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Jorge Posada, designated sitter

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  May 15, 2011 10:24 AM

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Five thoughts on last night's wildly entertaining Posada Adventure. I'd have done nine, but rumor is that's not his favorite number these days. (Boom.) . . .

posadapedrofinn515.jpg1. Well, I don't think it's that cynical to presume an anecdote or two will trickle out over the next couple of days revealing BattingNinthGate isn't the first major issue Posada has had with his role this season. I say that mostly based on how brusquely the Yankees handled last night's drama.

Rather than going into full-blown damage control mode, it's almost as if they preferred to let Posada hang there and suffer the prolonged consequences of his actions during a nationally televised game. They could not have been any less supportive of him and his allegedly stiff back had they attempted to ship him to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the third inning and call up Jesus Montero.

Hal Steinbrenner -- you know him as the rational Son of George, the one without the Tonka trunks in his office -- reportedly spoke to the commissioner's office to see what legal actions they could take if they determined Posada had been insubordinate.

Brian Cashman took the unusual approach of speaking to the press about Posada's status during the game, and as he did during the Derek Jeter negotiations, talked with the freeing candor of a short-timer who had grown tired of half-truths, contradictions and misdirection plays that are such a part of the Yankee front office's mission statement.

And Girardi, who is every bit Joe Torre's peer when it comes to handling a bullpen but is roughly 179 degrees from his predecessor when it comes to people skills, was predictably tense and vague during his postgame turn on the witness stand.

Even Posada would probably concede Girardi, for whatever his flaws, is a bright guy, though, and the manager did get to the heart of the matter:

"I just sense that he’s frustrated,” Girardi said. "It’s hard when you get older in this game. And when you’re struggling and you’re older people will start to question can you do it anymore. And that’s hard for a player to hear.”

That's the core of the issue right there. Posada is raging against the dying light and the .162 batting average.

Perhaps there's a chapter in Girardi's binder on how to deal with Fading Insubordinate But Accomplished Veterans Who You Never Much Liked As A Teammate?

2. From the parochial (and perhaps slightly mean-spirited) point of view, it was far too much fun to watch the whole thing unfold, then read all about it again this morning. Joel Sherman in particular made entertaining use of his column inches.

The snickers that echoed thoughout New England last night and this morning wasn't only because of the Yankees' disarray, but because it was Posada at the center.

While Red Sox fans collectively respect Jeter's brilliance -- any problem has never been with him, but with the resentment of the exaggeration of his calm-eyed, fist-pumping powers by the national media -- and marvel at not only Mariano Rivera's accomplishments but his uncommon grace in rare defeat, Posada does not command such Most Respected Opponent appreciation, begrudging or otherwise.

He is -- was? -- the one among the Yankees' homegrown core who symbolized what was loathed about them here during their '90s heyday. He was cocky and hyperintense, talking tough from the top step of the dugout, then often backing it up (in 200 regular season games against the Sox, he has 30 homers, 112 RBIs, and an .840 OPS).

When a Sox fan hears Posada's name, two painful images flash to mind: jawing at Pedro during the ferocious Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS, and pumping his fist and celebrating on second base after he got the last word with his bloop hit tied Game 7 in . . . well, you know.

Either of those moments could stand as the pinnacle as a Red Sox fan's hatred -- and that is the right word -- for the Yankees. So it would be no surprise that if the Baseball Gods somehow awarded them the chance to choose one Yankee lifer to have a rocky, humbling ending to his career, Posada would be at the top of the list.

3. I don't believe Posada is ultimately a Hall of Famer, but like his former batterymate Andy Pettitte, he will be a candidate worthy of legitimate consideration when his time on the ballot comes around.

He's eighth all-time in homers among players who were primarily catchers (267) and has an .852 career OPS. His most similar player at each age from 33 to 38 is Carlton Fisk. And he's been an integral member of four World Series champions (he had 15 plate appearances with the '96 champs; Girardi was the primary catcher. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship). His is an impressive career from any angle. He's earned his pride.

But you do have to wonder if his antics yesterday will hinder whatever chances he does have at Cooperstown. His hopes are tied primarily to team accomplishments, to being a relative constant in that latest storied Yankee dynasty. With his act of ego if not outright selfishness yesterday, that image of Team Guy was punctured. And given the Bronx Zoo 2011 treatment the New York media gave the story today, the hole may be irreparable.

fossastony514.jpg4. How long ago was the last time Posada batted ninth? Tony Fossas was one of the Yankees' pitchers that day.

I don't know why discovering this delighted me so much -- I suppose it's because Fossas is the ultimate example of the dream-come-true benefits of teaching your boy to throw lefthanded, or just because I'm a baseball-minutiae dork -- but it did.

Yet I had no recollection of him pitching for the '99 Yankees, and after I looked up his numbers, I now know why:

He threw exactly one inning over five appearances that season, allowing six hits, four earned runs, and finishing with a Lackian WHIP of 7.00 and a ERA of 36.00. He was 41 years old, and it was the last of the eight teams he'd pitch for in his 12-year major league career.

Yankees fans may not remember him well, but Red Sox fans do. I hope they gave him a World Series ring for the three outs he got along the way.

5. I'm not the first to notice the juxtaposition last night between Posada and his longtime rival and counterpart Jason Varitek, who is also 39 years old and facing his baseball twilight (at .164, his batting average is .002 higher than Posada's).

By all accounts -- most notably, those of his fellow catchers -- he's handled his dwindling baseball relevance with dignity and professionalism the past couple of seasons, and it felt appropriate from this perspective that he had a key hit in the Red Sox' victory from the ninth spot in the batting order.

It's not exactly Jeter diving headfirst into the stands while Nomar solemnly plays out his famous final scene sitting on the bench. But Sox fans will savor the schadenfreude, no questions asked.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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