Of all the things in sports that qualify as absolute tragedy, few are worse than a team once lavished in splendor now dulling its name with pettiness and stupidity, sullying its reputation before our eyes.
Especially when that team is the New York Yankees.
The Yankees can make all the noise they want about Jorge Posada's unsportsmanlike conduct Saturday, accentuated by a profanity-laced tirade and a desire for a day off after he was told he was being dropped to ninth in the lineup versus the hated Red Sox. They can point numerous fingers of blame in the direction of captain Derek Jeter, too, accusing him of uncaptain-like behavior because of his assertion that Posada had done nothing wrong and, therefore, owed no one -- including his teammates and the Yankees organization -- an apology.
But once the dust settles, the most storied franchise in sports annals can't escape the fact that its problems are far bigger than two players performing badly. It's about an organization performing badly. From the owners to the president to the general manager, Brian Cashman, the Yankees' execs have displayed a level of classlessness that might have even made George Steinbrenner blush.
A show of hands for anyone salivating to play for the Yankees these days? Seriously! A hefty paycheck would be the only reason, considering the latest round of silliness.
Heard beneath all the noise surrounding Posada's rare moment of unprofessionalism was a quote from the former catcher few of us should forget: "I guess that's the way [Cashman] works now," he deadpanned.
Posada uttered those words after he'd learned Cashman had gathered with reporters during the game Saturday, which almost never happens, before going on national television to explain that the five-time All-Star had asked for the day off. The move was clearly done to humiliate Posada, to bring attention to the fact that he was angered by being moved down in the lineup for the Red Sox game because he was struggling with a major league-worst .165 batting average.
The Yankees would have us all believe things are that simple. But they should know this is New York City. We know better.
We know Posada was wrong, that even a five-time All-Star and a four-time champion has no business bailing on his teammates, at any time. It explains why an apology from Posada came a day later. But where's the apology from the New York Yankees?
Where is Cashman's apology for embarrassing one of his team leaders with the hastily called press conference? Where's the elaborate explanation as to how willingly Cashman addressed the media, knowing this incident was exacerbated by public knowledge that he didn't want Posada around? That he didn't give Posada the opportunity to compete for the starting job this season? That he never wanted Posada around at all to collect on the $13.1 million he's earning this year, something Cashman made clear years ago?
"I apologize," Posada said Sunday for the way he acted the night before. "I just had a bad day."
Actually, it's been a bad season, despite his double down the right-field line in Tuesday's win over the Rays. Posada has simply looked awful.
His bat speed isn't there. He is 0-for-24 as a right-handed hitter this season. With his birth certificate collecting more dust with each passing day, his skills have clearly eroded. And he might not be alone.
Alex Rodriguez has had a miserable month, aside from his two homers Tuesday night. Mark Teixeira hasn't been much better. Nick Swisher looks as if he needs a month off, and we won't even get into the Yankees' rotation.
The thing is, the Yankees have made sure we've all gathered as much, which explains why, as Red Sox DH David Ortiz put it, "they're just wrong" on Posada.
Ortiz appeared to be saying what all of us should be thinking: These sleazy tendencies are what epitomize the Yankees these days.
This same kind of behavior was illustrated during negotiations with Jeter when his agent had the temerity to use seven American League pennants, five World Series championships and an impeccable reputation to try to get his client much more than the Yankees and the rest of us knew he deserved. We saw hints of similar behavior in 2007, when Cashman was visibly vexed over being forced by Hank Steinbrenner to surrender $52 million and four years to Posada instead of two.
Somehow -- despite countless past moments of questionable behavior from The Boss -- his commitment to winning and his devotion to the Yankees took precedence over public perception and, in some cases, dollars. It helped make the Yankees the most successful franchise in history.
But -- can we say this now?
Cliff Lee went to the Philadelphia Phillies for nearly $40 million less than what the Yankees offered. Boston was on Carl Crawford's list, apparently higher than New York. And with names like Jeter and Posada making news for all the wrong reasons, the Yankees can open their wallets and crow about how much money they have to offer all they want. But from the looks of things, that's all they'll have to offer.
"It's over. It's done," Jeter spewed, when asked yet again about the Posada incident. "Our job is to try and win games. We're all on the same page."
Somehow, you got the impression Jeter was talking about his teammates. Not the Yankees organization.