Commentary

Posada drama? Ain't seen nothin' yet

Real problems begin when Jeter, A-Rod, CC and Tex get deeper into their huge deals

Updated: May 15, 2011, 11:41 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

If you think the endgame of Jorge Posada's New York Yankees career is ugly, just wait until Derek Jeter's comes up in a year or two.

Or wait another three or four for when CC Sabathia has outlived his usefulness, but not his $161 million contract.

And of course, waiting in the wings is the main event, those wonderful years to come when the Yankees no longer know what to do with Alex Rodriguez, except to swallow hard and pay out the remainder of his $275 million deal.

The best the Yankees can hope for is that all three do for them what Posada tried his best to do before Saturday night's game with the Boston Red Sox, which is burn his own deal through a toxic mixture of temper, pride and denial.

[+] EnlargeAlex Rodriguez
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireAlex Rodriguez, who is hitting .252 this season at age 35, is under contract for years to come.

No matter what kind of spin they all try to put on it in the aftermath, it is pretty clear what happened at Yankee Stadium about an hour before the first pitch of what would go on to be a disastrous ballgame, with the Yankees losing again, 6-0, their eight loss in the last 11 games.

Posada looked at the lineup card, saw his name at the bottom and did what no one who has swallowed the hagiography of the Core Four ever believed he would, what not even A-Rod -- the supposed "24-and-1 guy" in Steve Phillips' infamous and shameful phrase -- did the day Joe Torre dropped him to eighth for a playoff elimination game.

He took his bat and ball and went home.

That may well have opened the door for what the Yankees no doubt have been searching for, a way out of what has become an onerous and wasteful contract. That is a matter for lawyers to figure out, and cooler heads may yet prevail in this thing.

But the essential lesson remains the same: No team, not even the New York Yankees, can lock itself into so many long-term, ridiculously lucrative contracts with players in their mid- to upper 30s and expect to survive.

As messy as this Posada situation threatens to become, it is really the least damaging of the many bad contracts Yankees management has entered into over the past five years.

Posada is in the final year of a four-year, $52.4 million contract that will pay him $13.1 million this year, unless the team can find a way out of it. And Posada, with his selfish response to a perfectly reasonable move by manager Joe Girardi, may well have given them that out, if they choose to play hardball with their disgruntled ex-catcher.

But what if, a year from now, it is Jeter hitting .165 and looking as if he isn't capable of hitting much higher? Ending that association comes with a $34 million price tag.

Sabathia, who has looked like anything but an ace so far this season, is owed another $92 million -- $23 million per until 2015. And unfortunately for the Yankees, the way he is pitching will make it nearly impossible for him to exercise the opt-out clause in his deal that kicks in after this season.

Jorge Posada
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireJorge Posada is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $13.1 million this season.

No, the Yankees are likely stuck with him to the bitter end.

And none of it can hold a candle to the deal they gave A-Rod, or more specifically, the deal Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine gave A-Rod, with the helpful assistance of Warren Buffet.

Even though Brian Cashman insisted he would not negotiate with Rodriguez if he opted out of his deal following his MVP season of 2007, and even though there was not one other bidder for his services, the Steinbrenner Boys and Levine couldn't wait to sign him up for another decade of service, at a healthy raise.

Now, they have a 35-year-old third baseman hitting .252 with six homers who appears to be entering a period of decline. But the contract remains in effect until he is 42 years old, and calls for an average of $24 million a year.

Fat chance of finding a taker for any of those players, at least without the Yankees having to eat the contracts. And fat chance of finding a graceful way out of their Yankees tenures, although it is unlikely any of them will react as emotionally as Posada apparently did.

The odds are Posada had a moment like the one that descended upon Roberto Duran 30 years ago in a New Orleans ring when the proud and stubborn Hands of Stone realized he was being humiliated by Sugar Ray Leonard.

Perhaps, as it did for Duran, the moment passed for Posada nearly as quickly as it came, although not nearly soon enough for him to escape putting an indelible stain on what had been a sterling record.

But the likelihood is every last one of them, Jeter and Sabathia and Rodriguez -- and maybe Mark Teixeira, with six more seasons left on a deal that pays him $22.5 million a season -- will face a moment like Posada faced Saturday night.

And it is even more likely that the Yankees will come to regret every one of those deals as they undoubtedly regret the Posada deal now.

Having to retain a Posada, who can no longer hit, not only drags down the lineup, it occupies a vital roster spot and eats up a substantial portion of the team payroll, which even in the case of the Yankees is hardly unlimited.

The same will happen with Jeter and A-Rod and Sabathia and Teixeira.

It is the reason why we have all got it wrong when we see the Yankees open the vault for a player and say, "That's what's wrong with baseball, that a team like the Yankees can just buy whoever they need."

In truth, they often are buying themselves instant and temporary gratification -- Sabathia, Teixeira, A-Rod and A.J. Burnett, another toxic contract waiting to poison the payroll, helped them to the 2009 World Series championship -- and long-term paralysis, their roster flexibility buried under a shipload of dead money.

The Posada incident was ugly Saturday night and only threatens to get uglier.

But if you think this one is bad, just wait.

The worst is yet to come.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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