Posada benching hastens end of an era

BOSTON -- Manager Joe Girardi called Jorge Posada into his office Sunday afternoon and told him he would be sending his best lineup out against the Boston Red Sox later that night.

And that lineup would not include Jorge Posada.

So ended the great failed experiment of 2011, the attempted conversion of Posada from full-time catcher to full-time DH.

And so move the Yankees one step closer to the end of an era, one step closer to a team in which the remnants of the Torre Yankees have all been purged, a step closer to the post-Jeter, post-Mariano, post-George Steinbrenner Yankees.

The demotion of Jorge Posada leaves just two members of the teams that dominated the second half of the 1990s as valuable parts of the 2011 roster. For now, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera still have their jobs. Posada no longer has his.

"He said he's going to put the best lineup on the field," a somber Posada said at his locker, "and he doesn't know when I'm going to DH again. So right now I'm sitting the bench."

Posada actually lost half of that job on May 14, the night he removed himself from the lineup when he saw that Girardi had dropped Posada and his .165 batting average to ninth in the Yankees' order against Josh Beckett at Yankee Stadium.

The next day, Andruw Jones became the primary DH against left-handed pitching. Since to that point Posada had yet to manage a hit off a lefty.

Now, he has lost the other half of his job, to Eric Chavez on Sunday night and maybe, to Jesus Montero later this week.

You start to wonder if Jorge Posada, who has been a major part of this Yankees team since 1997, will even last out the season.

His average is .230 -- its peak was .240 on June 30 -- he hasn't hit a home run since June 29, and his futility against lefties has continued all season. As a right-handed batter, he is hitting .103, with no home runs and just three RBIs.

Long ago, Girardi determined that Posada was no longer of any use to him against lefties. Now, he has made the same judgment about his value against righties. He hasn't caught a single pitch all year, not even in spring training. He has played nine games at first base to give Mark Teixeira a rest, but Nick Swisher, whose average is up to .271, is adequate there as well.

And as Girardi pointed out, the Yankees are not a team that pinch hits very often.

So after 15 years as an integral part of this ballclub, it is becoming difficult to see where Jorge Posada fits in anymore.

It's not so much the money -- the Yankees owe him about $5 million for the last two months of the four-year, $52.4 million contract that expires at the end of the season -- it's the luxury of carrying a player for whom the team seemingly no longer has a spot.

Alex Rodriguez is likely to return in a couple of weeks and resume his regular third-base duties. That would leave the Yankees with three designated hitters -- Chavez, Jones and Posada -- with the apparent intention of only using two.

That is a luxury not even the Yankees can afford.

For the past few weeks, Girardi has been operating with a three-man bench, and keeping Posada ties up a valuable roster spot, one that could be filled by a position player, by a Montero or a Chris Dickerson or a Greg Golson. Or, that spot could be the difference between an Ivan Nova remaining with the team or heading back down to Scranton.

For now, however, Girardi said Posada isn't going anywhere.

"Jorgie is with us," the manager said. "And my plans are he is going to be with us."

Girardi's decision had nothing to do with Posada's career numbers against Beckett -- he is a lifetime .267 hitter against the Red Sox starter, with 12 hits, including one home run, in 45 at-bats, while Chavez has faced Beckett just 11 times, with three hits -- and everything to do with Posada's 2011 numbers against everyone.

"He's just struggled finding a way to get his hits," Girardi said. "He did go on a good streak after we had the situation in May. It's just been a tough year for him."

The "situation," of course, was that night in Yankee Stadium when Posada, after first saying he understood Girardi's decision to drop him in the lineup, later decided he couldn't withstand the ego bruise and pulled himself from the game.

He apologized the next day, but the damage had been done. Several of his teammates, including some who have played with him for years, were said to be disappointed and angered, and the front office was outraged.

Still, the Yankees stuck with him far longer than they probably would have had his name been something other than Jorge Posada, simply out of respect for his legacy with the team.

"He's done so many great things in this game, and so many great things for the Yankees and he's been a part of so many championships and division winners," Girardi said, sounding very much as though he were writing Posada's career obituary. "I know how much he wants to be a part of this, too. I can't say it's going to be like this two weeks from now. You can't say that. But this is what it is today."

Girardi dangled the unlikely prospect that Posada "could get extremely hot," necessitating his return to the lineup, but it's difficult to go on a hot streak from the bench, or the batting cage.

The hard truth is, Jorge Posada, who will turn 40 on Aug. 17, ran out of time with this team before his contract did.

"It's very disappointing," Posada said. "You want to be out there, but right now it's about winning ballgames. I'm not happy about it. But right now, I can't do nothing about it. I put myself in this situation, and I've got to keep on working."

But the hard truth is, Jorge Posada's work here is very likely done.