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The Posada affair: only here, only now

May 16, 2011, 8:47 AM EDT

Jorge Posada Getty Images

I’m rather glad that the Jorge Posada drama erupted on a weekend when I was takings kids to soccer games and stuff, because it’s a drama that, for all of the interest and focus on it, you really can’t say a ton about.

Yes, Posada is owed criticism, but he also has built up so much residual good will that it’s hard to cast him in the “he quit on his team!” role too harshly, especially given his quick backtrack and apology.  As he and a lot of other people said, Posada had a bad day. And, no matter how much I liked “Batman: The Killing Joke,” one bad day is not enough to turn someone into a super villain.

There is one interesting angle to all of this that I think it worth keeping in mind, however, mostly because it will continue to be salient as this season and maybe the next couple of seasons go on in New York.  That’s the notion of how unique it is for Hall of Fame talents to cease to be useful as baseball players while still expected to be major contributors to winning teams.

It sure doesn’t seem like this happens very often. Because teams tend not to employ multiple superstars at once, the decline of the future Hall of Famer, almost by definition, usually means the decline of the team. He may still be the best player on the team, but he’s but not good enough to help the team win anything.  He thus can take his unproductive at bats in relative peace, chasing that last milestone, riding out that last contract without it being too big a deal or, at the absolutely worst, going from team to team in his last year or two, Steve-Carlton-style.

Barring some amazing rebound, Posada and Derek Jeter are apparently reaching the end of the line.  But, because the Yankees are a rare beast — a team that doesn’t seem to have to decline and rebuild like most others do — they’re doing so as starters on a playoff contender.  Unlike, say, Craig Biggio in Houston, there is a much stronger sense of these players standing on the platform while the train leaves the station, and that’s bound to create a more complex dynamic for your average baseball lion in winter.

I don’t suppose this is the deepest observation ever — and most of the hype surrounding all of this is a function of a New York-Boston weekend, I presume — but it’s my biggest takeaway from all of this.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - May 16, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    Are you saying that Posada is a Hall of Famer?

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 16, 2011 at 9:01 AM

      I dunno. Wasn’t meaning to make a definitive judgment about that. But he’s better than a lot of current Hall of Famers and he’s close enough for the purposes of this discussion.

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 16, 2011 at 9:06 AM

        I never looked at him as a Hall of Famer, but I guess if Gary Carter got in, then Posada probably should too.

      • Paul White - May 16, 2011 at 9:20 AM

        I agree that he’s close enough for these purposes, and that he’s better than some who’ve been elected, but he’s also in just about the same ballpark as several catchers who didn’t get much serious Hall consideration at all (Ted Simmons, Joe Torre, Bill Freehan, Gene Tenace, Lance Parrish, Thurman Munson, Sherm Lollar, Wally Schang, even Darrell Porter). He’ll get a boost because he played for the Yankees and won five rings, but is he more deserving than any of the guys I just listed? No, not really.

      • mrfloydpink - May 16, 2011 at 9:59 AM

        Uh, Posada and Carter are not in the same league as regards their HOF cases.

        They were/are both roughly equal in terms of their effectiveness as hitters. Carter .262 BA, Posada .273; Carter 115 OPS+, Posada 122 OPS+. In this regard they are, then, a wash.

        However, Carter was an excellent defensive catcher, while Posada was mediocre to poor. Further, Carter was productive for several more seasons, with the result that he has 400 more hits, 50 more HR, and 200 more RBI than Posada. These are not trifling numbers, especially for catchers.

        The result is that Carter has a career WAR of 67, which is comfortably in HOF territory. Posada’s is 46, which is comfortably on the outside looking in.

        Yes, Posada has rings and Carter does not. Maybe worth some amount of extra credit, but not 20 WAR worth of extra credit, as WS rings are very much a function of teammates and opportunity.

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 16, 2011 at 10:40 AM

        First of all, I said “probably” I didn’t say “Oh, if that scrub Carter got in, then Posada DEFINITELY should be in” I didn’t look up all the numbers. You did…congrats. Now to your numbers…

        So Posada’s 10 points in career BA and 7 points in career OPS are a wash, but Carter’s compiled Hits, HRs and RBI aren’t? OK, if you say so.

        I’ll give the defense to you…Posada wasn’t close.

        But God I really freaking hate WAR. Really…really much. It’s a made-up stat with too much subjectivity. Don’t quote me WAR. Please. OPS…fine. Hits, HRs and RBI…fine. But WAR? Bleh stick it.

      • mrfloydpink - May 16, 2011 at 11:45 AM

        Nice to see you adopting your usual condescending tone, Mr. Fiorentino. In any case:

        1. Your original post implied the two players are essentially equivalent. If you feel they are not, then you should word things differently.

        2. And, while we are at it, you might also consider looking up the numbers yourself rather than making a blind assertion based on…I dunno, your best guess? I mean, it’s not like I had to dig deep into the bowels of the Library of Congress or something to find these numbers.

        3. You’re right that a 7-10 point difference in BA and OPS+ are not entirely trivial. But they are not as significant as 19 years of excellent defense (or 16 years of poor defense). Nor are they as significant as 400 additional hits.

        4. As to calling WAR a made-up stat, do you have a better way to objectively compare different players with different skill sets across different eras? Oh, right, you just sort of guess at it. Because that’s certainly not “made up” or “subjective.”

  2. Jonny 5 - May 16, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    (wikipedia)
    A tantrum or temper tantrum is an emotional outburst, usually associated with children or those in emotional distress, that is typically characterized by stubbornness, crying, screaming, defiance, angry ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification and, at some cases, hitting. Physical control may be lost, the person may be unable to remain still, and even if the “goal” of the person is met he or she may not be calmed. A tantrum may be expressed in a tirade: a protracted, angry, or violent speech.

    Tantrums are one of the most common forms of problematic behavior in young children but tend to decrease in frequency and intensity as the child grows older. They may, however, be a predictor of future anti-social behavior.

    Some people who have neurological disorders such as the combination of autism or mental retardation could be more prone to tantrums than others, although anyone experiencing forebrain damage (temporary or permanent) can suffer from tantrums. Anyone may be prone to tantrums once in a while, regardless of gender or age.

    I’d say the final sentence kinda sums it up. I’m all for giving the guy a break here. Sure he was being a baby, and he should know better acting out like that in NY of all places. But I think we can all have a tantrum once in awhile. It’s a natural human reaction to overwhelming frustration.

  3. pisano - May 16, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    What a horrible weekend for the Yankees, I think it let everyone see that major changes have to made asap. That being said, I personally can’t wait for the Jets to start the season.

  4. 1historian - May 16, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    To me it’s pretty obvious that this is all about money.

    Jeter’s best years are fading in the rear-view mirror and his skills are diminishing daily. That is sad, but is there anyone out there who wouldn’t put up with this for $17,000,000 per year?

  5. 1historian - May 16, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    This is the inevitable consequence of the huge contracts these guys have – who could walk away from money like that? You can’t – you have to be pushed away. Eventually it will be humiliating, but $17mil per annum makes up for a lot of that.
    There is also the matter of losing the respect of the fans who used to look up to you.

    I remember 1966 (yes I’m that old) when Jim Brown walked away from the NFL at the top of his game. Of course the money was nowhere close to what they get today, but he just up and walked away. Pat Tilman also comes to mind.

    • stuckonwords - May 16, 2011 at 9:52 AM

      Barry Sanders, too.

      • bigxrob - May 16, 2011 at 9:59 AM

        Andy Petite maybe? He was still good last year when healthy. I think he would have been more valuable to the Yankees this year than either Jeter or Posada.

    • spudchukar - May 16, 2011 at 4:28 PM

      Tillman promised Arizona GM, that he would return after his last tour was up. Just watched “The Pat Tillman Story” last night. Makes one really proud to be an American.

      • dprat - May 16, 2011 at 11:35 PM

        spudchukar,

        I highly recommend the Krakauer book about Tillman: Where Men Win Glory. A more nuanced, more real portrayal of Tillman that will leave you admiring him even more… and realizing how unworthy of him the Bush White House and the American military behaved. A great read…. come to think of it, I’d recommend anything Krakauer writes.

  6. 1historian - May 16, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    Because it is the Yankees the decline of one of their stars is always more public and sadder, unless the declining star just up and walks away. That doesn’t happen too often these days.

  7. sdelmonte - May 16, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Heaven help me, but I couldn’t get enough of this story. Call it Mets fan schadenfreude, I guess. It should beneath me to revel in the decline of a good ballplayer, even if he wears Yankee pinstripes. And yet…

  8. heffmessina - May 16, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    The one thing that annoyed me the most about this was the idea that hitting him 9th was going to make that big of a difference in run production. A black hole is a black hole no matter where he hits and Brett Gardner was fine as the “2nd leadoff hitter” in the 9 spot. I wonder if Posada would have said a word if he was penciled in 8th rather than 9th. It wasn’t worth the headache. Don’t get me wrong i’m a diehard Yankee fan and I love these guys. But on the other side of this issue I hate that the manager has to walk on egg shells with these guys and make every decision based on who will be upset rather than what is best for the team. They had to give Derek Jeter a ton of money over market value and only hit him first or 2nd in the lineup because anything else would be an insult. It’s getting pretty annoying.

  9. Chris Fiorentino - May 16, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    Just like when Torre inexplicably batted A-Rod 8th a few years back, this was just a stupid thing to do. As Heff writes above, what was the point? A black hole is a black hole. He should have just sat him for a few days and put him back into his usual spot after some time off. Batting the guy 9th was just a dick move on Gerardi’s part. The way Posada acted was WAY out of line, but let’s not let Gerardi completely off the hook here either. Yeah, I know he can do whatever he wants with his team. But if Rivera blew 5 saves in a row, then was put into a game in the 6th inning, it would just as stupid.

  10. yankeesfanlen - May 16, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Where have you gone, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte? A Universe turns it’s lonely eyes to you. woo woo woo

    • Jonny 5 - May 16, 2011 at 12:35 PM

      Len, My old man picked up a 66 Fairlane ragtop GT390 over the weekend for a nice price. What a frigging coincidence we were just chatting about those biggish fords on what Friday? Now he’s trying to sell the basket case 67 XL500 289 ragtop, that’s rotting in the back yard quietly. Very cheap….. Just an FYI, if you’re feeling courageous.

      • yankeesfanlen - May 16, 2011 at 1:11 PM

        Coooool, Johnny. I’ll find your e-mail thru Craig.

  11. nicosamuelson2 - May 16, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    Craig, I appreciate your insight on the matter. I’d never considered it like that. You shouldn’t denigrate your observation.

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