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View from the US: no way, Jorge

The New York Yankees veteran Jorge Posada withdrew from the batting line-up this weekend in a strop. It’s the beginning of the end for the former catcher.

Jorge Posada.
Jorge Posada.
Image: Chris O'Meara/AP/Press Association Images

THERE IT IS, ladies and gentlemen, another sporting myth I held dear shattered by facts.

This past weekend I discovered the mortality of a certain immortal phrase uttered by ABC announcer Howard Cosell during Game 2 of the 1977 World Series between the New York Yankees and the LA Dodgers.

Many of you will know the background but for those who don’t, 1977, the summer of Sam and of New York city turmoil was also a hot season of blackouts, record levels of arson, a mayoral election and a Yankee World Series against all the odds – which had been stacked up mainly by the two central protagonists in the locker room, manager Billy Martin and star hitter Reggie Jackson.

The excellent Jonathan Mahler book about this mad period in the city’s history, 2005’s “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning“, is worth a read if you haven’t already but there’s just one problem, his beautiful title uses more than a little poetic licence, regurgitating the myth that Cosell, having seen a burning school near Yankee stadium, told the nation that the troubled borough seemed to be going up in flames.

All he actually said was something understated like, “those are live pictures, ladies and gentlemen”. Pity.

It turns out, however, that the Bronx is smoldering again.

This weekend in the midst of what would ultimately become a 0-3 series defeat at home to arch rivals, the Boston Red Sox, one of the aging Yankee stars, Jorge Posada, withdrew from the batting line-up, apparently offended at having to hit at the bottom of the line-up.

Formerly a catcher, for the Bronx Bombers, Posada lost the role over the off-season and is now a designated hitter, a retirement home for big hitting stars who do little else but attempt to get on base or preferably hit home runs. The only catch (if you’ll excuse the pun) is that Posada has been doing very little hitting.

An hour before first pitch on Saturday, a nationally televised game on Fox, Posada walked into manager Joe Girardi’s office and demanded to be withdrawn from the line-up.

Confusion ensued: general manager Brian Cashman told the press DURING the game that the Puerto Rico-born veteran was not injured, purposefully allowing everyone to read between the lines.

Then Posada’s wife, Laura, took to Twitter (her account is locked) claiming erroneously that back spasms were to blame for the mix-up, thus temporarily making a liar out of Cashman.

Mr Posada continued that line after the game, further endangering a contract that will see him earn $11m this year alone.

Turnaround

Sunday afternoon saw a screeching U-turn from the Yankee legend but not before his captain Derek Jeter loyally/stupidly rowed in behind his team-mate – an act which landed him a bollocking on Monday.

Girardi publicly forgave the man who actually succeeded him as catcher in the mid 90s, a little bit of background that adds a further layer of intrigue to what is ultimately the compelling decline of the Yankee Empire.

This not insignificant fall-out – made all the more dramatic because it’s the New York Yankees – is a harbinger for more strife down the road with Derek Jeter’s current revival in form only delaying the inevitable.

The end is nigh for Posada and Jeter, linchpins during an iconic era of glory. The future success of the ballclub will depend on how it manages to ease the pair towards the exit.

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