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POSADA BRINGS BACK THE BANG


POSADA BRINGS BACK THE BANG
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - There were a lot of things working against the Yankees last year, if you really think about it. Rookie manager. Injured ace. Kid pitchers who looked barely ready for Scranton. The rise of the Rays. The retention of the Red Sox. All of it.

No one shed tears for them because no one ever does. It was Red Smith, years ago, who compared rooting for the Yankees to rooting for U.S. Steel, and it was Joe Torre, many years later, who said, "No one feels sorry for the big kids on the block, and no one should."

That's all fair, every bit of it.

And yet you wonder what might have been if Jorge Posada had gotten more than 195 plate appearances, more than 168 at-bats, if his season hadn't been cut off at the knees when he opted to have doctors cut into his shoulder last July. You wonder what might have been if Posada hadn't been hobbled so badly before that.

You wonder, because you see Posada now, you see how on a night like last night, with Mark Teixeira leaving the lineup thanks to a bum wrist, with Alex Rodriguez still a glint in the team's eye, it was Posada who made sure his battery mate, CC Sabathia, would have a working cushion most of the night, who would get the two biggest hits in what became a 6-1 laugher of a win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

It was the Yankees' third straight win, the first one that can be directly attributed to the reappearance of their catcher, a borderline Hall of Famer and a surefire future occupant of Monument Park. In the first inning, he crushed a two-out, two-run double over right fielder Willie Bloomquist's head that gave the Yanks a quick lead, which would be all the runs Sabathia would need. Posada added another bruising double to left in the third which plated the Yanks' fourth run.

His arm is still a concern, and will be until he proves regularly that teams with a more offensive bent than the Royals can't run on it. But that is the only concern. Pitchers still swear by him, still want to throw to him, and surely want to have his bat in the lineup whenever they take the mound.

"It's just so comfortable throwing to Jorge, so natural," Andy Pettitte said Friday, after the Yankees had taken the first game of the series. "He's so smart, so completely into a game and he knows the rhythms of a game so well that he always makes a pitcher look good."

Unless that pitcher is trying to get him out, of course.

It was two years ago that Posada posted the most eye-popping offensive season in a career that already had vaulted him into the upper percentiles of offensive catchers, hitting .338 with 20 homers and 90 RBIs at age 36, earning himself the fat contract afterward that so tortured him last year, when he was unable to approach that production when he played, and then unable to play at all. As much as he suffered, however, the Yankees suffered even worse, having to see more of Jose Molina than they wanted, having to welcome a diminished Ivan Rodriguez later on.

"I know I have a lot of Baseball left in me," Posada said during spring training. "I know that I have more contributions to make and it killed me to be away from the team, especially in those times we were struggling. I want to help. But I also knew I couldn't. Not when I was hurt."

That isn't an issue any longer, and the results are tangible, and welcome. As much as any of the remaining members of the Yankees' championship core, it is Posada, on most days, who still best resembles the player he was during the heart of the dynasty, and in many ways and on many days he surpasses who that player was.

On nights like this one, the Yankees don't worry about semantics like that. They're just grateful to have him back. And happy that he brought his bat back with him, too.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 15, 2009

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