November 12, 2019

Time Marches On

June 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
~William Shakespeare

Time.  There’s no stopping it, no slowing it.  Whether you’re a Hall-of-Fame outfielder, a back-up infielder, or a middle school teacher, time inevitably marches on.  It slows us down, humbles us, and erodes away our natural athletic gifts.

The Lakers and Celtics play once again for the NBA Championship, only this time, the series will turn not on the performances of players whose names I’ve heard most of my adult life (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant), but on Rajon Rondo, an upstart point guard, who could not be trusted to run the offense two years back, and the health of fourth year forward Andrew Bynum.

This past year, Dennis Hopper and John Wooden passed away.  Ken Griffey Jr., the premier player of my lifetime, whose swing more resembled a work of art than an athletic endeavor, retired.

Shows like Lost and 24, in which I invested countless hours of my life, came to a close.  Luckily, I still have Smallville.  Wait, did I say Smallville?  I meant a more manly show…Uh, let’s move on.

Personally, it’s going to be a year of milestones, as I earned a promotion to an administrative position at the school where I work.  I celebrated my five-year college reunion a few months back.  My little sister is officially old enough to drink, lives on her own this summer, and is heading into her senior year of college.  I’m getting married in a little more than a month.

Time’s fated march has never been more tangible to me.

That brings us to this weekend.  For the first time in almost twenty days, Jorge Posada started for the Yankees at catcher.  Since he had returned to the lineup after recovering from a calf strain at first and then a banged up foot, primarily as a DH, in early June, Posada’s timing was off.  Sure, he was taking his walks, but his bat speed was slow, as if he were taking hacks submerged in the La Brea tar pits.

Between June 2 and June 11, Posada hit .133 with a .297 OBP.  Though he worked seven walks, he drove in only one run and scored only two.  Then, as he settled behind the plate for Saturday’s game, everything changed.  On both Saturday and Sunday, the Yankees scored nine runs.  Each day, with one swing, Posada accounted for four of them, as he delivered two grand slam homers on consecutive days.

I first heard of Jorge Posada in 1995.  At that point, he was a young talent, but with Joe Girardi catching and Jim Leyritz behind him, Posada was inconsequential to my twelve-year-old mind.  Since that time, however, Posada has gone on to build an impressive and near Hall-of-Fame caliber career.

That being said, he’s now 38 years old.  In baseball parlance, that’s near ancient.  As the pounding and grind of catching over 100 games a year takes its toll on his body, logic dictates that something’s got to give.  Defensively, Posada’s never been the most technically perfect catcher.  His footwork isn’t polished and his fiery and emotional character has sometimes gotten in the way of his handling a pitching staff.  Even during the stretch between 1998 and 2006, when he threw out base-stealers at a commendable clip ranging between 28% and 40%, Posada relied more on his cannon-like arm than on technique and positioning.

Recently, injuries, age, and surgery to repair a torn labrum have weathered away Posada’s arm.  According to Baseball-Reference.com, Posada cost the Yankees 26 runs above the average in 2008, 17 in 2009, and currently 13 in 2010.  Conversely, between the ages of 36 and 38, Carlton Fisk, that bastion of catching longevity and effectiveness, never cost the Chicago White Sox more than ten runs a year.

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.
~Chili Davis

And yet, Posada seems to know something we all don’t.

When asked about the possibility of DH-ing, Posada obstinately replies that he’s a catcher.  Like Fisk, Posada has proven throughout his career that his production drops when he’s not behind the plate.  Though Fisk spent some time in his latter years in the outfield and at first, as a catcher, he batted .275 lifetime, slugging .468 and accruing an OPS of .816.  At any other position, Fisk’s average didn’t crack .250 and his OPS barely made it above .600.  Posada’s the same way.  As a catcher, he’s hit .281 with a .490 slugging percentage and an .871 OPS.  As anything else, his production drops significantly.

It’s as if taking Posada out from behind the plate removes something from his game.  Like subtracting Kiefer Sutherland from 24 or James Gandolfini from The Sopranos, something’s just not right.  This past weekend, Posada proved how valuable his production is to the Yankees’ lineup.  And yet, the question remains, how long can Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman keep him behind the plate?

He’s signed through next season, and then what?  Do you ask a man who’s been at the epicenter of every championship won over the last decade-and-half, whose pride, intensity, and gameness drive his success, to step aside and make room for the next generation of players?  Or has Posada earned the right to walk away on his own terms?

I don’t have an answer.  All I know is that I don’t want to see Jorge Posada limping around spring training for the Kansas City Royals, like Hulk Hogan currently staggers around the TNA, trying to earn a minor league contract.

He deserves better than that.

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