For a while over the weekend it seemed like the “Bronx Zoo” days of the New York Yankees had returned, with a dash of 21st Century technology thrown in. The reeling Yanks had the Red Sox in town, a national TV game to play and were in the midst of their longest losing streak of the season. So veteran Jorge Posada is placed ninth in the order and bang…out of the lineup. One side says injury, a tweet from a relative says no injury, word gets to Fox and in the press box and away we go…an old fashioned controversy during a long game where media members are left to post and text message and fulminate over what is going on in a Yankee land that has been devoid of controversy and turmoil for several years, years which have seen the organization have success on the field but become more media friendly, less abrasive and more community minded than perhaps ever in the history of the storied organization. Who is right, who is wrong, who speaks first and how long will this go on? The tabloids are all abuzz.
Unfortunately for the rumor mongers, the calmness and consistency of the Yankees prevailed over a 48 hour period, and even in the face of rumor, bad feelings and a star on the decline, ended the “controversy” quicker than their losing streak of five games. How did it all end? Better communication. First, the organization spoke from the top, GM Brian Cashman on Fox during the game, and gave the organization stance on whether Posada was hurt or not. By doing that it gave manager Joe Girardi a chance in and after the game to collect all the info needed as to what was being said and compose his thoughts before speaking off the cuff. Girardi as some may remember was in a similar situation his first year in New York, and covered up an internal issue before being found out several days later, which created distractions, distrust, and elongated a news cycle which could have been dismissed quickly. Third, the Yankee players for the most part stayed clear of the controversy, keeping the thoughts primarily between player and organization. Fourth, Posada, while firing from the hip at first, used the calm field of an extra day to backtrack and apologize as opposed to publicly extending the debate, taking the last piece out of the pie for the short term. Whether everyone made up behind the scenes is another issue, but by management sticking together and speaking clearly and correctly, and by Posada recanting and clarifying his frustration, what could have been a growing controversy was ended in 48 hours.
Now one thing is usually true, most long-term, one city careers for athletes in sports usually end on a sour note. The athlete stays too long, the organization doesn’t want to spend the dollars, and lots of feelings and egos get bruised. Sometimes those actions overshadow all the good an athlete has done in the city. In Posada’s case, his potential Hall of Fame career in the field is eclipsed only by the work he has done off it with his foundation, and by helping to correct the situation over the weekend by clarifying his position and speaking of his frustration, maybe this stellar career ends at some point on the most positive of notes. Either way, the weekend controversy in New York came and went, generating lots of buzz and talk and a boatload of interest in the social media space, but largely without the fire of controversies past. Lessons learned from a strong organization gotten stronger.