Jorge Posada needs to rehab more than just his shoulder

October 20, 2008

It was recently reported that Jorge Posada will begin a throwing program around December 1st. It has been speculated that if Posada’s surgically repaired shoulder is unable to return to prior form, he would be a possible replacement for first base and sometime DH.

But, Posada has demanded that he catch and doesn’t want to play 1B or even DH full time. That puts the Yankees into a bind, given that they need to decide what to do at first for 2009.

My advice to Posada is to play wherever the team tells you to play. Be a team player and stop worrying about your petty self esteem issues and think about what is best for the team – not just yourself. The Yankees are the team that gave you a $52 million contract after the 2007 season, and they are your employer. After an injury riddled first year of that deal, think they would like to renegotiate those terms?

On July 30, Posada had surgery to repair a torn labrum, and since his shoulder was worse than originally thought, he also had work done to repair tears in the rotator cuff. It is not the first time Posada had surgery on that shoulder – he had a small labrum tear repaired in 2001.

Since the labrum is cartilage and not muscle, it remains very difficult to return to form. So, Posada has had two surgeries to repair the labrum. His very likely won’t have a strong enough arm to be able to stand the rigors of the major leagues, and he won’t be able to throw runners out on a consistent basis.

He should not be the full-time catcher next season.

However, if he whines and gets to catch, it will seem like Dave Roberts is on base all the time.

Of all the surgeries that could be performed on the throwing arm, labrum surgery is the worst.

I had labrum surgery and it took me more than a full year to be able to throw a ball again with any authority, and even then the throws weren’t as strong as they were before the surgery. I was 36 at the time of my surgery – the same age Posada is now.

Also, a check of major league players who have had torn labrums repaired reveal that Mark Mulder, Rob Nen, Jason Schmidt and former elite pitchers Mark Gubicza and Houston pitcher Mike Scott never fully recovered. The only pitchers I am aware of who have successfully returned have been Dwight Gooden (no-hitter in 1996, but did not have nearly the same velocity), Arizona reliever Jon Rauch and Kansas City starter Gil Meche.

So why is Posada insisting on catching next year? Why did he snap at reporters in July when manager Joe Girardi mentioned that Posada played 1st base on July 10th?

Here is a newspaper report from that incident: “Still, Posada stubbornly had maintained plans to return this season. He even defiantly snapped at reporters when he played first base July 10 in Pittsburgh: ‘I like to catch. Okay? I’m happy that I’m in the lineup, but I like to catch. I’m a catcher. I’m not a first baseman and I’m not a DH. I like to catch, so I’m looking forward to catching.’”

That defiant statement about not being able to play where he wanted was a direct slap in the face to Girardi. There have been recent reports also that indicated Posada has been detrimental to Girardi’s authority in the clubhouse.

Clearly, Posada is not enamored with his manager? But why?

It all goes back to 1999. Here is a statement from back then: “The New York Yankees picked up their $3.4 million option on Joe Girardi yesterday, keeping their catching platoon in place for 1999.” A catching platoon with Posada.

It’s obvious that Posada still has a beef with Girardi over Joe’s return in 1999. During the 1998 season, Posada caught the majority of games and was becoming the starting catcher, but when Girardi was resigned for the 1999 season, Posada became upset, mainly because he wanted to be the everyday catcher.

That was the year when Joe Torre missed the beginning of the season with prostate cancer surgery and Don Zimmer had the managerial reigns. Posada knows that Zimmer preferred Girardi and played him the majority of time early that season.

Here is what Posada said about that time period: “‘It was tough because we didn’t know what was going on,’ Posada said. ‘Don Zimmer was our manager, and there were a lot of changes. I’m the starting catcher, but now I’m not starting. I played the first game (of the season) and then I didn’t play the next few days…it seemed like Zim didn’t have the trust in me. (Girardi) was like a son, and he trusted him a little more.’”

Girardi was Zimmer’s catcher for a couple of years when Zimmer managed the Chicago Cubs. He knew Girardi and liked his ability. Posada was still young and some pitchers liked throwing to Girardi more. That is why Joe Torre insisted Girardi be signed for the 1999 season.

Posada’s resentment likely stems from an even earlier time. He didn’t make the cut on the 1996 post season roster (Torre chose utility man Andy Fox instead of a third catcher) and split time with Girardi in 1997 and 1998. But, he was still young and had plenty of future ahead of him.

Besides the pitchers liking to throw to him, Girardi was kept around for another reason – continue with the tutelage he began with Posada, who was still early in his catching career, having been drafted by the Yankees as a second baseman.

Girardi stayed with the Yankees in 1999 to continue to help Posada, but Jorge resents it because he wasn’t the full time guy. Posada was only the main guy behind the plate on one World Series title team during that dynasty – the 2000 team. And that is the main reason why he is so bitter towards Girardi.

But Girardi was extremely helpful to the young Posada. After Posada arrived for a platoon role in 1997, Girardi knew Posada would eventually take over the majority of the playing time and rather than resent Posada, Girardi embraced and tutored him.

Zimmer said it best back then, “No catcher could come to the big leagues could be treated any better than Posada. But that’s Joe’s style. Joe has done everything he could to make the other guy better.”

However, Posada said in a 2008 interview about his favorite moment as a Yankee (catching David Wells’ 1998 perfect game), that he was happy when Girardi left the team so he can be the full-time catcher.

Posada’s mouth has not been confined to only his position on the field either. Since he had shoulder surgery, Posada also has become a champion of controversy.

He rehashed the Joba Chamberlain debate, adamantly stating on Michael Kay’s YES network’s CenterStage show that Chamberlain needs to be a reliever because, while going 200+ innings, he would get hurt as a starter. Another likely reason is because Posada feels that with Chamberlain in the bullpen, the Yankees would be a better team.

 But if Posada can’t throw (and history states he won’t throw as well), wouldn’t the Yankees be a better team with him at 1B/DH?

Other players have done the position switch. Throughout history, major players have switched positions for the betterment of their team (and the length of their careers).

Robin Yount moved from SS to CF for the Milwaukee Brewers (and won an MVP at each position); Dale Murphy moved from catcher to CF and Cal Ripken moved from SS to 3B. Even HOFers Ernie Banks, Carl Yastrzemski and a former Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra, have switched positions to help the team.

Banks and Yaz switched to first base. If those great names can switch, then Posada can make the switch.

Players have moved for injuries, too. This season, Kevin Youkilis has played OF, 1B and 3B. He came up to the Red Sox in 2004 and played mostly 3B, but moved over to 1B when the Red Sox traded for Mike Lowell after the 2005 season.

Because Lowell is now injured, Youkilis has moved back over to third for the playoffs. He has even played a few games at second base and originally was drafted by the Red Sox as a catcher.

Bottom line is that Youkilis is a baseball playing, team player who will do anything to keep his bat in the lineup and help his team win. He does not pop off and complain that “I am a first baseman and I want to play first base.”

Jorge Posada needs to put his mouth and ego on hold and do what is BEST FOR THE TEAM. Maybe that is one reason why the Yankees did not make the playoffs in 2008 – not many team players.

When Posada needs to get ready for Spring Training, he can bring his catcher’s mitt, but he better make sure he also has a first baseman’s glove.

It’s what’s best for the team.

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New York Yankees: AJ Burnett is an Injury Risk, a Bad Guy and Should Be Avoided

October 14, 2008

One of the major names in the possible pitcher free agent market is current Toronto Blue Jays right hander AJ Burnett. I say possible because Burnett is under contract for the next two years, but has the right to opt out of the contract after this past season. Coming off a 18-10 record with a league leading 231 strikeouts, Burnett is sure to have many suitors if he does opt out.

Those who want AJ Burnett to be a Yankee should check out the online picture of Burnett from Sunday’s October 12, 2008 NY Post article on Burnett/Sabathia by Joel Sherman.

Burnett’s mechanics reveal he cocks his wrist on his backswing and has his forearm down about the time when his front foot lands. This arm action is the worst mechanics a pitcher can possibly have. He, along with Jake Peavy, both have the “winged” arm action – a tremendous precursor to major elbow and shoulder problems.

When the hands are broken and the throwing hand begin to drop, a pitcher such as Burnett begins his backward rotation with the elbow instead of continuing to lead with the hand in a down, back and up motion. What then happens is that the throwing elbow gets higher than the shoulder at the point of front foot landing, leading to a timing problem. The arm then has to violently come forward very quickly to throw the ball. 

This puts a big strain on the elbow AND the shoulder.  

And while Burnett has had his history of elbow problems, his mechanics over the years have not changed. Burnett is destined for more elbow problems.

Other pitchers who have the same type of mechanics as Burnett include Chris Carpenter, Joel Zumaya, Shaun Marcum, BJ Ryan, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

Besides Prior who had major shoulder issues, what do all these other guys have in common with Burnett?

Arm surgeries, most had Tommy John surgery while Prior had shoulder issues.

Burnett had Tommy John surgery in 2003, and then had a “less serious” elbow injury at the end of 2004. And don’t forget how Burnett was dismissed from the Florida Marlins at the end of the 2005 season because of his ranting outbursts against the team and his poor overall pitching down the stretch.

At the end of 2005, Burnett lost six consecutive decisions, including four losses in five starts (with an ERA in that span of 5.93) during the Marlins’ failed wild-card chase that September.

Also, AJ Burnett doesn’t appear to be such a hard worker, who is willing to play hard all the time. Burnett has had three seasons in which he has thrown 200+ innings: the 2002, 2005 and 2008 seasons. All these seasons came in front of either an arbitration or free agency season. Not exactly a guy who is going all out all the time.

Burnett seems to be the pitching version of Manny Ramirez.

The only way I would take AJ Burnett on the Yankees is for Burnett to sign a one year contract and let him earn the next contract and continue with this process for several seasons. It could even be for $20 million each year and continue to go up every season. That way the injury bug won’t bite the Yankees that bad when Burnett gets shelved.

Let’s see…a history of elbow problems, a bad attitude in Florida and not exactly a tireless worker. Definitely makes him destined to be a great Yankee.

I hope Brian Cashman reads these blogs and comments and realizes Burnett wouldn’t work in New York.

Imagine Burnett having to answer repeated questions why he is the second coming of Carl Pavano?

I don’t care how many times Burnett can beat the Red Sox. He’s only 11 games over .500 for his career and has a high career ERA – not exactly a great pitcher. One good season before pending free agency is the worst time you can sign a player.

Yanks should stay far away from AJ Burnett.