But I expect some condemnation of Posada to persist, if only because this sort of machismo is always going to exist in the culture of professional sports. But this, to me, is more than a little over the top:
What the fans don’t realize is they cheered for nostalgia. They cheered for posters on the wall, not the current performance of their beloved core Yankees. You know what nostalgia gets you? Ask the Celtics when Bird, McHale, and Parish broke down. Seattle saw what nostalgia gets you when they brought back Ken Griffey Jr. last year. Keep praying and hoping the nineties return for these guys when the process in front of us dictates otherwise.
And you know what, this is right, to a degree. The crowd at Yankee Stadium was cheering the past, because it’s just not possible to forget that and live in the here and now, in part because, if you get too carried away, time will pass you by before you know it. Four years ago, Jorge Posada had the best year of his career at the plate. Two years ago, Posada had an OPS+ of 125 as a catcher for a World Series champion. And now we’re all wondering if it isn’t all gone, and Posada simply doesn’t have the ability to hit at a big league level anymore.
Baseball fandom is a funny thing. The 162 game schedule means that, for six months, there’s a baseball game nearly every night. Many an over-dramatic paean has been written to the sport, but it really is there, every day, for over half of the year. How many people have had a rough day and washed the day away with a baseball game that night? How many times has a person gone to bed feeling just a little bit better than before because their rooting interest won a game that night? How many childhoods have been enriched by watching these grown men play a game, and then heading out to the yard to emulate their favorites?
In this respect, the last 16 years have been very good to Yankee fans, about as good as baseball has ever been for a fan base since the early 1960′s, probably, and Jorge Posada played a central role in that. Yes, he’s struggling now as he gets older and his physical skills start to decline, but a couple of bad months at the plate and one rough day at the office simply can’t wash away years of success, goodwill, and happy memories. Being a Yankee Legend doesn’t guarantee you a good batting line, a prime spot in the order as long as you want it, or even, frankly, a roster spot, but it does get you the affection and gratitude of countless pinstripe clad fans.
So yes, Yankee fans cheered the past Sunday night. They also cheered a player and a person who probably made their lives just a tiny bit happier at some point in the last 15 years. More than anything, Yankee fans showed their support for Jorge Posada, because in his own way, he’s always been there for us.