(Long Island, N.Y.) When the New York Yankees made it official and clinched the American League East crown, the only surprise was how they won the deciding game. The most unlikely of heroes had the clinching hit and RBI last Wednesday in the 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, as the much-maligned Jorge Posada stroked a pinch hit, two-run eighth inning single to break a 2-2 tie.
One of the last remaining players from the present Bronx Bombers dynasty, Posada has seen his playing time dwindle down to being a bench player. The long time starting catcher was switched to full time designated hitter and is having his worst year statistically (.242, 14 home runs, 44 RBI), with critics saying that age and too many innings behind the plate wearing the tools of ignorance finally caught up to him.
“We went through some difficult struggles at times, but I believe in Jorge,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said to reporters. “Jorge is a guy that I told you, there’s times that I sat (him) a little bit, but I said, ‘I still believe he’s a guy that’s going to help us,’ and that’s exactly what he’s done.”
Girardi and Posada have had their differences this season, and that has made the swan song of the switch hitter’s tenure in New York very tedious at times. First, Posada felt slighted by being moved down to ninth in the batting order and there was the question if he asked out of the lineup. But all of that seems like a long time ago when you celebrate another playoff berth.
Although the Yankees figured to be in the October mix, it was the Boston Red Sox who were thought to be the class of the division. They had a great offseason and brought in talent such as Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to an already loaded lineup. But a recent slide has seen their wild card lead dwindle to a precious few games.
With the AL East wrapped up, the Yanks now set their sights on clinching the league’s best record and gaining home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers can still catch up, but they trail by four and five games, respectively.
So it appears that the road (at least) to the World Series will travel through the Bronx and veterans such as Posada will be counted on to bring those years of experience to help out younger players such as Francisco Cervelli. The backup catcher can lean on Posada for advice behind the plate and in the batter’s box.
Even the starting backstop can learn a thing or two from Posada. Russell Martin may not be as young as Cervelli, but the former Los Angeles Dodger is only in his sixth major league season and first in the Big Apple.
So before we put Posada out to pasture, the old dog may have a few more tricks up his sleeve.