Yesterday was Opening Day in Baseball.
Free agent, multi-millionaire pitcher C.C. Sabathia was just awful for the Yankees.
Free agent multi-millionaire first baseman, Mark Teixeira, went hitless in his debut as a Bronx Bomber, but he proved he is very good defensively, saving at least two errors for Derek Jeter on bad throws from the Yankees' iconic shortstop.
But as this writer watched the entire game, what was most notable to me, what has been a consistent problem for the Yankees for a very long time, is just how bad Jorge Posada is as a defensive catcher.
In the picture above Melvin Mora is sliding into home.
The Yankees' rookie center fielder, Brett Gardner, had charged a ball hit to him and made a perfect throw to catcher, Jorge Posada, as Mora raced for home.
The throw was in plenty of time. The throw was perfect. Posada had blocked the plate.
But Posada forgot one very important thing. He forget to tag Mora.
The home plate umpire gave a very good impression of Stevie Wonder and called Mora out.
But replays made it very clear that Posada never got close to Mora with the ball lodged securely in his glove.
Even Yankee homer, Michael Kay, admitted that Posada never tagged Mora.
This was just one of many indications that Posada is and always has been a very, very bad defensive catcher.
In the first inning there were two wild pitches called on C.C. Sabathia.
The first was in the dirt and to Posada's left foot. It skirted past Posada and went all the way to the backstop as Posada turned leisurely and ambled after the ball as a runner advanced to second.
The second was high and wide to Posada's right side and he reached across his body with his mitt. He managed to touch the ball, but once again it bounded to the backstop.
Almost every other catcher in the major leagues would have kept both balls in front of them. Almost every other catcher would have saved their prize starting pitcher the embarrassment of these wild pitches.
From that first inning on, Sabathia never got into rhythm.
I listened to most of the post game interviews and have checked the New York papers this morning on line to determine if anyone asked Sabathia if he was bothered by these wild pitches in the first.
I never heard this question asked. But it needs to be asked. To what extent did Posada's iron fists behind the plate get under Sabathia's skin.
Watching the entire game and concentrating on Posada's effort, it appeared that he and Sabathia could not get on the same page.
Sabathia shook his catcher off more than one would have expected, and Posada made too many trips to the mound.
In one of Sabathia's last innings, with the bases loaded and the count 3-2, Posada trundled out to the mound.
You have an All-Star pitcher, a prize arm, the person who almost single handedly put Milwaukee in the playoffs last season and finished second in the National League in the Cy Young voting, and Posada is trudging to the mound with a 3-2 count and the bases loaded.
What was he going to tell C.C.? "Hey, man, you know, you gotta get this one over?"
"Hey, hoss, there's no place to put this batter. Have you noticed the sacks are full?"
Sabathia obviously didn't need to be told that he could not stand to walk the hitter.
Posada should have understood after all his years in the big leagues that what he was doing was showing his pitcher up.
Posada should have squatted down given the signal for the pitch he believed C.C. had the most confidence in throwing in that situation and let his man pitch.
All baseball fans should watch Posada and contrast his defensive play with all other catchers.
If you had watched Greg Zaun, veteran catcher for the O's yesterday, you could have easily seen the difference.
Zaun gave his signals, gave Guthrie a good target, was quiet behind the plate, and waited for the pitch to come to him, framing it as best he could for the umpire.
On occasion, Zaun would shift inside or outside late so that the batter could not pick up location.
But never did Zaun shift while the pitch was on the way, while the pitcher was picking up his target and making the pitch.
Posada on the other hand is constantly moving behind the plate. Posada gives his signals. Then he wiggles around behind the plate.
He moves his mitt constantly as the pitch is on the way. He does not present a target for the pitcher to throw to.
I understand that many big league pitchers are not using the catcher's mitt as their primary target.
They may pick a knee or one of the catcher's shoulders to throw to.
But Posada is constantly moving the mitt and constantly moving himself, even during the pitcher's delivery.
As the pitcher is trying to focus on a target, whether the mitt or a shin guard (e.g.), Posada is moving. He is shifting laterally, he is sometimes moving vertically.
This must be distracting to the pitcher, either consciously or subconsciously.
All young catchers are taught to be still behind the plate as the ball is on the way.
If for no other reason, the catcher has to be still and balanced behind the plate to be prepared to shift one way or another to block a ball.
But not Posada. He is moving on virtually every pitch and seemed to do so more with Sabathia yesterday than with some of the relievers.
By doing so, not only is Posada distracting his pitcher, he is putting himself out of position to make plays.
This is part of the explanation for the two passed balls in the first inning. Again, most other catchers would have kept both those balls in front of them.
But if Posada is moving one way as the ball is being thrown, he is off balance to block a ball or rise quickly to catch a ball high and outside.
All young catchers are taught to use their body to block balls that are in the dirt.
But on several occasions yesterday, when the ball was low, Posada was actually raising his body up and stabbing for the ball with his glove.
Posada has also developed the terrible habit of shifting his body as he catches the ball.
Sometimes he does this by standing up, sometimes by moving laterally.
But he is giving the umpire the impression that the pitch is bad because he is moving to catch it.
Instead he should be still to catch the ball giving the ump the impression the ball is exactly where he wanted it.
Posada has bad footwork behind the plate.
He is often out of position on throws from his fielders when a runner is coming home.
It has been common knowledge for many years that certain pitchers with the Yankees did not want to pitch to Posada.
Randy Johnson was one example. Mike Mussina was another.
If yesterday is any indication, Posada and Sabathia have a lot of work to do before CC is going to feel comfortable with Jorge behind the plate.
Posada is stubborn, he is hot headed and that is not a good combination for a catcher.
In scenes of Posada in the dugout yesterday he looked like he wanted to kill somebody. This was three or more times that the cameras caught him looking like somebody had done him grave insult.
It is impossible to determine what that was about. Maybe he had a bad tuna salad sandwich before the game.
But if his body language was this bad on camera, was there more going on between him and his pitcher than we know?
There is no choice for the Yankees at this juncture. Posada is certainly an above average offensive catcher and they need his bat in the lineup.
If Jose Molina is the only other option at catcher the Yankees are in trouble, because when Molina has to hit, you have only six hitters in the line up who have proven themselves at the major league level.
Cody Ransom and Brett Gardner are in the line up, but nobody on the Yankees really wanted them to be.
Ransom is filling in for injured A-Rod and Gardner is there because the Yankees could not pull off a deal for Mike Cameron to play center field.
But when you add Molina, who is proven, proven he cannot hit, you have a very weak bottom of the order.
Gardner has shown promise in Spring Training and had one hit in three at-bats yesterday.
But the Yankees have to have Posada's bat in the line up and that creates many, many problems for their pitching staff and their defense in general.
C.C. Sabathia's disastrous debut yesterday is not expected to continue. He will come around and be dependable this year.
There is nothing in Mark Teixeira's six-year big league career to suggest that he is not going to hit.
But with Posada, Yankee fans can expect no better on defense than what was seen from the catcher yesterday.
He has been in the league a long time now. He has been the Yankees starting catcher for more than eight years.
He has always been bad behind the plate. Yesterday he was atrocious and one must wonder to what extent he contributed to Sabathia's off day.
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