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Jeter fiddles while Jorge burns

Good news for Yankee prospects in Scranton, Trenton, and Tampa:  When you make it to the big leagues, it looks like the number 20 will be available after all.

 I know it was you, Jorge.  You broke my heart.  You broke my heart.

Fredo Posada betrayed the Yankee family last night.  With the Red Sox, who know a little something about using the Bronx Bombers to spur a Lazarus-like comeback, in town and on a run, Posada took one for himself. 

Posada was demoted to the ninth position in the Yankee order for last night’s game.  While it’s the least prestigious spot in the lineup, it is a step above Bench, Scranton, or interviewing Bleacher Creatures on the YES Pregame show which is where aging players with a .165 average usually end up before too long. 

Posada said all the right things when the lineup was posted, then walked into manager Joe Girardi’s office and told him he needed a night off to rest his back and ego, both of which apparently stiffened up on him after meeting with the beat writers.

The situation was an inexcusable failure on the part of one of a long-term Yankee and the heart and soul of the team’s title runs.  He’s been around long enough to know that, when you have a role to play, you can’t shun your responsibilities. 

I’m speaking, of course, of Derek Jeter. 

Jeter is the Yankee captain, and, while that title is often looked at as a type of lifetime achievement award, it’s actually much more than that.  Whether literal or figurative, the C tells everyone on the team that it’s your locker room and your team. 

With that letter comes great responsibility.  Any turmoil reflects back on you, especially when it’s turmoil that could, and should, have been prevented. 

Jeter and Posada came up together back in the mid-90s.  The Captain knows his teammate, and it’s been a rough year for Posada.  He’s been asked to give up his position, allowing younger men to catch while he was exiled to designated hitter.  Posada described it as “pinch hitting four times a game” recently. 

Then, with the Hated Red Sox in town, Posada was demoted to the nine hole.  Sure, there were valid reasons to put him there, the biggest one being that there is no ten hole, but it still wounded the veteran of many Yankee-BoSox wars. 

When the lineup card was posted Saturday night, Jeter knew the impact.

It’s also been a rough year for Joe Girardi.  It’s never easy to tell a face of the franchise that their time is growing short.  Allowing an aging star to preserve dignity at the end is a challenge for even the best clubhouse managers. 

When the guy you’re escorting to the door is the same guy that took your job at the end of your playing days, it makes the situation even more sensitive.   It took all of three innings last night--granted three innings of Yankee-Red Sox gives reporters several hours to research--for a Yankee beat writer to point out that this is the first season that Posada has posted worse numbers than Girardi’s best year. 

Again, Jeter was a teammate of both men when the passing of the guard took place.  He knew the personalities involved.   He knew what had to happen at some point this year, and how it would go down.  He’s the captain.  It’s his team. 

Here’s what he should have done:  When the new starting catcher Francisco Cervelli suffered an injury at the start of the season, Jeter walks into Girardi’s office and shuts the door.

“Let Jorge catch one game a series, or one game a week,” Jeter says.  “I’ll DH those games.”

A small acknowledgement that Posada gave up his spot for the good of the team, and that the captain is willing to do it too, would have gone a long way in the clubhouse.  It also lets Posada know that he’s still needed and still relevant, even if he can’t answer the bell every day.

As far as we know, Jeter didn’t do that.  Here’s what else he should have done:  When Posada’s average drifts below the Mendoza line and he drifts lower in the lineup, Jeter walks into Girardi’s office and shuts the door. 

“I haven’t homered in awhile, and my average isn’t where I want it to be,” the Captain tells the manager.  “Put me in the nine hole for a series so I can get my swing back on track.”

The hungry New York beat writers pounce on the story, and Jeter says all the right things, then moves back up to his normal spot after a few days.  And Girardi is free to do whatever he needs to do with his lineup for the rest of the year.  Who can possibly complain about a demotion after the Captain has already spent the Kansas City series there? 

As far as we know, Jeter didn’t do that.  Here’s what else he should have done.

Saturday night, Girardi posts the lineup, with Posada bringing up the rear.  A rustle goes through the clubhouse, and the Captain rises from the stool in front of his locker.  He pushes through the cluster of reporters reading and tweeting the news and says, “Hold off on that story.”   Then he goes into Girardi’s office and closes the door.

“Put me in the nine hole.  Give Jorge the night off.  Do anything but this.” 

Jeter knows that in the New York-Boston brawls of yesteryear, he was the CEO while Posada was the dock worker.  Jorge was the one pointing at his head and cursing Pedro’s mom.  He was the one throwing haymakers in the mosh pit while Jeter was preparing a brief for the 8th Circuit of Appeals.

“Bat him ninth against Tampa or Minnesota, but not tonight, on the national game on Fox.  He’s been here 17 years and deserves better than this.  Do it to me.”

That’s taking one for the team.  That’s what captains do.  Come to work every day, do your job, act as a role model, but occasionally you’ll need to walk into the manager’s office and shut the door. 

When it was time to go to the mattresses for a teammate, Derek Jeter stayed on his stool. 


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