They need to get George Clooney’s character from “Up in the Air” over to Yankee Stadium. Seems like he’d be the right one to tell Jorge Posada it’s time to retire, Derek Jeter his days as a lead-off hitter are past him and A.J. Burnett that his rotation spot belongs to a 25-year-old righty now.
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Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. Posada has been reduced to the role of bench player, a glorified mascot of the Dynasty years, who is now taking up precious roster space on the bench. Jeter, who no longer has the speed of his youth, is hitting many times before Brett Gardner, the speediest guy in the lineup. And Phil Hughes will be the sacrificial bullpen lamb because Burnett has two more years left on his $82.5 million contract.
Part of this is what happens when you reward veterans for their past glories. The Yankees gave Posada and Jeter long-term deals with big money in the twilight of their careers because of their roles in those heady late ’90s championship years. I get it; especially with Jeter. He is the Captain. The face of the franchise. But if he’s truly about winning, he’ll let the best player(s) hit at the top of the lineup.
Posada is a different case. While Jeter’s skills have diminished, he can still play the game. Posada, who was never the greatest defensive catcher, became a full-time DH this season and has been a total bust. He is hitting .230 on the season, most of which was built around a .382 average in June. Since July 1, he’s hit .201 with no home runs. He can’t hit lefties (.103 average this season) and you certainly can’t use him as a pinch runner (he’s not just slow, he makes some pretty poor base running decisions and is rated among the bottom in base running stats). It would be great to see Jesus Montero come up and take over the DH spot for the rest of the season, but until the rosters expand, Posada will be clogging up the bench the way he once clogged up the bases.
Burnett is baffling. While he has been the victim of poor run support and has innings where his stuff looks great, he just can’t seem to get through a game without giving up at least four runs. Burnett hasn’t had a quality start since June 29 and is 8-9 with a 4.60 ERA. Watching him can be pure frustration for fans. In a recent start in Chicago, he was staked to an early 13-run lead and still had to be pulled in the fifth after giving up seven runs.
Nobody likes to see once-great athletes in decline, but baseball is about results. If a player is not performing, then their spot needs to go to a player who can do the job. It’s time for some Yankee players to get pink slips.