Commentary

Sittin' like Pippen part of Jorge's legacy

Saturday fiasco won't define Posada's Yanks career -- but won't be forgotten, either

Updated: May 15, 2011, 10:40 PM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork

NEW YORK -- Jorge Posada's "Scottie Pippen moment" will not ruin his New York Yankees legacy, but it will be a part of it, which is a shame for a player who has honored his pinstripes with such pride.

Posada, and his late-to-the-scene advisers, can try to rewrite the story of what happened Saturday, but the blemish will never fully disappear long after he retires. It is part of his permanent record, which is as unfortunate as it is self-inflicted.

[+] EnlargeJorge Posada
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesJorge Posada can move past his self-inflicted drama by apologizing -- and hitting, of course.

When the career of Posada is long remembered, there will always be the night of May 14, 2011, when he put a bruised ego above the team and refused to play in a game, presumably because he had to bat last.

In the harshest terms, he quit on his club.

The rings will always rule Posada's legacy. He is a five-time champion and when he is no longer playing, which more and more looks like it will be next year, maybe earlier, Saturday night will not be one of the first chapters. However, it is in the book.

The perceived disrespect that has eaten away at Posada since GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi stripped away his catching gear this winter finally became too much when he burned over his name being placed at the bottom of the Yankees' lineup.

Pippen is a Hall of Famer, but May 13, 1994, will never leave his résumé. Almost exactly 17 years ago, he refused to re-enter Game 3 of the Bulls-Knicks playoff series with 1.8 seconds remaining because coach Phil Jackson drew up the final shot for Toni Kukoc. Pippen sat out the last play and, after being roasted from coast to coast, later apologized.

Initally, Posada has chosen a different tact for his "No mas" moment, trying to change the script, but is competing with the Twitterverse, where real-time reaction makes it hard to mask the truth.

On Sunday, an emotional Posada made some amends by going to Girardi's office and showing contrition. It was move he had to make and it is one that will lighten the blemish.

On Saturday, Cashman said he told Posada and his agent that the media will hear the truth of what happened. The message was conveyed so Posada would do the right thing before the game, but now has created a larger divide between the DH and the GM. They, too, have made some amends.

Still, Posada didn't do himself any favors by not doing right away. If Posada had, the healing process would already be starting.

Instead, Posada uncomfortably tried to explain what happened in Girardi's office an hour before game time. He said he needed to "clear his head" and he had a "not serious" stiff back. He contradicted himself and appeared unsure.

Posada did not honor the grit and toughness that will be the biggest part of his legacy by trying to talk his way out of it. He should have kept the proper note that he struck around 4 p.m. Saturday, two hours before he went into Girardi's office.

At that point, he sounded like a man who understood his current baseball life. He is a 39-year-old DH, hitting .165, who is not earning his $13 million-plus salary.

"I've put myself in this spot," Posada said to the media Saturday before everything broke loose. "It is not like I want to hit ninth. It is not like I want to hit a hundred and whatever I'm hitting."

Over the next 120 minutes, Posada must have stewed thinking about batting ninth, getting to a point where he could not take it anymore and told his manager he needed a mental day.

Posada, no matter if he can clear his head or not, knows his playing time is diminishing. What has been left unsaid is that he could be platooning soon. After that, he might not be as lucky.

The Yankees face lefties the next two games and Posada has yet to get a hit off one in his first 24 at-bats. There is no telling when at-bat No. 25 will come against a southpaw.

Posada, with his head clearer, has cleared the air and now it is time to start working on his bat. Pippen came back strong in that 1994 series. He eventually dunked on Patrick Ewing and glared the Big Fella down. But with Michael Jordan playing baseball, the Knicks beat the Bulls in that series.

Pippen is still known as an all-time great, but he is remembered on nights like Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.

Now, Posada will be in that group, too. Posada has made things better by saying he is sorry.

Still, to make his career not end on such an ugly note, it is pretty simple what he needs to do next: hit.

If he doesn't, without a position to play, without speed, what he did on Saturday night was make it easier for the Yankees to release him this season.

That would be a shame, too, for the organization and player. Even for the legends, though, that is how it often goes.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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