‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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A collection of stars who have failed to live up to the weight of wearing the famous Yankee pinstripes will be the focus of Friday’s New York back pages. Most of these overrated, overpaid stars will be able to return to the Bronx next year with an opportunity to atone for the miserable way they exited the 2011 ALDS.
In stark contrast, a true Yankee great shined in the twilight of his tenure with the Bronx Bombers. Jorge Posada, a disparaged player for most of the 2011 season was able to step up when his team needed him the most.
At 40, we saw before our own eyes just how much Posada deteriorated from the player that won 5 Silver Slugger Awards and garnered considerable MVP votes from baseball writers in 2003 and 2007. Even with diminished bat speed and father time staring him in the face, Posada willed himself to finish his time wearing Yankee pinstripes with a bang and not a whimper.
In an early August meeting against the Red Sox, Posada was effectively benched by Joe Girardi. At the time many columnists including myself believed that it was a situation that would end Posada’s chances of being involved in the postseason. Instead, he made the case for more at-bats and playing time to the point that he forced himself back into Girardi’s lineup against right-handed pitching.
On September 21st, Posada’s game-winning hit clinched the AL East but it wasn’t a farewell moment for the veteran who had a flair for delivering playoff feats. Where other Yankees in the prime of their careers appeared to be afraid of the task in front them in the ALDS, Posada flourished. He led all Yankees with a playoff average of .429 and extended innings with his ability to draw walks as he recorded an on-base percentage of .579.
As I watched Posada complete a 2-for-4 Game 5 with a ground-out in the bottom of the 8th inning, I expected the crowd at Yankee Stadium to chant his name in unison like they did for Paul O’Neill during the final home game of the 2001 World Series. The subdued spectators instead appeared to be lost in their own misery and disbelief at seeing the Yankees’ final outs of the 2011 season dwindle away.
It would have been fitting to see fans give Posada the proper send-off he deserved. Like O’Neill, Posada played the game with a fire that sometimes boiled over. I’ll always remember his clashes with Pedro Martinez during the 2003 ALCS and it seemed that Posada was always in the middle of bench-clearing brawls.
Derek Jeter was always the clean-cut gentleman who never engaged in an on-field fight. Bernie Williams’ demeanor was naturally peaceful and stoic in nature. Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte kept to their Christian pacifist ideals. Posada on the other hand, was the Yankees’ pit bull.
I liked that about Posada. He was eager to stand up for his teammates and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind if someone crossed a line. Every team needs that kind of personality in their clubhouse and Posada served that role well for the Yankees.
If this is end of his long association with the Bronx Bombers, Posada can hold his head high for both the way he represented the franchise and his accomplishments on the field. Once the Yankees and Posada have parted ways, someone else will have to provide the fire that fueled the Yankees during their many playoff runs.
Yankee fans – do you believe this is the end of Posada’s career with the Yankees? Can you see him wearing any other uniform but pinstripes? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.