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.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.

Nationals plan to activate Bryce Harper on Monday

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The Nationals are planning to activate Bryce Harper from the 10-day disabled list on Monday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Janes adds that Harper has been taking his knee injury on a day-to-day basis, so if he experiences pain ahead of tomorrow’s series opener in Philadelphia, then the Nationals won’t activate him.

Harper, 24, suffered a knee injury running out a grounder last month against the Giants. The Nationals hope to get him into some game action before the end of the regular season just so he can get acclimated in time for the playoffs.

When Harper returns, he’ll look to improve on his .326/.419/.614 slash line with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances.