Last night, Jorge Posada crushed a ball to right center field against the Seattle Mariners.
The ball hung up in the air for a long time, hit the very top of the wall, landed, bounced twice, and was retrieved by Mariners' center fielder Franklin Gutierrez. This was not done quickly. As you can see in the photo, Gutierrez crashed into the wall, meaning he wasn't in a great fielding position when he landed.
In fact, if you saw the game, you'll know he wasn't even initially aware of where the ball was when he came off the wall.
Almost immediately upon Gutierrez picking up the ball, the camera cut back to Posada, a good 30 feet from second base, and not even bothering to run hard, because he was too busy waving his hand in the air, signaling for a home run.
Posada eventually scored, although it was only because the Mariners took too long turning a double-play two hitters later.
I know Posada's never been fleet of foot but it's inexcusable that he was not running harder on that play. Frankly, he should have been on third base. That ball was hit to right-center and it took the Mariners forever to get the ball in.
If you watched Posada leave the box, you know what he was thinking: "This is a home run". Heck, we know he was thinking that even after the ball was, you know, lying on the field of play as the outfielders looked for it.
This is coming a week after Posada was thrown out at the plate against the Red Sox, on a play where he looked like he had no clue the outfielder had even attempted a throw. Making no attempt to slide, or even avoid the catcher, Posada simply half-raised his arms, being easily tagged out.
It also came a week after Posada appeared visibly angry at Alex Rodriguez for not scoring on a double Posada hit in the 8th inning against Boston.
To quote Dan Rydell from Sports Night: "Are you mental?"
Look, I get that A-Rod is supposed to be a better runner than Posada. (Even though A-Rod clearly has a bad hip) But I find it incredibly grating that after making a terrible base-running error, Posada, three days later, visibly gets angry at A-Rod, only to follow it up with yet another base-running error a few days later.
But this is not a piece about running hard. The rah-rah Little League stuff is fine, but it's not what I'm getting at here. This is about something running much deeper.
This is about "True Yankees."
I have no idea who coined the phrase, or when it first occurred, but it's out there. We all know it. Brian Cashman gave me an autograph once and wrote: "To Patrick, a 'True' Yankee." That is not a joke.
And let's face it. We all know who the fans consider "True Yankees." Essentially, it's anyone who played on the team from 1996-2000. Specifically, it's guys like Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius, Mariano Rivera, Tino Martinez and others.
Jorge Posada belongs in that group.
Who's not a "True Yankee?" Pretty much any big free agent counted on to replace those guys. Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, Randy Johnson, Gary Sheffield.
Alex Rodriguez belongs in that group.
For the most part, if you're in the first group, postseason collapses will not be blamed on you.
Because in the eyes of so many Yankee fans and media, guys like Jeter and Posada have earned it. Because of what they've accomplished before, they're given (mostly) free passes for any poor performance in the postseason. New guys like A-Rod, or Giambi, or Sheffield are pointed to as the reasons for failure because, hey, the Yankees were winning just fine until those guys showed up.
Now, you may be wondering what one of these has to do with the other. And after I tell you, you may think I'm making something out of nothing. That's ok.
But this is my point: If the fans, media, and even the General Manager are familiar with the concept of "True Yankees," you can be darn sure the players are.
And you can be sure they know who falls under that protected sphere and who doesn't.
Please note: I am not accusing all Yankee fans of this. But we all know they're out there, and they know who they are.
So when I look at Jorge Posada not running hard, while at the same time criticizing Alex Rodriguez for, in Posada's opinion, doing the same thing, here's what I see: A "True Yankee" calling out a "Not True Yankee," and knowing full well he can do it.
Imagine for a second if A-Rod had thrown up his hands or shouted angrily as Posada ran/walked/staggered across home plate against the Red Sox.
Imagine if A-Rod yelled at Posada for not scoring on one of his doubles.
You don't think he'd be ripped in the press or by the fans? You're telling me the groundswell of support wouldn't be with Posada, and we'd be calling out A-Rod for being a bad teammate and saying he was only concerned about his stats?
Of course we would. Because Jorge Posada's been to five World Series. A-Rod's been to none. This is how it works for a lot of Yankee fans. A-Rod's A-Rod, Posada's Posada, and this is how things go.
This is not a column ripping Jorge Posada. I'm simply using the most recent events as the example. Heck, before he was anointed with "True Yankee" status, Tino Martinez was booed by fans when he struggled in April of 1996. I guess all it took were four rings to earn the love.
I'm just saying it's got to stop. Comparing guys like A-Rod, Mussina, Giambi, Teixeria, or Sabathia to ghosts of Yankee's past is not only unfair, it's probably detrimental. You don't think these guys are aware of the fans' perception of them? You don't think A-Rod's probably aware that there are Yankee fans out there who'd prefer Scott Brosius, he of the .257 career average, to him?
(Fun fact: Scott Brosius was a below-average league hitter during his career with the Yankees, and had a .303 OBP in 1999 and 2000)
Don't you think it's time we stop embracing or denying Yankee players acceptance under some concept like being a True Yankee? At what point do we move on? At what point do we say that, hey 1998 was a decade ago, so maybe if we flame out in the postseason this year, you share the blame equally.
Because if we let the players know that no-one's immune to criticism, maybe the newer guys won't feel so much pressure. Maybe they won't feel like it's all going to come down on their heads when it goes wrong.
And maybe, just maybe, we could get Jorge Posada to run a little harder.
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