By Rich Levine
Here in Boston, we love whats shaking down in the Bronx the way Bartolo Colon loves a thick, bacon-flavored milk shake.
And Im not even talking about the on-field struggles. Forget the fact that the Yankees have lost six of their last seven, and 10 of their last 14 games. That only two of their nine position players are hitting better than .265, that Phil Hughes' arm doesnt work, that A-Rods oblique isnt much better and all the other on-field issues that have led to New Yorks recent slide.
Dont get me wrong. All that stuffs great.
But nothing about the Yankees dip is quite as satisfying as the behind-the-scenes drama. The bitching, the moaning, the subtle and not-so-subtle jabs; the fact that this teams making a legitimate run at surpassing the McCourts as baseballs most dysfunctional family.
That's truly been a joy to watch.
You have 37-year-old Derek Jeter, with a bad hip, a worse batting average, the inability to field his position (I smell another Gold Glove!) and a Bartolo-sized chip on his shoulder over the slap-in-the-face, three-year51 million contract he signed in the offseason. Or more, the details from those negotiations that the team revealed to the media.
You have Jorge Posada, nearly 40, with a head of hair thats so salt-and-peppered he actually Shoops around the base paths. He cant catch anymore, he can barely hit, but much like Jeter, Posada (at least publicly) isnt as concerned with his declining skills as he is with how the clubs treated him amidst the decline. If he comes to the park and doesnt like his spot in the order, Jorge just might decide not to play. And if thats the case, dont count on the captain to swoop in and restore order. Jeter understands what Posadas going through; hes been through it himself. Hes been wronged by the front office, and doesnt want to be their talking head anymore.
These are two pillars of the Yankee community. Two men who will someday be immortalized in the shadow of Lord Steinbrenner out in Monument Park. But right now they're two aging superstars, unhappy with how theyre being treated. Two men whove spent their entire careers being treated like Gods, now having a hell of a time adjusting to life on Earth.
Meanwhile, Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman are taxed with the job of balancing these egos; doing whats right by the legends, but at the same time, doing whats best for their team. Not that Jeter and Posasda arent both very aware that theyre not the players they used to be. The players are always the first to know. Its just that Cashman and Girardi are the ones burdened with revealing this to the public. They have to say, Derek Jeter is only worth this or Jorge Posada can only bat there and this isnt an easy thing for players to deal with. Even if they know the end is near, the coach andor general manager are in charge of tearing off the Band-Aid. And that always hurts (especially if youre as hairy as Posada).
Now the Yankees are bleeding, and as a Red Sox fan, you love it.
However, as a Celtics fan, maybe it should give you some pause.
Listen, Im not saying these scenarios are identical.
Baseball isnt basketball. The Yankees arent the Celtics. Jeter and Posada arent Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (although there is a slight Big BabyBartolo resemblance). Apparently, Posadas problems with Girardi go back long before this season, and the Big Threes relationship with Doc and Danny has for the most part been copacetic. Jeters issues intensified over the negotiating table, and thats something that the Celtics likely wont have to deal (or not on that level). Im not saying that this is Final Destination 7 and that everything were witnessing with the Yankees is an identical preview of the Celtics inevitable future.
Im just saying that this is the risk you take with aging superstars.
Its the risk Cashman took when he refused Jeters contract demands, and then jabbed him in the media; that Girardi took when he dropped Posada to ninth in the lineup. Maybe Jeter didnt deserve that money. Maybe Posada was lucky to even be in the lineup. But that doesnt make it any easier, or the risk any lower.
You'd like to think that the Big Three's above that. That they're immune to some of the drama that's haunted the Yankees. But then again, you never would've imagined Jeter and the Yankees would be here either. You just never know. These are strong, prideful personalities, at a time when they're more sensitive and insecure than ever.
So, thats the risk Danny Ainge takes when he hops on the radio to suggest that his captain might be better coming off the bench (without speaking to him about it first) or that he wouldnt rule out trading any of the Big Three or that Their days of carrying a team night in and night out might be over . . .
The fact that its true (aside from the Pierce nonsense) doesnt take away from the potential danger, and one fact about superstar athletes that extends across all professional sports.
Their fall from grace is rarely graceful.
Its a phenomenon that Boston might have to deal with in the not-so-distant future.
But one that, for now, we can sit back and enjoy like a thick bacon-flavored milk shake.
Or whatever youre into.