Emotions take over as Jorge weighs future
Veteran performs admirably in what could be his final series
NEW YORK -- Including the postseason, Jorge Posada has played for the Yankees in 1,954 games across 17 seasons. He has 1,767 hits and 286 home runs. But with his contract up and his future uncertain after Thursday's 3-2 Yankees loss to the Tigers in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, Posada lasted only 3 1/2 minutes through reporters' questions before leaving the clubhouse in tears.
The loss ended a tumultuous year for Posada. The catcher-turned-designated hitter asked out of the starting lineup in May after manager Joe Girardi penciled him in as the No. 9 batter. The veteran struggled offensively for much of the season and lost his role as the regular designated hitter. But he started every game in the postseason and rewarded the Yankees for their faith, going 6-for-14 (.429) and reaching base 10 times in 19 plate appearances. That turned out not to be enough for the Yankees, whose three losses came by a total of four runs.
"We lost -- that's what I look back on," Posada said when asked about his performance. "I really have no words. We lost."
Posada, 40, arrived with the Yankees in 1995 and served as a pinch-runner during New York's ALDS loss to the Mariners. He played in eight games in '96 but did not appear in the postseason as the Yankees won their first World Series in 18 years. From '97-99, Posada gradually increased his presence behind the plate, splitting time with Girardi until becoming the unquestioned regular catcher in 2000. He won three World Series in the process and added another ring to his collection in '09. The Yankees won two other AL pennants ('01 and '03) during his tenure and missed the playoffs only once, in '08.
All along, Posada put himself among the elite of the game's catchers. Known for his patience, he finished 2011 with a .374 career on-base percentage and a .474 slugging percentage. At a position that often sees weak production, Posada's offense proved invaluable.
Still, when asked on Thursday to look back on his career, Posada declined.
"I don't go back as far as tomorrow," Posada said. "I'm really bad at remembering stuff. I can't answer it. Really, I gave it all on the field."
Derek Jeter, Posada's best friend since their days in the Minor Leagues in the early 1990s, may have shared a field with him for the last time.
"He's like a brother to me," Jeter said. "I don't know what the future holds. It's not something that we talked about. Our job is to try to win this year. But yeah, we've grown up together."
Besides Jeter, closer Mariano Rivera has known Posada the longest, and he sounded resigned that his days of playing with Posada were over.
"Everything that we went through," Rivera said. "The good times, the bad times. Winning those World Series -- all those World Series. I definitely will miss him.
"If he comes back, we will welcome him. If he doesn't, I will wish him the best. My love for him is unconditional."
Posada, who went 2-for-4 on Thursday, grounded out to shortstop on a half-swing in his final at-bat, during the eighth inning. But Posada said he gave no thought at the time to the possibility that he would not appear with the Yankees again.
"It was all about the game," Posada said. "You put yourself in the situation of trying to win the ballgame, that's all you think about."
Like Posada, general manager Brian Cashman has an expiring contract. Five months after the controversy in May, the GM had only positive things to say about his player.
"He's a competitor," Cashman said. "When the game is out there, he's always fighting. He had a great series. He did. He's a competitor and had success. We had other guys who are competitors and had failure. That burning desire to be successful is in all of them; Jorge had the results in this series that unfortunately other guys wish they had, too."
Yankees fans made no special tribute to Posada for his last at-bat, but they did chant his name the day after the lineup controversy in May. Their voices did not go unheard.
"They've been awesome," Posada said, with his voice breaking. "The fans have been unbelievable to this team and to me. I really give a lot of credit. They kept me here."
That would be Posada's last answer. Asked if a one-run loss in a decisive Game 5 was any tougher in his situation, Posada paused, wiped his eyes and apologized before leaving the clubhouse in tears.
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.