Although the weather near the newly constructed Yankee Stadium is more suited for a December football game than America’s pastime, it certainly feels like spring again.
As the Yankees played the Rays in Thursday’s Spring Training home opener at George M. Steinbrenner field in Tampa, fans were reminded how important Jorge Posada is to the success of the team.
Posada crushed a home run deep into the right-field bleachers in his first at bat of the spring, before later lacing an RBI double in the fifth inning.
Not only were the results encouraging, but so too was the always important "eye test." Posada passed with flying colors, as his bat speed and fluidity were as impressive as they were his prime.
Posada was batting from the left side, where his surgically-repaired right shoulder absorbs a lot of stress after the bat explodes through the zone.
He showed no signs of discomfort whatsoever, nor any desire to be cautious with his swing. His approach was aggressive and his competitive fire was once again unleashed.
Derek Jeter is unquestionably the Yankee captain as a result of his on-field guidance and leadership by example. However, it has arguably been Posada who has provided the tough love and locker room motivation equally as vital to a team’s success.
The Yankees were incredibly lucky that backup catcher Jose Molina was as defensively impressive and consistent as he was in 2009. The adverse effects of Posada’s absence could have been much worse.
Offensively, however, there is no comparison. When he is at the top of his game, it is difficult to compare Posada to almost any catcher in the league.
Posada provides both power and plate discipline, allowing him to generate 20-plus home runs while maintaining a career .380 on-base percentage.
Posada’s on-base percentage is nothing short of remarkable considering the demands of his position. His career OBP is higher than Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, and Mike Piazza. They are often considered the best hitting catchers in baseball history.
While it is unrealistic to expect results similar to his career year in 2007, it is not out of the question to anticipate a bounce-back season from Posada.
Production in the neighborhood of 18-20 home runs, 75-80 RBI, and a .270-.275 batting average is fairly reasonable, especially if he is able to DH in excess of 25 games this season.
If Posada can return to representing a dangerous offensive threat in 2009, the Yankee lineup becomes that much more explosive.
The benefits begin with taking large amounts of pressure off of Xavier Nady, Hideki Matsui, and Robinson Cano to carry the bottom half of the offense.
It will not be known until the summer if Posada’s arm is strong enough to last a full season, returning him to the force that the AL East has come to expect.
The truth is, Jorge Posada’s right shoulder may prove to be even more significant than AJ Burnett’s or Chien-Ming Wang’s heading into 2009.