Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is This The Man Who Will Save The Yankees?

It started off as an amusing footnote, the type of spring training filler copy that beat writers must churn out over a long month in Tampa.

Tony Pena, we learned, had seen Bartolo Colon pitch in winter ball and was impressed by the 37-year-old's still-there stuff. Sure, Colon was careening into Rich Garces territory physically, and hadn't put together a decent big-league season in five years, but he was also pitching with purpose again. Pena, so the legend goes, reported this back to Yankee generals who reached out to the former Cy Young award winner with an invite to camp.

The rest is history. After a few impressive long-relief outings, Colon was moved into rotation and has responded with six quality starts in his first eight tries. There have been a couple of clunkers along the way, but on balance Colon has been a revelation, giving New York pitching depth when its needed it most.

On Tuesday, Colon threw the first shutout by a Yankee since last September. It felt so much like 2005, I blasted Arctic Monkeys on my iPod and yelled out the window that George Bush doesn't care about black people.

Seriously, though. A 3.26 ERA in 66.1 innings? An 8.4 K/9 ratio? A 1.10 WHIP? For Bartolo Colon? Bartolo freaking Colon! This is why Red Sox fans hate us.

Once Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies and Andy Pettitte traded in standing ovations for a honey-do list, this Yankees season became all about July 31. The offseason was an unmitigated disaster, leaving the Bombers more vulnerable than they've been in years. Their only chance was to hang in the race until the trade deadline, with the hope Brian Cashman could bring in reinforcements at the right price.

Only problem was, there was more bad news to come on the pitching front. Phil Hughes — who you could argue the Yankees needed to improve on his 18-win 2010 season — came to camp with a right shoulder that didn't work. Uh oh.

Full disclosure: I thought this was the death blow of the 2011 season. Hell, it might still be. But removing Hughes from the equation — only an eternal optimist thinks he can contribute at this point — put the Yankees in a near impossible situation. CC, Hughes, and a Whole Lotta Bad News was suddenly CC, Loss, Loss, No-Decision and Loss.

It wasn't even catchy anymore, damn it!

And yet here's Colon, turning back the clock and effectively filling Hughes' spot in the Yankees rotation. The team still needs serious help, but Colon is at least giving them a chance every five days. The wait 'til July 31 is back on in earnest.

How much of this we owe to the marvels of modern medicine is debatable, but all we do know is that Colon's re-birth has probably saved this Yankees team from dying. A sincere tip of the cap is in order to Tony Pena, who was already cooler than Fonzie to me by virtue of his ability to throw out baserunners from his knees back in the day.

Obviously, the man has outdone himself.

Dan Hanzus can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com or on Twitter @danhanzus.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Posey's injury makes us wonder what would Jesus do?

Buster Posey stepped on the field Wednesday as the wonderboy of the San Francisco Giants. He was helped off it as the subject of his very own "Faces of Death" video.

It wasn't pretty to watch: Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins — the new Ken Huckaby by the bay — crashing into the star catcher, Posey's leg getting caught underneath. X-rays revealed a break and ligament damage in his ankle. The hope is Posey returns to help the Giants defend their title in two months, but there are no guarantees.

Somewhat surprisingly, the incident stirred up a debate about the rules of the game. Many columnists and media pundits — I'm guessing at least one "Around The Horn" panelist's head exploded — are calling for home-plate collisions to be banned from the sport.

It all makes for good conversation, but I'm not buying it. There are ways to avoid injuries at the plate, it's just about learning the craft. Ask Jorge Posada, who suffered a similarly ghastly leg injury in a home-plate incident in the minors but later became an expert at avoiding collisions, turning his back shoulder away from the baserunner and sweeping a tag through the zone. Sixteen years into a Hall of Fame-level career, can you ever remember Posada being truly creamed at the plate?

Indians uber-prospect Carlos Santana tore up his knee in a collision at Fenway Park last summer, an injury that looked just as ugly as Posey's (actually worse). I'm hoping Cleveland management showed the 25-year-old a Posada reel. This is likely the only time baseball people would show a young catcher tapes of Posada's work behind the dish, but it might be the most important lesson a player can learn.

Which brings us, of course, to Jesus Montero. The Yankees' No. 1 prospect, Montero is being groomed as the next big thing in a long tradition of great backstops in the Bronx. I'm sure as the 24-hour news cycle rolled highlights of Posey's injury on loop, at least one Yankee front office official broached the subject of whether their phenom should be playing the most dangerous position on the field.

In Montero's case, you can make the argument a move off catcher makes sense. There's depth in the system, meaning Montero could be shifted to a different position while another player — let's say Austin Romine — slides into his place. Montero's not supposed to be particularly gifted defensively, either — some scouts peg his best position as DH — so it's not like the team would be wrestling with the idea of uprooting a young Pudge Rodriguez.

Of course, the bloat on the Yankees' parent club makes even the idea of shifting Montero difficult. Mark Teixeira and his $180 million contract is anchored at first until 2016. Many of us won't be around to see the day A-Rod's contract comes off the books. And that's not even getting into the messy Derek Jeter business, a player who might already be best suited for a corner infield home, depending on who you ask.

Factoring in financial and roster issues, it makes sense to keep Montero at the position he's been groomed at. If his ego will allow it, maybe Posada can give the 21-year-old lessons on how to avoid the collisions that Posey, Santana, and Posada himself have endured.

Montero is the future of the franchise, making incidents like Wednesday scary stuff. But to quote the bad guy from re-watchable cable classic Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (and, I guess, famed scientist Louis Pasteur) — "Chance favors the prepared mind."

Words to live by, kid.

Dan Hanzus can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com or on Twitter @danhanzus.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Yankees notes: Soriano, The G.O.A.T. and Mr. Jones

He'll never say it of course, but there had to be an evil part of Brain Cashman's heart that was pretty amped about the news about Rafael Soriano on Wednesday.

The man that was supposed to be the bridge to Mariano can finally scowl with good reason after Dr. James Andrews – the grim reaper of pitchers – diagnosed Soriano with an inflamed elbow ligament. The injury will cost the right-hander 6-8 weeks.

Intentionally or not, Cashman put himself in a no-lose situation after his mouthy performance at Soriano's press conference in January. If the signing blows up, it's irrefutable evidence that ownership shouldn't override the veteran GM in matters of roster construction. If Soriano produces, Cashman can play the "Listen, nobody wants him to succeed more than me!" card.

We still have a long way to go, but it's certainly looking like Door No. 1 right now.

Cashman's comments on how the Yankees will get by without Soriano carried a whiff of why he didn't view the reliever as a necessity in the first place.

"I've got confidence. I think we have the personnel in place here as well as down below to get us through. Joba, Robertson, (Boone) Logan are well equipped to handle it, and we were trying to get Girardi other choices with the Ayalas of the world.

"I've got a lot of confidence in the guys we have — more confidence when we're at full strength, but I have confidence in the guys we have."

I'm pretty sure throwing Logan in there was a joke meant to bring levity to a serious situation, but who knows.

Bill Madden says Cash can give the Yankees a big, fat "I told you so."

Soriano's injury was one of two subplots for Thursday's win, the Yankees' seventh in nine games. They are now 27-21, percentage points ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East.

Andruw Jones homered twice and Mariano Rivera closed it out in a non-save situation, capping a 7-3 win. It was the G.O.A.T.'s 1,000th appearance, becoming the first pitcher to reach that milestone with one team.

Steve Politi says Rivera's durability is just as impressive as his dominance.

Cashman busted out his tried-and-true Panamanian Fishing Boy schtick:

"When you simplify it, he’s a one-pitch pitcher coming from a small fishermen village in Panama, and to have this type of success in one of the biggest cities in the world, it’s incredible. And he’s that great a guy at the same time. He’s the same person he was when he signed."

Jones told LoHud that the 1996 Mo and 2011 Mo are essentially the same pitcher, which might be the greatest praise an athlete can receive.

"He’s the same guy, same pitcher, still getting them out. I think he’s super human."

David Robertson is helping his Alabama hometown recover from last month's devastating twister.

Nick Swisher was back in the lineup Wednesday, but the slumping outfielder took another 0-fer, dropping his average to a ghastly .204. Swisher has been watching a lot of film from last year to get his swing and confidence back where it needs to be. It all sounds sort of depressing to me, like watching your wedding video on loop after your wife leaves you for the snow plow guy.

"I watch base hits, home runs, doubles – things that put positive things in my mind. When you're struggling sometimes it's tough to get out of it. You have to talk about it every day and you might not want to."

This is a couple days old, but interesting quote from Johnny Damon on the treatment of Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter by Yankee management. Hint: Somebody's probably going to turn down Old-Timer's Day a couple of times.

"I got to see it the year before. I always thought I was one of the fan favorites, but that's baseball. There's stuff you can't control."

For those interested, here's a look at Jesus Montero's numbers at Triple-A.

Until next time, hang onto the roof ...

Dan Hanzus is a regular contributor to Pinstripe Alley. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail or on Twitter @danhanzus.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yankees notes: Subway Series derails early

They say the world is going to end today, and by "they", I mean crazy people.

Fifteen years ago, Dave Mlicki shut down the Bombers at home in the first Subway Series game and it felt like the world was ending for Yankees fans. On Friday night, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey did the same thing, but the feeling was a lot less apocalyptic.

Perhaps that's because Yankees fans are starting to get used to the script of the 2011 season. Good starting pitching efforts wasted by an offense that can't get a hit when it matters.

The Yankees lead the league in runs scored, but a propensity to fail with runners in scoring position continues to haunt the club. It went just 1-for-10 in such situations on Friday, getting beat by a misfit Mets roster as a result.

The New York Times focused on the makeshift lineup used by the Mets, who fielded several players that were in Triple-A a month ago. The Yankees had eight All-Stars in the lineup, though it didn't feel like it.

"On paper we don’t look the same as the Yankees look," said Carlos Beltran. "But it’s not about how you look. It’s about how you take the field and win ball games."

Marc Carig notes that while the Yankees lead the league in runs and on-base percentage, they are just ninth in hits. This helps to explain the RISP woes.

After the game, the Yankees gave much of the credit to Dickey, according to LoHud. Nick Swisher described trying to hit Dickey's knuckler like trying to eat soup with a fork.

"That knuckleball was going everywhere, throwing it inside, throwing it outside, up and down," said Mark Teixeira, who plated the only Yankee run with a solo homer just over Carlos Beltran's glove in right field.

Jeff Bradley wrote about that Mlicki game in 1997, saying the Subway Series no longer has much shine.

Marc Carig writes that Yankees reliever Pedro Feliciano has turned to plasma therapy in his attempt to recover from the shoulder issues that have kept him sidelined this season. "Everything’s good," Feliciano said. "It’s just getting strong again."

Ebenezer Samuel — who I can only imagine is 178 years old — writes about the possibility of Beltran switching sides of this rivalry by the trade deadline.

All is well for the Red Sox, who passed the Yankees in the standings with their latest win. PeteAbe has the story here.

Some good news: A-Rod opted to skip a routine examination of his surgically-repaired hip, according to yankees.com. The third baseman said he feels no discomfort, making it unnecessary. I suppose every slump A-Rod goes into for the rest of his career will lead to questions about the hip.

Within that same notebook we learn Chris Dickerson is hoping to stay off the seven-day DL after getting beaned earlier this week.

In case you missed this from Friday, John Sterling spoke with the Wall Street Journal about his future. The radio play-by-play man's contract is up at the end of the season.

Until next time, hang onto the roof ...

Dan Hanzus can be reached at dhanzus@gmail or on Twitter @danhanzus.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Time has come for Yankees to engage

When attempting to contextualize this enigmatic Yankees season, I keep coming back to David Spade: short and generally unlikable.

Actually, no (though that's pretty accurate). I'm actually referring to the CBS sitcom Spade stars in, Rules of Engagement.

Full disclosure, I've never actually seen an episode of the Rules of Engagement (which already puts this analogy on shaky ground). To be honest, the last time I watched the Tiffany network for a non-sports event was probably Nick Swisher's wooden cameo on How I Met Your Mother a couple years back.

"Hey Neil Patrick Harris, that's a real home run of an idea you've got!" ***not actual dialogue

But I do have a general understanding of the existence of RoE, and the 2011 Yankees share some similar character traits:

  • Both feature a cast of seasoned veterans (Jeter, Mo, A-Rod = Spade, The Guy Who Played David Puddy from Seinfeld, the busty blonde from Reno 911)
  • Both have the backing of gazillionaires (Hal and Hank Steinbrenner = Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions)
  • Both have Penny Lane ties (RoE co-star Oliver Hudson is the brother of Kate Hudson, who A-Rod used to get it on with, probably definitely while staring at himself in the mirror.)
  • Both sit smack in the middle of the standings/ratings. The Yankees are 23-19, one game out of first and four games out of last. RoE has finished between 23rd and 47th in the ratings in its four seasons, the equivalent of an 85-77 record in baseball.
  • The best way to describe it is that both seem to just kind of exist out there in the ether, their presence on television proof that they exist, a cosmic placeholder created by the satellites. But do either really matter?

    The Yankees took care of business in Baltimore, righting the ship with a sweep over an Orioles team that suddenly looks strikingly similar to the non-Showalter squads that came before it. Next come the Mets, perfect timing for a Yankees team struggling to get any sort of momentum going this season.

    Can the Yankees can use the sellout crowds and New York stage to jump start a season curiously low on adrenaline?

    Let's hope so, and let's face it, stranger things have happened. For instance, David Spade impregnated a Playmate of the Year.

    If that doesn't tell you anything is possible, I don't know what will.

    Dan Hanzus can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com or on Twitter @danhanzus.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yankees complete Grand Slam of Fail in lost weekend

You have to hand it to these Yankees. They really do know how to go down in flames. Some teams are about the slow burn, but not our beloved Bronx Bombers. They collapse in a fury, unloading all their demons for public consumption in the process.

Consider the following four things the team managed to accomplish/divulge in one weekend series. It was, in so many ways, The Grand Slam of Fail™.

1) They served as the defibrillator that resurrected their arch-rivals from the dead. The Red Sox entered the weekend three games under .500 and looking less comfortable than Thom Yorke in the Jersey Shore hot tub. Three road wins later and Boston has evened its record for the first time since opening day and emasculated its nemesis in the process. Awesome! Even worse, the Yankees have allowed the Sox to fall back on all the familiar jock tropes that athletes rely on to feel better about themselves. "We're back to 0-0 now," "It's a new season for us," "The only good hooker is a dead hooker." Hold up ...

2) They were enveloped by Posada-gate and all the hard questions that came with it. Listen, Georgie was wrong to ask out of the lineup on Saturday, something he admitted 24 hours later. On Sunday, he received a standing ovation from fans, drew a walk as a pinch-hitter and learned the team won't take any disciplinary action against him for his transgressions. Turn the page (hopefully). It was an unpleasant incident for everyone involved, however, and it provided a nauseating preview of the headaches the Yankees will face in the coming years. Sure, Posada's situation is uncomfortable, but at least his contract is up after this season. What about when Derek Jeter is hitting .220 next August while showing the range of a Pacific walrus at shortstop? Or in 2014 when a 38-year-old A-Rod needs a new hip and still has a presidential term left in pinstripes? Don't even get me started if CC Sabathia relapses back onto Cap'n Crunch. And if you and I are thinking ahead to these scenarios, you know Brian Cashman is, too. This might be why it appears the GM hasn't slept in 12 years.

3) Yankee Stadium doesn't scare anyone. Derek Jeter said on the closing night of the old Stadium that the Yankees were going to bring all the ghosts across the street to the new house. I will always believe in Derek Jeter — he's won five rings and watched Minka Kelly change out of a cocktail dress, after all — but I'm not so sure the supernatural stuff went down. The Yankees are just 13-11 at home this season, attendance has dropped, and on too many nights the crowd seems distracted, disinterested or both. The home of the Yankees has been demystified, and I can't foresee anyway to undo this without the use of a time machine. A theory: Maybe the ghosts crossed the street, saw the disgraceful Legends Seats and moat, turned around and pulled up some chairs at Stan The Man's. I can't blame them.

4.This team might not be any good as presently constituted. Ah yes, the most important revelation. Granted, we're catching these Yankees at a collective lowpoint. But there are some bona fide areas of concern here, and now approximately one quarter of the way through the season, the sample isn't so small anymore. Their defense stinks. The back end of their rotation is showing cracks. Sabathia hasn't been an ace. Phil Hughes has a mysterious shoulder injury. Nick Swisher has regressed to the 2008 version that got him shipped out of Chicago. Rafael Soriano could be channeling Carl Pavano on a Dominican Idle scale. Posada could be going through a mid-life crisis. Jeter has four extra-base hits (but still gets to watch Minka Kelly slink out of black dresses). Without proper reinforcements in both the rotation and lineup, it's hard to talk yourself into 90 wins right now.

Am I saying the Yankees are dead? Of course not, though I suspect some of you have them some where between bin Laden and Liberace on the pulse scale. The American League East is in a transition year, which I believe will allow a flawed team like the Yankees to hang in the race until reinforcements arrive. But there's no hiding the fact that this weekend was a damaging one in Yankee Universe, one that showed how close to the surface their vulnerabilities really are.

Buckle up, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Dan Hanzus is a contributor to Pinstripe Alley. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com or on Twitter @danhanzus.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Donnie Ballshame: Mattingly still can't catch break

Don Mattingly is not a happy man right now.

He'll never admit it, because decades in the game have taught him better. Nothing good can come of it, especially when a primary job as manager is to separate your players from the chaos that can swirl around them. A 13-year career under George Steinbrenner will instill that lesson in you.

"Don’t let this become an excuse," has been the manager's mantra.

That's a good way to look at it, but it doesn't change the fact that Mattingly is the face of a team that might not have enough money to meet payroll by the end of the month. The Los Angeles Dodgers are a marquee franchise — perhaps second only to the Yankees in terms of prestige — and yet they've become a bad Jay Leno punchline five nights a week.

This can happen when two filthy rich middle-aged white people use divorce as a weapon to destroy each other. Mattingly, who knows a thing or two about crazy ex-wives, has been forced to watch the proceedings like a Titanic survivor watched the unsinkable ship go down: Mouth agape, eyes bulging, "Dude, this is not happening" expression etched across his face.

And make no mistake, this ship is going down. Joe Torre knew it, fleeing to a corner office on Park Avenue, potentially to focus his attention on destroying all remaining copies of Joe Torre: Curveballs Along The Way. Mattingly didn't have the advantage of such a backup plan — nor a wretched Paul Sorvino vehicle to call his own. This was his mess.

Mattingly saw the ship speeding toward the iceberg, but what was he going to do? After years of waiting to become a big-league manager, this was finally his turn. But as so often has been the case in Mattingly's star-crossed career, timing had worked against him.

Bud Selig did the right thing last month, jumping into the fray to seize control of the Dodgers. Frank McCourt is trying to fight the commissioner off, but this is believed to be a hopeless endeavor. If Mattingly and Dodgers fans are lucky, the transition back to secure ownership will be in place by next year.

Then again, that same incoming management might come to the conclusion that the Dodgers need a fresh start, one that doesn't involve the old regime's hand-picked field manager. While Joe Girardi signs extensions, does bad Subway commercials and tells heartwarming stories to Suzyn Waldman about father-daughter dental work, Mattingly scrapes by in sunny SoCal with a perpetual dark cloud hanging overhead.

Not cool, Baseball Gods. Not cool at all.

It's not fair, but fair has never really been part of the Mattingly mystique. If it was, he'd be in the Hall of Fame right now, owner of a few rings and probably the manager of the Yankees. Who knows, maybe a desperate Ray Liotta could've played him in a TV movie.

Instead, the Hitman soldiers on, a stranger in a strange town that keeps getting stranger. Mattingly's not going to feel sorry for himself — if that was his personality he would've went Ray Finkle on us a long time ago.

Maybe he can get this team to 81 wins ... but maybe not. Maybe he'll be the manager of the Dodgers next year ... but maybe not. All we do know is that Donnie Baseball deserved better than this. What else is new?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Motown malaise: Yankees blanked, Jeter hurt

Max Scherzer is a very promising young pitcher. He's not 1999 Pedro Martinez, however, something the Yankees made him look like in a 4-0 loss at Comerica Park on Wednesday.

Scherzer toyed with the Yankees over eight shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing just four hits to improve to 5-0 on the season. Scherzer consistently got ahead of hitters, showcasing a lively fastball and good changeup to keep the Yankees clueless throughout.

Things got worse for the Bombers in the eighth, when Derek Jeter exited the game with a right hip injury. Joe Girardi said the shortstop is day-to-day, and with a day game tomorrow, it's likely we've seen the last of him in Detroit.

Freddy Garcia (1-2) kept the Yankees in the game with a respectable seven-plus inning effort, but his margin for error was non-existent. Mark Teixeira's fourth-inning double represented New York's lone extra-base hit.

"Freddy pitched a pretty good ballgame, he gave us a chance to win," Girardi said.

Magglio Ordonez had the biggest blow of the game, connecting on a two-run homer off Garcia that capped a three-run Detroit third.

After the inning, Garcia and Francisco Cervelli appeared to have words in the Yankee dugout, possibly over the pitch selection to Ordonez.

"I'm not sure, I didn't see that," Girardi said.

The Yankees mounted only one serious threat, putting runners on first and second against a tiring Scherzer to start the eighth. But Jeter popped out to right before Curtis Granderson wrapped into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Jeter grimaced as he exited the box, and was replaced by Eduardo Nunez in the bottom of the eighth.

"His right hip seemed to be grabbing at him," Girardi said. "He'll be day-to-day. He told me it was bothering him."

Jeter, as you could expect, downplayed the injury. Actually, he denied it was even an injury at all. Clearly, Derek Jeter is a liar.

"It's not the first time it's happened, it's really not an issue," Jeter said. "I didn't do it on a particular play. ... It's really not a big deal."

Jeter expects to be in the lineup in the finale.

The Yankees will attempt to split the series tomorrow when A.J. Burnett starts opposite Rick Porcello. First pitch is at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Stray observations:

* For those of you worried that the Yankees are leaning too heavily on the long ball, this series has built your argument. Playing in spacious Comerica Park, the homer-leaning Yankees have batted .237 with a .130 average with runners in scoring position. They've struck out 27 times, while drawing just six walks.

* New York has now dropped two straight to fall to 17-11 on the season.

* A-Rod, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner combined to go 0-for-16 with seven strikeouts.

* The Rays fell, 3-2, at home to the Blue Jays, keeping the Yankees two games ahead of the pack in the AL East.

* Rodriguez is struggling ... real bad. He's 5-for-43 (.118) since hitting his grand slam on April 23 in Baltimore. Curiously, he hasn't drawn a walk in nine games. He called his situation a "work in progress." Aren't we all, Alex. Aren't we all.

* Silver lining? Bin Laden: Still missing large portion of skull.

Dan Hanzus is a contributing writer to Pinstripe Alley. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com or on Twitter @danhanzus.

Making sense of the Posada Conundrum

Jorge Posada was locked in a staredown with Justin Verlander, the 39-year-old veteran on his way out facing the 28-year-old ace square in his prime.

It should have been a mismatch, but not on this night. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Posada squared up a 100-mph fastball from the Tigers right-hander and sent it over Austin Jackson's head and one hop over the center-field fence. The DH loped into second with a booming two-run double.

Even for a fleeting moment, it was a welcome reminder of what once was.

This has been a season of surprises for the Yankees. From an overall perspective, the team's standing atop the AL East as the Red Sox languish near the bottom jumps out. But we've witnessed unexpected individual performances as well. Bartolo Colon's resurrection. Phil Hughes' breakdown. Eric Chavez' re-emergence. Rafael Soriano's struggles.

Jorge Posada, on the other hand, has followed a trajectory that many people — experts and fans alike — predicted. Even after an encouraging four hits in the opening two games in Detroit, Posada is a .167 hitter. Six April homers have only somewhat obscured the fact that he's been overmatched in too many at-bats this season.

The Yankees knew this bill was coming due. An outstanding performance in the walk-year of his previous contract (.338 BA, 20 HR, 90 RBI, .970 OPS) virtually guaranteed they would have to overpay in the subsequent deal if they were to keep the popular veteran. The two sides ultimately agreed to terms to a four-year, $52 million contract in November 2007, an unheard of deal for a catcher on the wrong side of 35.

On balance, the contract has been a bust, though in fairness to Posada, he's had his moments. A shoulder injury muddled his 2008 season, but he remained a dangerous hitter and somewhat capable defender on the 2009 World Series team. The cracks began to show in earnest last year, as Posada's production dipped and his defense became impossible to ignore.

The team wisely stripped him of his catching duties prior to this season, making him the full-time designated hitter. The decision made sense on two levels: The Yankees could now get younger and more defensive-minded behind the plate while at the same time giving Posada a better chance to stay healthy, something he had struggled to do in recent years.

Derek Jeter, Posada's longtime teammate and erstwhile Core Four compadre, has had his own problems this season and might have similar types of problems in the final year of his contract (or even as soon as the present day, if you really want to be pessimistic about it). But Jeter is team royalty, an equal of the Babe, Lou, Joe D., and The Mick in Yankee Universe. The Yankees' re-signing of Jeter was as much about protecting the brand as securing on-field production.

Posada — though unquestionably one of the best catchers in team history — doesn't have nearly the same cache as Jeter, and is therefore extremely vulnerable. His relationship with Joe Girardi has always been complicated — Posada took away Girardi's job once upon a time, after all — which adds another element of intrigue to the mix.

In recent years, Girardi and Brian Cashman often spoke of the preference to keep the DH slot open as a rotation spot to give veterans "half days off" as well as to spot-start bench players.

Behind closed doors, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Yankees' braintrust would like to restore the DH as a soft landing spot for the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Jeter, and yes, Posada, albeit in a less substantial role.

Other teams would rule out this option for financial reasons, citing the poor business sense to sit a man earning $13.1 million this season. These are the Yankees, however, which means that logic has little use here.

Posada is going to have to hit to keep from ending his career in the shadows. Fair or not, the Yankees are big business and nobody gets a free pass.

Well, unless your girlfriend is Minka Kelly.

Dan Hanzus is a contributing writer to Pinstripe Alley. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com or on Twitter @danhanzus.