Times Are A-Changin'

by Steve Simineri
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photo by Keith Allison

Yanks wave goodbye to their legendary catcher

Slowly but surely the Yankees dynasty years has become a thing of the past. Once upon a time the Yankees won 4 Championships in 5 years and appeared in 6 World Series in 8 years between 1996 and 2003. They were the most revered team in sports and had a knack for getting it done in October.  But the Yankees have only one World Series banner in the last 11 years and those dynasty years seem like a distant memory.

The core four has been cut down to the true two, as Jeter and Rivera are the last remaining pieces of those golden years. The likes of Tino, O’Neil, Brosius, Knoblauch, Stanton, Nelson and others are long gone. Roger Clemens is facing trial for perjury, and Bernie Willams retired in 2006. Joe Torre was replaced by Joe Giradi, a man who helped him win 2 Championships during the 1990s. They no longer play in the house that Ruth built but across the street. Longtime PA annoucer Bob Sheppard has passed away, and the larger than life George Steinbrenner isn’t around any longer. 

The reality has come even clearer with the retirement of Andy Petitte after last season and the departures of Posada and longtime trainer Gene Monohan this year. Since 1995 the only constants in the Bronx have been longtime teammates Jeter, Rivera, and Posada. No trio of teamattes in all four major sports have ever played together as long as these Yankee icons, and this feat will probably never be duplicated again.  

Not only did they play with each other for so long, but did so at such a high level, that losing was never tolerated. Since the core four arrived on the scene, the Yankees have made the playoffs the 16 out of the past 17 seasons. Granted, they have had one of the highest payrolls in baseball, but you can’t put a price tag on heart and leadership. 

The core four all came through the Yankee farm system and have been a part of a winning organization their entire careers. They always preached the Yankee way: to play hard and focus not on indivudual numbers but winning.

Jeter will always be remembered as the captain of the ship, but he had two admirable lieutenants in Posada and Rivera. Posada was an emotional, confrontational, straightforward and fiery leader of these Yankee teams, whether getting into a scuffle with Orlando Hernandez before a game in 2002, or roaring from second base after his 2-run double off Pedro Martinez tied game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Posada was one of the main vocal leaders, and his absence will be felt in the clubhouse.

All these men are proud of what they’ve done over the years and take pride in wearing the Yankee uniform. Choking back tears as he announced his retirement, Posada said, "I could never wear another uniform. Being a part of seven World Series and having five rings was something I never imagined, and being a part of it was just priceless. I will forever be a Yankee." In today’s world, players retiring after having only played with one team doesn’t happen very often. It takes a special individual, but Posada was just that, and he was honored to put on the Yankee pinstripes for the past 17 years. 

These Yankees are no longer the same Yankees, as Jeter and Rivera enter their final days the Bombers have a new core with the likes of C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson leading the team.

A new wave of young talent is begging to make their marks in pinstripes in Dave Robertson, Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, and Austin Romine. The future is bright in the Bronx, and a new generation of Yankees will begin to emerge as stars. Most of these guys have watched and already played alongside members of the core four, and I’m sure they've taken notice on how they go about their business. This new generation will continue to learn how to play the Yankee way from Rivera and Jeter.

Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera enters the final year of his contract and will be 43 this November.  All signs are pointing towards him riding off into the sunset after the season. So it will be the captain who will probably be the last man standing until his probable retirement after his contract runs out after the 2014 season. 

The Puerto Rican native Posada was a 24th round draft pick in the 1990 draft and put together quite a career. The switch-hitting catcher hit 275 homers, had 1,065 runs batted in and a .273 batting average over 1,829 games. Posada was a part of 5 World Championship teams and won 5 silver sluggers and also made five American League All-Star teams. Posada is second all time to his pal Jeter, in postseason games played with 125. 

Five years from now those numbers for a catcher will probably draw considerable Hall of Fame consideration as he hopes to reunite with his good buddies Rivera and Jeter in Cooperstown. As that old saying goes, “all good things must come to an end” and now we officially wave goodbye to one of the last remaining pieces of the Yankees modern day golden era.

Thank you, Jorge. 

 

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