There is a picaresque aspect to baseball. It is played every day and the drama and plot lines of a season build from the long schedule. Tonight the Yankees, a team mired in a slump, were to play an unusually scheduled, nationally televised Saturday-night game. A half-hour before the start, the Yankees one-time catcher, now aging and slumping (even more than his teammates) designated hitter Jorge Posada, pulled himself from the lineup upon being dropped to the bottom, usually reserved for the worst-hitting player on the team. Manager Joe Girardi later found himself tossed from the game for arguing with the umpire, maybe two hours after his behind-closed-doors confrontation with Posada.
It was a tough night for the Yankees, even for mid-May, still the infancy of any season. Stories vary on what was said, to whom, between Posada and Girardi. Bear in mind it was Posada who took Girardi’s job as the full-time catcher in the late 1990s. Bear in mind this was a nationally televised, relatively high-profile game against an arch-rival. Players can be dropped down in a lineup during any of the 162 games in a long season, or even the postseason: Why this one in particular? On the other side, insubordination by a player, once upon a time, meant the end of his career with a franchise via trade, or, somewhat less dramatically, suspension without pay.
It is impossible to know every detail that led to this shadow box: a one-time team leader, aging and marginalized; a manager who must work thro the big picture and defuse the emotional impact on all his players; a front office that cannot be happy with either protagonist.
Ironically, as Posada and Girardi conducted their pregame summit, I was having a most pleasant meeting with “the Jewish Mickey Mantle,” long retired, Ron Blomberg. On April 7, 1973, Blomberg of the Yankees became the first designated hitter in the history of baseball, anywhere in the world, facing Cuban-American pitching great Luis Tiant. The bat used is in Cooperstown. The immortal Mr. Blomberg let me have one of his french fries!
For me, this certainly has been the evening of designated hitters.
The other picaros resume their passion play tomorrow. (Mixed metaphor: it’s OK.)