Disclaimer: This story was written before the Yankees and Jeter had their sit-down conference call regarding the Posada situation. As much as they claim everything is fine and they are on the same page, I still think this article applies.
Buster Olney reported this morning that the Yankee organization is now upset with Derek Jeter for remarks that Jeter made essentially exonerating Jorge Posada from blame after the legendary catcher sat out of a Yanks-Sox game because he had been dropped to the no.9 spot in the batting order. While Posada’s actions are certainly inexcusable, and in no way would I ever condone treating one’s ego as bigger than the team, the control-freak nature of the Yankees organization in now getting upset with Jeter for his own personal views of the situation is absurd and frankly, just as inexcusable as Posada’s actions.
To provide some background, Yanks GM Brian Cashman has shown very little restraint in recent years from taking body blows at his own players if they cross the organization in any way. The most recent example of course involved Jeter’s contract negotiations this past fall, when Cashman continually went to the press to talk about how DJ “isn’t 25 anymore” and “can’t expect a long-term deal”(approx. quotes). Jeter was so upset at Cashman’s handling of the situation that during a late fall meeting with Hal Steinbrenner, Cashman, Team President Randy Levine, Jeter and his agent, Jeter stormed out of the room after 45 minutes of a meeting that would eventually last several hours. Cashman essentially didn’t care, especially considering Jeter hadn’t gotten any offers via free agency to that point, and said, “You said you only wanted what was fair. Well how much higher than the highest offer do we have to be for it to be fair?” Cashman and the cash-horse that he rode to 5 World Series Championships and countless memorable Yankee moments were no longer the buddies that they used to be.
But that hasn’t seemed to faze the man whose name clearly indicates where his priorities lie, with the cash. After Posada was a late scratch from the Sox game on Saturday night, most fans probably thought it was because of a nagging injury. As it turns out, Posada’s ego was bruised, and he had decided to sit out due to a case of embarrassment at being dropped to 9th in the order. As crazy as that sounds, the plot only got more ridiculous when Cashman held an impromptu press conference during the game to tell Yankee fans that their beloved catcher was, in fact, just selling out his team because he was sad. Specifically, Cashman said that Jorge was a ‘Ëœlate scratch’ and that there was ‘Ëœno injury involved.’ Pretty damning words, especially in the middle of the game.
Two days have passed since that moment and the fall out. It’s been pretty clear to me over that time that this was just a case of injured pride on both sides and the subsequent overreaction that always accompanies a damaged self-esteem. Jorge was sad because he’s a prideful dude, and Cashman was pissed that his star player thought he could sell the team out and get away with it. They let emotion get in the way of their decision-making, and both made mistakes.
Since then, Jorge has apologized. He said, “I had a bad day.” Shit, I have bad days too. It’s all good, just pick up and move on as best you can. Girardi accepted the apology and pinch hit Jorge in the 8th inning of the last game of the Sox series, where Jorge drew a walk. It seemed like this was just a case of an overheated and slumping player in a tough situation, and that the Yankees would actually turn the corner pretty quickly on this one.
Wrong. Jeter was asked about the situation today, and said what I consider to be some very bland and normal teammate stuff. Here’s an excerpt.
“From my understanding,” Jeter said, “he talked to [Yankees manager Joe Girardi], told him he needed a day. If that’s the case, then there’s nothing wrong. It’s not the first time someone has come out of the lineup, whether it’s something physical or some other reasons.”
“One thing I told him is if he needed a day to clear his mind, there’s no need to apologize [to the team],” Jeter added. “Because I think everybody understands that. Everybody here understands that sometimes this game can be tough on you mentally. Everybody’s struggled.”
Pretty standard, right? A 182-game season can take its tolls, especially when you play in the most insane media market in the world, where the pressure is tenfold compared to other cities. So now Jorge has a bit of a meltdown and asks for a day off, and Jeter recognizes that. Sounds like the stand-up guy that even Mets fans like myself have come to respect.
But no, reports are out there now that the Yankees front office is ‘Ëœfurious’ that Jeter has ‘Ëœexonerated’ Jorge with his comments. WHAT? You’ve got to be kidding me. It sounded to me like Jeter was just being a good teammate. ‘ËœIt’s OK man,’ he’s saying, ‘Ëœwe all make mistakes.’ But apparently Cashman and the front office would prefer that Jeter throw Posada even further under the bus, even after he has taken tons of heat from the media over the past two days. They want him to act more ‘ËœCaptainly,’ apparently. Well to me, a Captain is a guy who stands up for his teammates, even when no else is. A Captain is a guy who represents the feeling of the team best, or at least tries to direct it towards a more normal and calm feeling. In this case, that’s what Jeter’s doing. Even if some guys are still mad at Posada , Derek is telling them, ‘Ëœthe guy apologized, let’s give him a break.’ The Yankees could actually become a tighter knit team after comments like that, if only they didn’t have the most meddlesome front office in baseball.
Now they want to control how the players perceive things, too? First it was facial hair, then it was frankness with the media, and now you want to tell your Captain, the face of the franchise, the epitome of what it means to be a Yankee, that he can’t have his own opinion that’s different from yours if it means he’s standing up for a player that you are upset with?
I’m not even a Yankees fan and I’m ‘Ëœfurious’ with Brian Cashman. I used to liken him to Tom Hagen, the consigliere character in Godfather 1 played by Robert Duvall, in his early years with the team(though I’m sure I’m not the first to say that.) He seemed like a calculating and calm guy who would bide his time and make sure to please The Boss before stepping in and telling George that maybe he’d better not call Hideki Irabu a fat toad in front of the press. He seemed like a voice of reason, a smart guy picked up to stand between George and the team.
Now, he reminds me more of Michael Corleone at the end of Godfather 2. Moody, depressed, worn down, with more money than you can imagine but no real friends to speak of after he’s burned everyone who’s ever tried to get close to him. Cashman is morphing into that character. If he can’t control it, kill it. If there’s a rat in the organization, kill that too. Total control. The Yankees are becoming just like the mob, once they’ve got you, they’ve got you for life. Do you really think Jeter could have or even would have gone anywhere else but the Yankees this past offseason? No way. The Yanks took Jeter in as a young kid and groomed him to be a made man, and now he’s stuck for life. Cashman seems to view it as ‘ËœYou wouldn’t have all the riches, all the fame, and all the girls if you weren’t a Yankee. We gave you the life you have now. So now it’s payback time. You owe US.’ If that’s true, we’ll have to wait and see just how much Cashman tries to take away from Jeter. The more he chips away at the Captain’s pride, the uglier this is going to get.
There’s no doubt Jeter wants, believes he deserves, and actually does deserve a ride off into the sunset. Cashman, on the other hand, is harping on the idea that no one man can be bigger than the team. Fair enough, in almost every case. But in Derek’s case, you might have to make a slight exception when he retires. The two of them are at a crossroads. Either they can look each other in the eye, realize they both want something different, and try to compromise in some way. Or, we can watch them butt heads like two rams on the plains of Africa for the next two and a half years.
Yankee fans who read this post might be nodding grimly. They don’t want to see this happen, and hell, neither do I. Even as a Mets fan I wouldn’t wish this kind of drama on anyone. The image I have in my head is not pleasing. It’s of Michael Corleone, sitting in the dark in his Vegas mansion, hands clasped and eyes fixed directly in front of him, brooding with big bags under his eyes. At the same time, Fredo is out on the boat in Lake Tahoe with Neri, praying the rosary for what he knows will be the last time. A second later, the shot goes off, and Fredo is dead. Michael doesn’t flinch, but blinks his eyes slowly one time.
Let’s hope Cashman doesn’t think Jeter is just another Fredo, or we’re all in trouble.
Mike Kentz is a blogger for www.thesportsbrahs.wordpress.com, a broad sports opinion website.