A vintage Yankee playoff win

Sabathia-10-7-(3)-250.jpgOne down and two to go for the Yankees as they strive to escape the first round for the first time since Casey Stengel’s 1953 team made it to the Championship Series. Okay, okay, it was 2004, but who wants to remember that season with its crushing reversal of fortune against the Red Sox? I also don’t want to remember 2003 (ugly World Series loss), 2002 (rampaging Angels), or  2001 (Tony Womack? Come on), the 2000 team was one of the weaker champions you’ll see, and I resent 1999 because Derek Jeter should have won the MVP award that year but didn’t. The way things are going, I think it would be safest to go with 1953.

CC Sabathia did exactly what he was supposed to do, the thing he was paid the big money to do, which is reassuring after so many disappoints, both in terms of past Yankees signings and Sabathia’s own performance in recent postseasons. What most impressed about this start was that when the Twins were able to lay the bat on the ball, they were able to knock it for singles (six of ’em, plus two doubles), but Sabathia didn’t walk anyone and got eight strikeouts, al of them seemingly when they were most needed. It wasn’t Don Larsen ’56, but it was good enough.

With a big lead, Joe Girardi had the luxury to pull Sabathia after 113 pitches, not a high total for him. The on-off schedule of the first three games gave him the additional luxury of being able to get his mostly inexperienced relievers into the postseason in a relatively low-pressure situation. Using four relieves, including Mariano Rivera, in a 7-2 game seemed like a bit of overkill, but with Thursday off, Girardi can make changes like there’s no tomorrow, because, well, there isn’t.

The one disturbing aspect of the game was Jorge Posada’s bad night behind the plate. It was as if Old Man Jorge set out to confirm every paranoia that has been attributed (probably unfairly) to A.J. Burnett. Two passed balls and a wild pitch in one game is an extremely poor showing, regardless of if Sabathia might have crossed up his catcher on one of the three misses. Posada has always missed a lot of balls. He’s the active leader in passed balls, and his first next year will vault him into the top ten all time (fortunately, all-time leader Lance Parrish’s record of 192 seems out of reach). As he becomes older and more immobile, there are going to be ever more balls skipping past him. At the risk of overreacting to what could be one aberrant game, tonight might have been a preview of the moment, coming perhaps in 2010 or 2011, when Posada’s bat still plays but the sheer number of balls sailing by or rolling to the backstop make him an untenable catcher.

Those misses represent just one base given up and amount to nothing most of the time, but you can get into difficult psychological territory when pitchers feel they are not being properly supported. Mackey Sasser’s problem returning the ball to the pitcher with the Mets in the late 1980s didn’t necessarily lead directly to any runs scoring, but it definitely had the pitchers angry and distracted. One hopes that this day is farther off that it appears after tonight, because if it happens sooner then there will be a gap between Posada and Austin Romine or Jesus Montero or whoever the next catcher the Yankees produce who can hit with more authority than Jose Molina.

6 Comments

Wow, I’ve only been saying it since 96, but alligator arms struck again. Maybe now we can stop saying the greatest catcher in Yankee History. I can think of a few Yogi/Munson. Posadas label is great HITTING catcher. I’m just glad that wasn’t the tieing run or the go ahead run that scored. Now follow Yankee fans DO YOU SEE? Like I said before great hitter but poor catching skills. Kudos to Girardi for finally realizing the situation. LETS GO YANKEES! JETER MVP!

jesseguerrero30-
Posada is a better defensive catcher than Jeter is a defensive shortstop. What does that do to your world view? You think Jeter needs to be a full-time DH now? You want to see more playing time for Ramiro Pena?

Posada is likely one of the most fundamentally-unsound players in the game today. He cannot run the bases (disregarding speed), cannot slide correctly (either jams his knee or comes up short), fails to block the plate effectively, frame pitches poorly, sets up his glove really late into the pitcher’s delivery and sometimes is a bit flakey overall(losing focus on balls/strikes, letting ball roll around last night forgetting someone was on 3rd).

He is a tremendous hitter (although moving him to the 5th spot has always shown his weaknesses) and he certainly is an asset to the team, but the absolute reverence some people have shown for him is missplaced.

I do not believe its a coincidence that a good many pitchers would rather not throw to him, and that he battled with other quality pitchers over time. When cerebreal pitchers like Duqe and Moose, as well as guys with stuff who sometimes need some additional help (like Unit or AJ) all would rather pitch to a back-up catcher rather than the incumbant All-Star….it tells you something.

I really think this issue has not been more pronounced over time because of the exceptional pitchers the Yanks had during his developmental years ( like Wells, Clemens, Mariano, Moose etc) who were strike-throwing machines, but I believe there to be a correlation between the success of the Yanks vis-a-vis their pitching and Posada’s tenure behind the dish.

In the years before Jorge Posada succeeded Joe Girardi as the Yankees starting catcher, the Yankee catcher job was held down, in succession, by Rick Cerone, Butch Wynegar, Cerone again, Don Slaught, Bob Geren, Matt Stokes and Mickey Stanley. I would take Posada over any of those guys in a heartbeat. Those who are quick to criticize Posada should think back on the days lean years backstopped by Geren and Stokes.

In the Girardi-Posada era the Yanks made the playoffs in 13 of 14 years, won six pennants and four World Series rings. The only year the Yankees missed the playoffs was 2007, when injuries to Jorge gave Molina more AB’s than Posada. The pre-Posada years were pretty grim. Posada may not be perfect behind the plate, but in my view he’s a solid, durable, and hardworking catcher with a terrific bat. And he’s been a vital contributor to a whole lot of winning teams. When age finally catches up with him, he will be very hard to replace. Bob Geren, anyone?

Ok so your telling me you 100% confident that with that runner on 3rd Posada is going to dig one out of the dirt?? It’s fastballs straight in and he sometimes ducks, I’ve been watching. You can’t tell me you haven’t seen that, or how about when he stands up to catch a low curveball? You don’t see that either? Listen he’s great hitter but that’s all he is, he had a great arm at one point but you have to admit he’s horrible behind the plate, so all those pitchers that don’t like throwing to Posada are wrong? They are the same pitcher that we loved. Come on people it’s time to call a spade a spade, I watch just about every Yankee game, and yes Jeter has to be contemplating moving to another position, yes he’s had a great year at short but for how much longer? I think center field is his next position, strong arm, agile and good glove, hey remember Robin Yount? Bottom line we haven’t won in 9yrs they need to get it done!

Posada better D at catcher than Jeter is at short? Puh-lease! I think Sadaharuo has it right. And nobody besides him mentions Posada’s baserunning, which is so bad it’s actually comical sometimes. Yes, call a spade a spade.
Good catcher? no. Good hitter? yes. Clutch hitter? yes. Leader? yes. Guy you want on your team? yes. Number of rings?

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