The Posada affair: only here, only now

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I’m rather glad that the Jorge Posada drama erupted on a weekend when I was takings kids to soccer games and stuff, because it’s a drama that, for all of the interest and focus on it, you really can’t say a ton about.

Yes, Posada is owed criticism, but he also has built up so much residual good will that it’s hard to cast him in the “he quit on his team!” role too harshly, especially given his quick backtrack and apology.  As he and a lot of other people said, Posada had a bad day. And, no matter how much I liked “Batman: The Killing Joke,” one bad day is not enough to turn someone into a super villain.

There is one interesting angle to all of this that I think it worth keeping in mind, however, mostly because it will continue to be salient as this season and maybe the next couple of seasons go on in New York.  That’s the notion of how unique it is for Hall of Fame talents to cease to be useful as baseball players while still expected to be major contributors to winning teams.

It sure doesn’t seem like this happens very often. Because teams tend not to employ multiple superstars at once, the decline of the future Hall of Famer, almost by definition, usually means the decline of the team. He may still be the best player on the team, but he’s but not good enough to help the team win anything.  He thus can take his unproductive at bats in relative peace, chasing that last milestone, riding out that last contract without it being too big a deal or, at the absolutely worst, going from team to team in his last year or two, Steve-Carlton-style.

Barring some amazing rebound, Posada and Derek Jeter are apparently reaching the end of the line.  But, because the Yankees are a rare beast — a team that doesn’t seem to have to decline and rebuild like most others do — they’re doing so as starters on a playoff contender.  Unlike, say, Craig Biggio in Houston, there is a much stronger sense of these players standing on the platform while the train leaves the station, and that’s bound to create a more complex dynamic for your average baseball lion in winter.

I don’t suppose this is the deepest observation ever — and most of the hype surrounding all of this is a function of a New York-Boston weekend, I presume — but it’s my biggest takeaway from all of this.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.