Yankees End Posada’s Time as DH

It wasn’t long ago that Jorge Posada was one of baseball’s best backstops. From 2000, the first season he stepped out of Joe Girardi‘s shadow, through 2007, his last fully healthy season, he ranked first among MLB catchers in WAR. He was also the decade-long leader, filling the gap between the Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza dominance of the late 90s and the more recent dominance of Joe Mauer and Brian McCann. Even in 2009 and 2010 he produced well enough, 2.9 and 2.0 WAR despite spending time on the DL in each season.

This year, the final season in his contract, the Yankees informed him that he’d be moving out from behind the plate and into the full-time DH role. The transition didn’t start well, and while he showed signs of recovery in June his production has again declined recently. Yesterday the Yankees announced that he was no longer even a part-time member of their starting lineup. Instead they will go with a platoon of Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones, with top prospect Jesus Montero waiting by the phone in Scranton. It’s certainly an odd situation for such an important player in the Yankees franchise.

“I put myself in this situation.”

When speaking to the media before last night’s game, Posada stated that he wasn’t happy about the move, but that his performance in the season’s first four months put his playing time at risk. This was a much more measured reaction than the one he had in May when Joe Girardi penciled Posada’s name into the No. 9 spot on the lineup card. At that point he was hitting just .165/.272/.349 at the time, but was actually working on a rebound. This time he’s at .230/.309/.372, having hit .272/.333/.387 between incidents.

For a while it appeared that Posada would turn things around, in the same way that David Ortiz did for a few seasons. After producing a .266 wOBA in April, Posada improved to .292 in May and then broke out in June with a .428 wOBA. But in July he slipped again, producing a .240 wOBA. Worse, he hit for almost no power in July, a .033 ISO, which comprised just two extra base hits, both doubles, in 67 PA. The benching came after a 3 for 18 August in which he hit one double and walked zero times.

Rather than representing a turning point in his season, June was apparently a dead cat bounce for Posada. When looking at the component numbers, it’s hardly surprising. He walked in just 6.8% of his plate appearances that month, while riding a .434 BABIP. The BABIP was obviously out of line, but it might have been part of a correction. he did have an ultra-low BABIP in April (.065), so there was a chance that he’d merely even out after June rather than drop off completely. But in July his BABIP crashed to .255, giving the Yankees further concern about their DH.

Posada’s performance has left the Yankees wanting at the DH spot. They currently rank 12th in the AL with a .695 OPS from the position, leading only Seattle and Anaheim. Yet both of those teams lead the Yankees’ DHs in OBP, which further skews the equation. This leaves them at a great disadvantage, since two of their main postseason competitors, Boston and Texas, rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the league in OPS by the DH.

What it means in the near-term

For the time being the Yankees will employ a DH platoon of Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez to fill Posada’s spot. Jones has already been the right-handed half of the DH platoon this year, though he often played the field in order to give one of the regulars a day off or a half-day at DH. Chavez has hit well this year, producing 1.2 runs above average in 76 PA. If he remains healthy his production could eclipse Posada’s projected performance. But that’s a big risk, considering Chavez’s injury history — which includes a lengthy DL stint this year due to a foot problem. If Chavez gets hurt the Yankees are back to square one.

As I described earlier today on River Ave. Blues, Posada’s rest of season projections actually work out better than Chavez’s. It might seem odd to project Jorge for a .334 wOBA the rest of the way, since it is significantly better than his current overall production. But he has produced a .341 wOBA against right-handed pitchers this season, and so could continue to flourish in the platoon role. When combined, Chavez’s injury risk and Posada’s production against right-handed pitching make the benching a bit curious. There has to be something else at play here.

What it means for the rest of 2011

The Yankees have an awfully comfortable lead for a playoff spot this year. Baseball Prospectus’s playoff odds report gives the Yankees a 99.5% chance of making the playoffs, so they have some room to maneuver in the season’s final two months. That would presumably give them time to see if Jorge can make a substantial turnaround later in the season and help his team in the postseason. Yet they have chosen not to do that.

The decision becomes more curious when we take into account the team’s roster flexibility. Alex Rodriguez is currently on the DL, and the team is carrying 13 pitchers thanks to a six-man rotation. Posada, with little to no defensive value, is then strictly a pinch-hitter, which makes little sense in a three-man bench scenario. With adequate wiggle room, why not wait for Rodriguez to return — which could be in about a week — and then move Chavez to the DH role?

There have been reports that the Yankees soon plan to call up top prospect Jesus Montero, and this could merely be a transition period for them. It gives them a week or so to gauge Jorge’s reaction to being benched (perhaps they hope he’ll decide to retire or ask for his release), and to see how well Chavez can perform in a more significant role. But with Montero waiting in the wings, it seems probable that they’ll call him up soon to take reps at DH. If that doesn’t happen, it’s a near lock that he gets reps in September. It appears that the Yankees really are beginning the transition from former heavy hitting catcher to the projected future one.

What it means for Posada’s legacy

Plenty of players gave gone out fighting a futile battle, so Posada is not alone in his woes. His performance this year should not at all detract from a legacy that will conclude with serious consideration for the Hall of Fame. As mentioned above, there was a long stretch where he was the best offensive catcher in baseball, filling the period between Rodriguez and Piazza, and Mauer and McCann.

Maybe it matters more now, because the storyline is front and center. But in a few years, when Posada becomes eligible for the Hall, few will put any emphasis on his final futile season. Instead the focus will be on the 00s, when he produced more WAR than any other catcher. It will focus on his World Series rings — five total, four when he was on the postseason roster — and how he was a leader in the ego-filled Yankees clubhouse. As it should be. No player should take a hit for trying to hang on too long. After all, few of these guys know any other way of life.

It’s always a sad moment when a formerly great player loses his abilities and declines to the point where he can’t start on a major league team. Posada might not have necessarily reached that point yet, given his numbers against right-handed pitching this year. But the Yankees clearly don’t think he’s their answer at DH, and they’re examining alternatives. That’s their right, and with a considerably lead in the AL Wild Card standings they absolutely should explore options that will best help them in the postseason. Unfortunately, that comes at Posada’s expense. That might hurt his current standing, but in the long run it will mean little in what has been a Hall of Fame worthy career.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


68 Responses to “Yankees End Posada’s Time as DH”

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  1. Jim says:

    Maybe Posada can find the PED fountain of youth like Ortiz…

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  2. Telo says:

    Yea, if he wasn’t such a baby about batting 9th I might have some sympathy.

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  3. RC says:

    Farewell the ice age sloth.

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    • Derek says:

      “Doesn’t anyone care about Sid the Sloth”

      I thought it was just me and my friends who called him “Sid”

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  4. Alan says:

    I don’t know about the Hall for Jorge. I don’t think he was ever really considered the best catcher in the game, although he was definitely a top 3 catcher for a decent stretch, and he didn’t have a long career to boost his counting stats. Better players have been left out. That being said, there is always the Yankees factor that could give him the boost to get in.

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    • Chops says:

      I think he’s one of those fringe guys who has positive and negative arguments for the hall. I think anyone saying he either he should 100% be in or 100% be out is ignoring a factor of some sort. I don’t think I’ll be upset if he gets in or gets left out.

      That being said, he did have a higher career wOBA and wRC+ than Andre Dawson at much more premium position. I’m not even going to bring WAR into this since evaluating catcher defense is still a relative unknown.

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      • baty says:

        How would you describe Jorge’s catching career outside of his offensive contributions?

        With a lack of reliable defensive metrics for catchers, how reliable are WAR related figures for catchers anyway?

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      14th highest catcher WAR ever = Hall of Fame.

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    • Jon says:

      I think what hurts posada the most is his teammates

      if he was on almost any other team in the majors during his prime years he would have been their superstar

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    • Bryan says:

      What is this “Yankee Factor” that helps players get in the Hall? I dislike the Yankees, but it’s hard to name one ex-Yankee who’s in the Hall and doesn’t belong. Did Gehrig, Dickey, Mantle, Dimaggio, Berra, and Ford only get in because they were career Yankees? Would Gossage, Reggie, Henderson, and Winfield not have gotten in based on their accomplishments in other uniforms? Fringe guys like Guidry, Cone, and Mattingly have (probably rightfully) been left out. It’s not like McCarver and Buck are voting for the Hall and Paul O’Neill and Chuck Knoblauch are sneaking in.

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      • Hmm says:

        Phil Rizzuto, for one off the top of my head

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      • Brandon says:

        Actually, there is a PRONOUNCED pro-NY lean in the Hall. George Kell (Ranking in career WAR: 580), Catfish Hunter (529), Roy Campanella (507), Herb Pennock (467), Lefty Gomez (460), Goose Gossage (427), Phil Rizzuto (384, just ahead of Jim Rice), Earle Combs (330),Waite Hoyt (319), Tony Lazzeri (269)… after this is finally start gets dense. There are a lot of players lower down, but these are mostly guys before 1930 — i.e. incoming classes. The lowest down guys on the list after that often have NY ties.

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      • Hmm says:

        Tony Lazzeri and Herb Pennock are also pretty fringy.

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      • DavidJ says:

        Agreed (and I’m not a Yankee fan, either). Graig Nettles and Willie Randolph are two more fringe guys who certainly didn’t benefit from the supposed “Yankee factor” either.

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      • RDRoberts says:

        That’s correct. If anything, recent studies have shown there is a slight disavantage to fringe candidates who were NY Yankees for all awards. New York and the Yankees have had many great players over the years, and as such there’s probably a few fringe players who have been elected, just as there has been for other teams, but for the most part there is no evididence of bias in favor.

        If there was, players like Nettles, Randolph, Mattingly, Munson and Guidry would have done much better in the the voting, and we’ll no doubt see that borderline candidates like Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte will not be elected. Jeter and Rivera will be, as will Torre as manager, and all will be deserved.

        The bias doesn’t exist but for in the minds of people who want to believe it does.

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      • Jason B says:

        Not commenting on the existence or absence of a pro-NYY bias, but the statement:

        “If there was, players like Nettles, Randolph, Mattingly, Munson and Guidry would have done much better in the the voting”

        is false. Just because some well-liked/star Yankees were left out doesn’t disprove the existence of the NYY HOF bias. Let’s say Mattingly got a high of 25% in the voting (too lazy to look, doesn’t matter for the example); he may have only gotten a peak of 15% support if he weren’t a Yankee. Again, just because he didn’t make it in doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t benefit from being a Yankee.

        (And to be clear, I’m not saying he DID benefit…just that the logic of the above quote is false.)

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      • Steve says:

        Rizzuto was not VOTED into the Hall of Fame. When people discuss a “bias”, they are referring to the writer’s vote. If a couple of Rizzuto’s old teammates put him through the veteran’s committee, that’s a completely different story. He probably shouldn’t be in, but it’s no different than Mazerosky getting put in through the veteran’s committee.

        Would be nice to keep those two things separate, b/c like others have pointed out, there really is no pro-NY bias in the VOTING.

        As for Gossage, considering he got in AFTER Bruce Sutter, when there is absolutely no way to statistically justify that, I don’t see the evidence for the pro-NY bias in his selection. Gossage actually waited TOO LONG to get in based on the standards (Fingers, Sutter) that the voters established for relievers.

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      • RDRoberts says:

        Jason B, I’d like to respond to your comment, but I’m not really sure what you’re saying.

        My statement is not false; it is an opinion and one shared by many who study HOF voting patterns. I understand that if you don’t agree with it you would think it’s false, even if it is not.

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      • Bryan says:

        I finally took the time to study this, and while there are several bad-to-borderline choices from the first half of the 20th century, I don’t believe there’s any pro-Yankee bias in modern Hall of Fame voting.
        http://replacementlevel.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/is-there-regional-bias-in-hall-of-fame-selections/

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  5. William says:

    I think Posada will retire after this season, given that he is a free agent and his one use is platooning in a dh role, which is the most abundant position in baseball. Great player, though i think he was overshadowed in the bronx by jeter and Mo

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  6. Pedro says:

    The Yankees should have eased Jorge out of the catching spot LAST year.

    And why all the hand-holding for him? They had no problem dumping Bernie Williams when they were done with him.

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    • RDRoberts says:

      They didn’t owe Bernie Williams $13 million dollars, as they did Posada this year. Plus Posada was coming off a solid season with numbers as a catcher that would have ranked him as the third best DH in the league. There were reasons for letting him play, but his time has come.

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    • NBarnes says:

      Are you kidding? The Yankees ran Bernie Williams’ dessicated corpse out in CF for at least two years. And it’s hard to play quality CF with a giant fork sticking out of your back.

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  7. Bobby Ayala says:

    Posada’s HOF claim suffers from never being the best at any point in his career. His defense was never as good as Pudge’s, his offense was never as good as Piazza’s, his big individual moments weren’t as big as Varitek’s. He was never better than the 5th best field player on the Yankees at any point in his career. He was a good player on a great team, but never separated himself with milestones or a single big moment, no huge clutch hits, no big games (outside of Wells’ perfect game.) He was overshadowed by plenty of guys not in the HOF, like Paul O’Neal, Tino Martinez, and Bernie Williams. The Yankee thing won’t get him in the HOF when voters are also considering Jeter, Mo, Torre, Pettite, and Mussina, with ARod probably a few years later.

    His numbers are comparable to Tino Martinez, to name another Yankee, and he got what, 1% of the HOF vote? The longevity and demanding position aren’t going to make up that much ground on the vote.

    Posada should get his number retired by the Yankees, or be honored in some other way, but Piazza and Pudge will be the only catchers to make the HOF from his era.

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    • AndyS says:

      He was better than Piazza for several years, and I fail to understand how you compare Tino Martinez, a 1B, with Jorge Posada, a C, which, save the DH, are at completely opposite ends of the defensive spectrum.

      There is only one blemish on his HoF credentials, and that is the length of his career.

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    • AndyS says:

      2003-2007 specifically he was better than Pizzaface. That’s 5 years.

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    • Jason B says:

      “His defense was never as good as Pudge’s, his offense was never as good as Piazza’s, his big individual moments weren’t as big as Varitek’s.”

      Well here’s the thing – you can’t cobble together this super-catcher, combining Piazza’s offense, Pudge’s defense, and Varitek’s “big individual moments” and make a fair comparison to Posada. You can, however, fairly compare him in *ALL* regards to Pudge, Piazza, or Varitek individually.

      Also, one would hope “big moments” don’t hold a disproportionate sway in HOF voting, or you end up with unshakable support for someone who’s career numbers were clearly below HOF standards – the Jack Morris fallacy.

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    • Steve says:

      Does it matter that Pudge was in the Mitchell report and Piazza is also heavily suspected of PED usage?

      I mean, does it matter to the VOTERS. I don’t like to implicate without proof, but it certainly won’t stop the voters….

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      • Jason B says:

        “I don’t like to implicate without proof, but it certainly won’t stop the voters….”

        Truer words, never spoken.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      He was never better than the 5th best field player on the Yankees at any point in his career.

      Posada’s WAR ranking among Yankee position players each year, 2000-2007: 1st, 3rd, 5th, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 2nd. You were saying?

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  8. Tim says:

    ask the yankees to release him and sign with the Giants as their starting catcher. Jorge in the NL ftw

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  9. Jorge Posada says:

    I love hot teen ass

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  10. Spunky says:

    I am a big Posada fan who was always amazed by his hitting performance, even in years like 2006 and 2007 when he was on fire and yet somehow not even the best player on the Yankees either season. I always felt he never got enough credit even though he was well-respected. However, I don’t think Posada makes it to the Hall of Fame. His career total WAR is only 47.4, compared to, say, Ivan Rodriguez’s total of 73.4 (obviously much of Pudge’s was defensive). Posada didn’t have large enough pre- and post-peak seasons to put his numbers in the same class as other potential HOFers of this generation.

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  11. Eminor3rd says:

    I didn’t even realize Posada was good for a long time.

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  12. Yinka Double Dare says:

    Andric Chajones doesn’t have the same DH Hydra ring as Mandruw Kojones.

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  13. DI says:

    I’m a Yankee fan and I don’t think Jorge Posada is a Hall of Famer, but I could see him getting in eventually. I hope he decides to retire at the end of the season instead of signing for another team, because there’s almost no chance he returns next season.

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  14. TK says:

    Let’s be real. He won 4 titles. I know it doesn’t fit well with the “core four” narrative but it’s true.

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  15. kc2mfc says:

    I certainly place myself in the camp of Jorge for the Hall. But one thing that everyone here missed is the experience and opportunity that he would serve as a coach for a minor league and then a major league team. Girardi has certainly been a good example that Posada has been able to observe from both bookends of his playing career. I wouldn’t be surprised that Jorge will be receiving numerous offers. Not to mention the Yankees have numerous HOF’s catchers (Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, and likely Posada) not to mention that all these catchers (including Elston Howard and perhaps Posada) were all coaches within the Yankee organization and Managers in their own right. Likely this is Posada mid-career shift from position player to coach and manager within baseball.

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  16. Hurtlocker says:

    I find it interesting that Posada is even mentioned for the HOF. He is another good player that was never a great player. He was never even the best player on his own team, let alone in the league. I have always thought that HOF players should be recognized as the best players in baseball during their playing days.
    Stats are one measure, but esteem also seems to count.

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    • SteveP says:

      It all really depends on what HOF “qualifications” you believe in. Some believe in what you are saying, that a player should be considered the best on his team, or one of the best in his era. Others, however look at performance with regard to position and also against HOFers with comparable stats and so forth. By the former definition, Jorge doesn’t match up, though I believe that’s partially because of the team he played on. If he had played on nearly any other team during his career he probably would have been considered the best player on his team. If we look at him through the lense of his position, we do find that for a number of years he was the best offensive catcher in the league, that for his career he put up exceptional offensive numbers for a backstop, and that he compares favorably with other HOF catchers.

      Truly I believe it could go either way. I don’t necessarily believe that you need to elect a player simply because he was the best at his position for a time during his era, but Posada’s resume does stack up favorably. Personally, I probably wouldn’t vote him in. As good as he was other guys on his teams, Williams in particular, had better offensive numbers and more dominant overall seasons, and aren’t deserving of the Hall. He does get plus points for being a catcher, but he was also a below average catcher which diminishes some of that value. Again, it’s a close call, and as a Yankee fan I would be happy to see him get in, but if I had a vote, I don’t think I’d vote for him.

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    • NBarnes says:

      The HoF is really thin at catcher. It suffers from a lot of the same problems that MVP voting does; a pronouced bias in favor of hitting, batting average, RBIs, and offensive-minded inhabitants of the bad side of the defensive spectrum.

      Posasa is a bit meh on some of the lifetime counting stats, but given his % rank as a catcher, he’s clearly HoF qualified, IMHO.

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      • Hurtlocker says:

        Look up Ray Schalk and his voting history for the HOF, it’s very interesting how a player with very, very modest offensive numbers got so much backing for the HOF. (and eventually got in of course)

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      • jim says:

        ray shalk was considered the best defensive catcher of his era, and is probably behind only bench for the all-time honors. he’s also the career leader for SB by a catcher.

        seriously, why put that douche in the hall?

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      • jim says:

        and he never got more than 45% of the vote, and that was in his final year; before that he only had 3 seasons over 20% and 1 over 30%, how is that “so much backing?”

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    • jim says:

      it’s interesting that you mention this, because nobody cares about your personal feel for the hall of fame

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      • Hurtlocker says:

        If your name is Jim, why does everyone call you Dick??

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      • Hurtlocker says:

        By the way Dick, Schalk is not the career leader for stolen bases by a catcher, Bresnahan, Ewing and Wilbert Robinson all had more. But lets not let the facts get in the way Dick.

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  17. pft says:

    121 OPS+ is better than Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter. Can’t really judge him defensively unless your world revolves around CS% (as much due to the pitcher as the catcher) and PB.

    He gets my vote, and Tek too (for all those intangibles we can not measure).

    His hit against Pedro in game 7 of the ALCS in 2003 had me trying to open my hotel window on the 30th floor in HK (fortunately it was locked)

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  18. JP says:

    This looks like Bernie Williams take 2.

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