- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Damaso Marte kept his composure after the tiebreaking run was scored in the Yankees-Red Sox season opener. He had meant to throw a fastball low and away, but the pitch got away from him a bit, drifting back high and over the plate. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada reached up, the ball hit him in the thick part of the glove and bounced far enough away for Kevin Youkilis to score Boston's eighth run.
Marte kept a stone face on the mound and in the dugout, as any good teammate would. But it would be interesting to know, behind closed doors, what the reaction was of all the folks in the Yankees' organization, because Posada's ability to handle pitches may well be a growing concern.
The Yankees were an older team when they won the World Series last year, and they are one year older in 2010. Derek Jeter is 35, Mariano Rivera is 40, Alex Rodriguez is 34, Andy Pettitte is 37 (he said Sunday night, by the way, that he won't make a decision about whether to retire until after the season), and Posada is 38. There will be a season in which age will manifest itself in each of these great players. Posada has been part of enough championship teams to have rings for each of his fingers, and he will pass 250 homers and 1,000 RBIs for his career this year; he is on the verge of entering the conversation for the Hall of Fame.
Last year, we saw that Posada's struggles to catch the ball eventually became part of the reason Jose Molina was in the lineup as the catcher for A.J. Burnett. We will see, in the days ahead, how Posada's ability to catch impacts the ways Joe Girardi sets his lineup. Francisco Cervelli, Posada's backup, is viewed as a strong defensive catcher, and Girardi -- a former catcher -- will recognize, before others, all the value in a strong defensive catcher.
At least he has options.
Girardi could reduce Posada's starts behind the plate and give him more games at designated hitter, perhaps starting him at DH against some left-handed pitchers (he could have that option, for example, on Tuesday, when Jon Lester starts for the Red Sox); Posada still hammers left-handed pitchers, as his splits from last year show. Or Girardi could simply use Cervelli in more games than originally planned.
Or Posada may continue to be an every-day catcher. He was good enough last year to play the position for a team that won the World Series, and time will tell if he can be again in 2010. We have reached the point in the careers of a lot these Yankees All-Stars that that will be an open question from year to year.
Beckett did not have a good first night against the Yankees -- he allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings, walking three, allowing a couple of homers and striking out just one -- but Boston's front office is too savvy to let one outing alter their view of their long-term investment in Beckett. I have covered teams in the past that would have been shaken by one bad start like that, in the middle of contract negotiations. One player told me how his agent would never hear from the team after his lousy starts, but if he threw a good game, the phone call would come.
With that in mind, there is this question: If Beckett's deal doesn't actually get pushed across the finish line, how many rough starts to open the season would alter the Red Sox's view of the pitcher? My guess would be three or four.
So the bottom line is this: If Beckett is ready to accept Boston's four-year, $68 million offer, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to do it ASAP.
Dings and dents
Moves, deals and decisions
9. Gary Matthews Jr. will start on Opening Day.
10. We were in the "Baseball Tonight" pre-show meeting in Fenway Park on Sunday night, and Nomar Garciaparra was asked for thoughts about the Green Monster. He mentioned that he had never been inside in the years he had played with the Red Sox. So about an hour later, Nomar stepped inside the Monster for the first time. While we were in there, the Red Sox coaching staff was working with Jeremy Hermida and Jacoby Ellsbury on taking balls off the wall, and about every 30 seconds a baseball would crash against the Monster: bang! Nomar just burst out laughing at how loud it was, at the distinct sound. He looked around at all the signatures inside the Monster, and mentioned that now he understood how it was that Manny Ramirez would get distracted when he went inside. And before we left, Nomar signed, among all those other signatures, with a black Sharpie.
• The Rays say their young rotation doesn't need veteran leadership, writes Marc Topkin.
• The Jays have a lot of young starters.
• Alex Anthopoulos is the reluctant face of the Jays.
• Give thanks for the Astros today, writes Richard Justice.
• Riddles remain on the Brewers' roster.
• The Cardinals are consensus favorites, writes Joe Strauss.
• Marlins president David Samson is predicting glory for ... the Marlins.
• The Mariners are thriving under Don Wakamatsu's leadership, writes Jerry Brewer.
• Ozzie Guillen will be the face of the White Sox, writes Joe Cowley.
• The Cubs insist they have a new attitude.
• Milton Bradley's reputation dwarfs his reality.
• The Reds' power is young pitching, writes John Fay. Bobby Valentine said of Mike Leake, by the way, that he's a lot like Rick Reed, the guy who used to pitch for Bobby -- a right-hander who can throw a lot of different pitches for strikes.
• Both the Dodgers and Angels are counting on young pitchers, and that often doesn't work out, writes Mike DiGiovanna.
• The Twins have new road unis.
• Bob Feller says he tells it like it is.
And today will be better than yesterday.