Gracefully Moving To DH

Rob wrote about it earlier and there were some insightful comments by our readers, but I’m just going to talk about the Jorge Posada situation a little more.  But first, a little background info.

As everyone knew coming into this season, Posada’s bat was going to be a key to the Yankees’ success.  We also knew that, more importantly, his health would be something to keep an eye on as the season progressed.

After playing in 144 games in 2007, Posada missed most of the 2008 season with shoulder problems that ended in surgery.  Last season, Jorge bounced back and played in 111 games, starting in 97 of them.  That’s a pretty high number considering he missed 22 games in the month of May with a hamstring problem.  When he returned from the DL, he never looked back and was an integral piece of the Yankee puzzle that lead to a World Series victory.

Posada came into this season with no real nagging injuries, but questions about his durability, and the durability of the other members of the Core Four, were abound.  And you know the story from there.

So here we stand, Jorge Posada will be the full-time DH for the next week or so, possibly catching a game here and there.  BBD reader “theboogiedown” said:

“this signifies the most irrefutable demise of the core four.”

It’s entirely true.  We all knew this day would come, but it doesn’t make it any easier to cope with.  Everyone usually stresses the significance of moving Derek Jeter from shortstop, but moving Posada from behind the plate is just as significant in my eyes.  He’s been a stalwart for the Yankees at the most important position on the field, and we may never see another player like him don the pinstripes.

So, finally on to the reason I felt compelled to make this post.  Flip Bondy of the NY Daily News wrote about how Posada would resentfully become the Yankees’ DH.  In it he mentions how Posada is the “emotional core of his team” and how he’ll always see himself as a catcher but soon will realize that it’s in the team’s best interest for him to be the designated hitter.

He then goes on to compare Posada to former Yankee outfielder/DH Hideki Matsui.  And here is where it gets dicey.

“The DH may forever represent an unwanted demotion for older sluggers – Matsui, too, felt that way – but it is the fate of almost everyone, if they’re good enough to hang around. Thurman Munson was spared this indignity, in tragic fashion, dying at age 32. But Yogi Berra can only wish he had a DH spot as safe haven, instead of roaming the outfield at the end of his career.”

I see the parallels in wanting to compare Jorge to the elite Yankee catchers of past, but did Bondy seriously just say that Munson was lucky to die tragically before being asked to be the designated hitter of the Yankees?  I’m sure (at least I really hope) he said that tongue-in-cheek, but even so, I can’t help but be bothered by those words.  I just find them unbelievably disrepectful to Thurman Munson and the Munson family.

Thurman Munson is my all-time favorite Yankee and there will never be anyone like him ever again.  I was born ten years after his death, but still I feel strongly about the way he played and the way he represented the Yankees.  He understood how lucky he was to be a ball player and really loved being a Yankee.  He went about his job very dutifully, but still played with a passion that eventually earned him the captaincy of the New York Yankees.

Jorge Posada plays the game as Munson did, with the same sense of duty and passion.  They both understand that the team is more important than any one player and Posada, as would Munson, will accept whatever role his manager puts him in.  He may still think he should be behind the plate, but he’ll approach the DH spot with the same intensity as he would his catching duties, there is no doubt in my mind about that.

The designated hitter may not seem as important as your every day catcher, but there’s no differentiating him from any other hitter in the lineup.  Yes, becoming a DH may appear as a “demotion” to an aging player, but if that role allows a player to continue contributing to a team’s win total, then how can it be looked down upon?

Posada will understand this.  He’s going to approach the DH role with as much intensity and passion as he would if he were the everyday catcher.  He’s going to keep his head high and represent the Yankees as best he can, and he’s going to do it until he can’t do it no more or until he goes the way of Hideki Matsui.  And when he finally does call it quits, he’ll be remembered as one of the best offensive catchers, not designated hitters, in baseball history.

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4 Responses to Gracefully Moving To DH

  1. Bronx Knight says:

    Absolutely, there is no shame for Posada shifting over to DH. At 38, he has already outlasted almost all catchers anyway.
    Now, here's a question for you: Cervelli has been very impressive so far this season. Is he Posada's successor? Or will Cervelli be just a bridge to Montero? Or is the successor someone else entirely?

    • Eric Communiello says:

      Well it depends on how well everyone plays individually, and that's how it should be. If Cervelli shows that he can hold his own offensively for the remainder of this season then I assume he'll have a good chance of being the number one catcher next season with Posada being the full-time DH. Unfortunately, in his last 15 games Cervelli is hitting just .163/.267/.184, which is bringing his astronomical numbers back down to Earth. So it's going to be very important to see how he handles such a slump and find out if he can right the ship.

      I've never really pictured Montero as the real future full-time catcher, but more as a guy who catches three games a week and DHs the others. Cervelli seems like he could be the perfect complement to Jesus, but this is entirely speculation at this point.

      The real catcher of the future, at least on paper, is Austin Romine. Romine plays plus defense and has an above average bat with doubles power. He's playing very well for the Trenton Thunder (Yankees' AA affiliate) hitting .312/.367/.462 with 17 doubles, 3 HR and 30 RBI in 43 games.

      He's also thrown out 20% of basestealers, which isn't great, but only allowed two passed balls in 38 games. As a comparison, Montero has thrown out 22% of basestealers and allowed 8 passed balls in 40 games. Cervelli has thrown out just 10%, mostly due to certain Yankee pitchers having very slow deliveries to the plate (I'm looking at you AJ). Frankie has only allowed one passed ball in 34 games behind the plate.

      • Bronx Knight says:

        Eric, thanks very much for the comprehensive response … Some interesting things to look forward to behind the plate.
        I'll look for Romine next time I'm at Mercer Waterfront Park …

  2. Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

    I'm glad that I'm not the only one noticed Bondy's flip reference about Munson, he needs to have his face slapped. Posada should be good for 100 games or so this year. The important think is for him to be strong down the stretch. The man can still play.