Thursday, January 26, 2012
Jorge Posada Retires – Thanks For The Memories!
After an incredibly solid 17 year career as the catcher for the New York Yankees, Jorge Posada finally hung up his face mask and catching gear for the last time. I can honestly say I am very sad, as Jorge was definitely one of my favorite Yankees. Maybe it was just some delusional wish, but after the Yankees recently traded Jesus Montero freeing up some designated hitter at bats, I thought there might have been a chance they bring him back for one more season.
But, I admit, it was more than obvious during the season that it was Posada’s last year with the Yankees, as he and the manager Joe Girardi had basically hit a wall. And I am very glad, perhaps selfishly as a fan, that he didn’t sign on for one more year with another team. There is a certain honor with a player only playing for one team in their career, especially as a Yankee (and yes I am a bit biased). And I remember, though many have forgotten, Jorge was once actually offered more by the New York Mets to play for them and he turned them down (4 years ago). He wanted to be a Yankee and that means a lot.
The 40 year old Posada helped the Yankees win four championships (1998, ’99, ’00 and 2009), just missing a 5th one in 1996 (while he played 8 games for the Yankees at the end of the year he was not involved in the post season). He was an integral part of the Yankee’s late 90’s dominance, one that sometimes went unnoticed by many. But that was OK with Posada. Being surrounded by the likes of Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neil, David Wells, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, David Cone, Andy Pettitte and Tino Martinez (amongst many others), Posada knew that he would be regularly overshadowed game to game by a different teammate. But those same teammates were the ones that have always recognized what he brought day in and day out, and that was all the notice Posada needed.
Many people talk about how blessed the Yankees are to have the greatest reliever staying healthy and closing for them for 17 years. Well on a quieter level the same also applies to Jorge and catching. It is physically the most demanding position on the field, a position where many players get recognized just for surviving much less excelling. After catching 8 straight seasons of at least 137 games (2000 through 2007), Posada finally went on the DL for the first time in his career in April of 2008! An incredible feat of durability for a catcher.
A little early history…
Posada was Drafted in 1990 as the 24th round pick, and as an infielder! In high school he was an all-star shortstop and in college he was a middle infielder. Posada mostly played 2nd base his first year in the minors with the Yankees (64 games versus 11 as a catcher). It wasn’t until his second minor league year in 1992 that it was suggested he try becoming a full-time catcher. Jorge’s development as a catcher was great considering his lack of experience at the position. He would have made it to the big leagues faster if not for a horrific leg break and ankle dislocation in 1994 while blocking the plate at Triple-A. Many detractors of Posada don’t realize that, after this incident, the Yankees organization told Posada to avoid directly blocking the plate as much as possible. There was always a fear he could easily hurt that ankle again from another collision.
Remembering some of my favorite moments…
The image of Posada standing on 2nd base with his arms raised in exultation after tying the game against Pedro Martinez in 2003 is one of the best Yankee images I have. Another great memory was when his itsy, bitsy son Jorge Jr. ran out for him in the 2002 All-Star game ceremonies. Another one will be his catching in his one and only game last year in September. He came into the game (in an emergency with Russell Martin getting hurt by a foul tip) and without any practice all season nor in spring training, the only base runner that tried to steal against him he threw out. Cold arm and all, just a BB to second base. The look on Posada’s face said it all. Like the old western sheriff still making his presence known to the bad guys. Just fantastic!
Posada came up at the time that Mike Piazza was showing that he is arguably the best hitting catcher in history. And with Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez strutting his stuff (he was the AL MVP in 1999) it was tough for Posada to get noticed, but he was content with helping the Yankees win some championships. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that Posada came into his own offensively, and with Pudge starting to decline, Posada started to become recognized (this also coincided with Joe Girardi leaving the Yankees after the 1999 season). He was a 5 time All-Star, the same years he won his 5 Silver Slugger Awards (2000, ’01, ’02, ’03. ’07). Posada easily led all catchers for the 2000’s in driving runs in with 819 ribbies in total (next closest was surprisingly Bengie Molina with 665?!).
Jorge Posada’s Career Stats – 17 seasons (1995 – 2011):
1,829 GP, 6,092 at bats, 900 Runs, 1,664 hits, 379 doubles, 275 HR, 1,065 RBI, 936 BB, 1,453 K, .273 Avg, .374 OBP, .474 SLG, .848 OPS
Only 5 catchers in history have ever amassed: 1,500 hits, 350 doubles, 275 homers and 1,000 ribbies. To me that speaks volumes about how underrated Posada has been through out most of his career (playing under Mike Piazza’s and Ivan Rodriguez’ shadows the first part of his career). Not only was he solid as a hitter, but also he was able to play through many bumps and bruises and still produce. I understand that baseball stats can be manipulated to bring out the best in a player. It can be a simple matter of perspective. For example, Posada is the only catcher to ever hit .330 or better with 40 doubles, 20 home runs and 90 ribbies in a single season. And to show you how tough it is for a catcher to regularly get a double, only two catchers in history have two seasons of 40 or more doubles! Posada and Pudge. You can look it up, I did!
His best offensive season was 2003 when he was third in MVP voting. You have to realize how tough it is to have an OPS (on base plus slugging) over .900 while playing everyday as a catcher. That’s near impossible! Then throw in catching some of the biggest pitching egos in the game at the same time. Ouch! (Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, David Wells, Jeff Weaver, Jeff Nelson, Armando Benitez and Mariano Rivera just to name a few)
Jorge Posada’s 2003 season:
142 GP, 83 R, 30 HR, 101 RBI, 93 BB, .281 Avg, .405 OBP, .518 SLG
Posada played 1,574 games at catcher, 42 at first base, 1 at second base and the rest as a DH (or pinch hitter).
Jorge continues the long line of great Yankee catchers: Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson. Great company to say the least!
Some special moments or oddities in Posada’s career…
He was originally drafted in the 43rd round by the Yankees the previous year (in 1989), but declined to sign because he still hadn’t finished getting his community college degree.
He led the major leagues in pinch hits with 20 in 2006.
He only had one sac bunt ever… way back in September 11, 1997. With 7,150 official plate appearances that is as amazing as anything!
He caught David Wells’ perfect game on May 17, 1998.
He and teammate Bernie Williams became the first pair of switch-hitting teammates to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game. (April 23rd, 2000)
He hit the first ever home run at the New Yankee Stadium. (April 16th, 2009)
Jorge was a rock behind the plate and a class act. When asked what his greatest single baseball moment was, he answered in typical catcher fashion “catching David Well’s perfect game”. I can’t explain how much I will miss his presence while following the Yankees. I watched the recent press conference where Jorge announced his official retirement, and seeing the late Thurman Munson’s widow Diana pay tribute to Jorge really did hit home. She compared Jorge to Munson, both as a person and their style of play. No other measure of respect could have been greater.