All-Time Hits Leader Was Right To Pound Ex-Yankees Catcher For Hammering A-Rod

By Jason Keidel
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The New York Times recently ran a revealing piece on Pete Rose. The all-time hits leader is creeping back into baseball through the back door — the media. He’s part of a three-headed think tank on Fox Sports 1.

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Rose, as you might imagine, is candid and direct. His exile from baseball only adds to his mystique. We listen to him like he’s some ostracized high priest who was banished for breaking with the establishment.

We may have conflicting impulses over his role in the sport, but we all want to hear Rose’s opinions. According to Richard Sandomir’s article, Rose’s contract calls for 20 appearances on the network. But he’s already ahead of that pace for the year, which may mean he’ll be a mainstay on the buffet of baseball shows.

Chris Myers suggested that Rose could be the Charles Barkley of baseball — an opinionated and unapologetic pundit who speaks from a wide wealth of experience, if not wisdom.

That’s an ironic comparison, in that both men have epic appetites for gambling. Barkley was in the news for his colossal casino tabs, while Rose, well, we know his gambling knew no boundaries.

That’s not unique or newsworthy to New York.

What should pique the interest of New Yorkers was his take on Jorge Posada. The former Yankees catcher stirred the pot by putting Alex Rodriguez’s dubious business on the street. Posada asserts that A-Rod should not be in the Hall of Fame. When asked if he shared those thoughts with his former teammate, Posada said he did not.

Though the former Yankees catcher later softened his stance, Rose opined that Posada has no place bashing former teammates, said Posada was “better off zipping it.” Rose said it’s poor form speaking poorly of anyone with whom you once shared a clubhouse, even if you’re no longer playing.

Posada’s epiphanies are not accidental or arbitrary, of course. He’s plugging a book. And there’s no better way to pimp your pages than to bloviate on someone famous or infamous. Since A-Rod has long since morphed into America’s pinata, Posada piled on, which was gratuitous, and ungracious. If anyone should have A-Rod’s back, it’s those who played with him and knew him better than the rest of us. The locker room is supposed to be a safe and sacred place, an echo chamber of solidarity. Posada doesn’t seem to care.

It speaks to Posada’s long-term ethos, and his pathological devotion to himself. On a team of selfless players that won four World Series with no one hitting 35 homers in an era when everyone hit 35 homers, Posada was the one squeaky wheel on an otherwise flawless machine.

About a month ago, I appeared on a good friend’s popular podcast (Sully Baseball). When I and the other guest, Lisa Swan, who also has a popular baseball blog, called Subway Squawkers, were asked whom we didn’t particularly like from the eminently likable Joe Torre teams, I was the only one who said Jorge Posada.

These developments make me look particularly prescient, even if it’s accidental. But if you followed those great Yankees teams with any intensity or intelligence, you realize this isn’t the first time Posada has spun the spotlight onto himself.

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He refused to play in a nationally televised game, against the Red Sox mind you, because he didn’t like his place in the lineup. Joe Girardi, who cares more about Yankee pride than personal pride, slid his slumping catcher down to the bottom of the batting order. It happens all the time, to all stars and All-Stars.

But Posada couldn’t take it. Even before he became a minted member of the Core Four, Posada often brooded over his playing time, which, oddly enough, he split with Girardi. For the $13 million he made his final season in pinstripes, Posada batted .235 with 81 hits, and 76 strikeouts. The year before, for the same salary, he batted .248 with 95 hits, 99 strikeouts.

We expose ourselves during hard times, and Posada often came up short when he didn’t like his lot. His tantrum before the Red Sox game, despite the fact that he was barely above the Mendoza Line, was his personal and professional apotheosis.

It spawned perhaps the funniest routine I’ve ever heard on Boomer & Carton. The morning duo contorted Posada’s myriad excuses — from “I have to talk to my wife” to “I have a bad back” — into a faux game show. It wasn’t the only time the media or the masses has had some fun at Posada’s expense.

My friend, Paul Sullivan, said Rose has some nerve pounding someone for hawking a book. Fair enough. Rose has shown no regard for etiquette while pining for a place back in the sport he both glorified and disgraced. He sells a conveyer belt of memorabilia in a Vegas mall, and hasn’t left any of us feeling that he’s profoundly reformed. So while Rose may not be the best messenger, his message is right.

Posada has always come off as a bit bitter, childish, and self-involved. Other than his bat, his best asset was his friendship with Derek Jeter. Perhaps no quality made Posada more teflon than being BFFs with the Yankee Captain.

The more ardent Posada apologists still say he’s a Hall-of-Famer, which is absurd. He may have fine stats for a backstop. But his defense was atrocious. And if you’re going to use your offensive numbers to mask your offensive defense, then you’d better be Mike Piazza, or a reasonable facsimile.

What exactly did Posada accomplish? Did he sell exponentially more books by hurling A-Rod under the team bus? Does he come off as a better player or person? Does his monologue make him more desirable to sponsors or networks who may consider him someday as a TV pundit or part of a booth?

And Posada had better be clean, because he just put himself on the symbolic pedestal as someone who brought clean veins to the game. There’s no proof, no smoking syringe. But Posada played at the peak of the steroids epoch on a team that was bulging with juicers.

If any news ever comes out that Posada shared a needle, pill, or prescription with one of the more famous miscreants, then he won’t have any platform ever again.

But we’ve learned that Jorge Posada doesn’t need a smoking gun to shoot himself in the foot.

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Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel