be especially difficult for someone who's had as much success in his baseball career as Jorge Posada(notes). But that's the conversation he had with New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi before Sunday night's 3-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
"He said he was going to put the best lineup on the field, and he doesn't know when I'm going to DH again," Posada said. "So right now I'm sitting on the bench… I'm not happy about it, but right now I can't do nothing about it. I put myself in this situation."
Two months ago, Posada also appeared to take responsibility for his plight. But his actions spoke otherwise when Girardi penciled him into the ninth spot in the lineup, and he then said he couldn't play due to a sore back. (Interestingly, this also took place before a game against the Red Sox.)
Yankees GM Brian Cashman added more drama to the situation when he met with the media during the game, saying Posada pulled himself from the lineup. Worked into a frenzy, reporters surrounded Posada's locker after the game, asking for a response to Cashman's comments. Posada took exception to Cashman talking to the media during the game, sneering "That's the way he works now."
Posada didn't have a chance to take himself out of the Yankees' lineup this time around. He wasn't batting ninth. Girardi didn't have him in the lineup at all, giving Eric Chavez(notes) the start at designated hitter. (For what it's worth, Chavez batted 0 for 4 with three strikeouts on Sunday night.)
Back in May, Posada was hitting .165/.272/.349, making Girardi's decision look like a no-brainer. Posada improved from there, seemingly motivated by the slight, and pushed his batting average up to .240, with a somewhat respectable OPS of .754. But it's never really gotten better from there. As of Sunday, he was batting .230/.309/.372 and struggling through a 1-for-13 slump.
Chavez looks like a better option at DH, hitting .323/.389/.431. But those numbers have been compiled in only 72 plate appearances this season. However, Chavez can still play in the field, playing 18 games at third base. And with Alex Rodriguez(notes) working his way back from knee surgery, the Yankees might need some help at that position.
Ultimately, that might be what benching Posada is really about. A-Rod might have to play at DH when he first returns. That leaves an opening at third base, which Chavez would likely fill — perhaps in a platoon with Eduardo Nunez(notes). Chavez could also help out at first base occasionally, allowing Mark Teixeira(notes) to DH. However it works out, the Yankees now have more lineup flexibility.
The Yankees have one more option at DH, which would be to call up Jesus Montero(notes) from Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. According to the New York Post's Joel Sherman, the team's preference is to go with Chavez first. Rodriguez would probably have to show he could play third base regularly again before Montero could be called up to take the full-time DH role.
Sitting on the bench can't be the way anyone wanted to see Posada's 17-year career with the Yankees end. But he's not being released, presumably to avoid clubhouse drama. And there's plenty more baseball to be played, including the postseason. Posada was hitting decently against right-handers, with a .263/.340/.438 average and all nine of his home runs. Maybe he has some contributions left to make this season.
But it could be a while — a long one — before that opportunity comes around for him.
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