Picking Splinters: Aging & Underacheiving

Age, injury and declining production are sad facts in the careers of athletes. Players get older. They get worse. It’s the natural order of things. But for someone – like New York Yankees’ Jorge Posada – to claim that their treatment and respect in their declining stages should supersede the best interests of the team, well, that really boggles my mind.

I’ll be the first to admit, I like Posada for all he’s done with the Yankees. He’s had a great career replete with World Series rings and other less-heralded honors – such as leading my fantasy baseball team to a league title several seasons back. But the entitlements from that kind of career are, well, few.

Last Friday, Posada removed himself from the Yanks’ series opener against the Boston Red Sox because he was offended he was dropped to ninth in the batting order. Never mind that Posada was batting a-buck-65 at the time. Never mind that he was doing little-to-nothing to actually aid the team during its recent six-game losing streak. He felt disrespected and he was having none of it.

Then there’s Derek Jeter, or El Capitan, if your prefer to call him by his John Sterling-assigned nickname as the leader of the Yankees. Following the Posada drama, Jeter told the media he’d be the first guy in Posada’s ear … if he thought Posada had done something wrong.

Come again?

If Posada was in any other job in America right now, he’d be fired. But as a Major League Baseball player on a multi-million dollar contract, this sort of action is somehow tolerated. The Yankees, understandably, were upset about Posada’s actions. Same goes for Jeter condoning his buddy’s move. My question is this: How do you possibly consider it okay to cry about your treatment when you’re a player who receives millions of dollars in compensation in exchange for a subpar season?

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that a player in Posada’s position – and by that I mean aging and underproductive – has little right to be holding prima donna pity parties for himself when he’s below the Mendoza Line?

More and more in America – not sports, but America – we’re seeing how a celebrated career earns you exactly bupkus. Times are hard, money’s tight, sorry, pal, but we have to let you go. These days, a productive career gets you a gold watch in most jobs, at best. But some athletes, apparently like Posada, expect some sort of tenure because of their past success.

I’m not going to sit here and try to argue that Posada’s time with the Yankees hasn’t been beneficial to the team – or to its fan base. Since he came up from the minors in 1997, the Yanks have won four World Series and he’s made four all-star teams. That’s a great career and I won’t even pretend to dispute that.

But when you start to think that success entitles you to something beyond your paycheck … man, does the rest of the country start to question your sanity. And I can’t say they’re wrong.
What, exactly, is Posada complaining about? Did Posada expect to stay in the middle of the lineup despite batting .165? And does Jeter expect that time served somehow entitles a player to a spot in the batting order that would confound logic? Would any other boss in America be that accommodating?

Look, it’s a simple point. If you are being paid millions, that is your compensation for past success. You are entitled to your salary – nothing more. If you think you’re being disrespected – despite a sub-par performance to date – by being forced to start an MLB game in the nine hole – as opposed to not playing at all – you seriously need to reevaluate your approach to your job. And your ego.

Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter have done wonders for the New York Yankees and their fans. You won’t find a sane fan south of New England that will argue that point. But if they think that somehow entitles them to underachieve and still be featured in a major league lineup, I seriously have to question their logic. And I don’t think I’m the only one.