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The Man Behind the Plate

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After months of struggling to play through shoulder pain, Yankee catcher Jorge Posada finally conceded, after Saturday’s game against Oakland, that he couldn’t go on like this. Dr. David Altchek confirmed that Posada needs surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. He’ll most likely have the operation soon—if he waits until November, he’ll miss most or all of next season: the surgery he needs requires six months of rehab.

This just about breaks my heart, not so much for what it means to the Yankees, though that’s considerable; as blogger Peter Abraham says, “they can make do with Molina’s terrible production.” God knows they’ve already been making do without Hideki Matsui, who was out-hitting everyone at the start of the season, and who’s been out several weeks. Matsui’s been told he needs knee surgery, but is trying to delay it, and may return soon.

Nor am I heartbroken just because I won’t get to see my favorite player for the remainder of the season, though that’s a real bummer. No, my heartache comes from empathy: more than any other player, Jorge suffers when he can’t fulfill his obligation to the team. He expressed those feelings when he went on the DL this season, for the first time in his career. This is surely tearing him up inside.

Tyler Kepner, who blogs about the Yankees for the New York Times, says Posada’s ordeal “has been evident enough just by watching his throws this season. Watching him in the clubhouse has been revealing, too. Some days, he has been short with reporters, curtly insisting that he is a catcher,
period. That was Posada’s pride talking, I think – catchers, more than players at any other position, find much of their identity in the position they play.” He also notes that “Posada is one of few players who speaks from genuine emotion, unafraid to let people know how he is really feeling.”

What he’s feeling is frustration, from months of not performing at his usual high level. Posada just signed a contract for $39.3 million over three years as starting catcher. (Or maybe it’s $52.4 for four years; I’ve found conflicting reports.) Jewish mother that I am, I’m now starting to worry that surgery might leave him less capable than before—I’ll have to look for information about catchers’ abilities following shoulder surgery. Anyone?

Meanwhile, I’m off to get some kind of Get Well card for Jorge–even though he never responded to the witty and wonderful birthday card I made for him two years ago. It must be love.

Laura Posada and their kids. Jorge Jr. (L) has had
several surgical procedures for a neurological condition.