Jorge Posada for the Hall

OK, so let’s start with this. I have a lot of fond memories of Jorge Posada. He was the most vocal of the ‘Core Four’, regularly yelling at his pitchers or getting ejected or starting brawls. He batted from both sides of the plate, never wore batting gloves, and peed on his hands to make them tougher. He was great.

Like Jeter and Rivera and Bernie and Pettitte, I grew up with Jorge. I chanted ‘Hip Hip Jorge!’ at Yankee games from the time I was eight until I was in college. He was on my bedroom posters. I walked around imitating his batting stance.

I asked some friends to tell me their favorite memory of Jorge Posada, and this is what they said:

Jon R: Favorite memory of Jorge is the bloop hit game 7 2003 ALCS. 

Adam: As a non Yankee fan, the thing I remember is the Sportscenter commercial.

Cooper: Best memory: some random game one summer when we were younger. Yanks down like 7 runs going into the 9th and we come back and win it with a walk off. Some new guy to the team is interviewed after the game and says Jorge gave them the pep talk going into the ninth that was essentially “we’re the Yankees, this is what we do!” And they f@&king did it. When I think of Jorge, there’s a lot of good, but that’s the first thing I think of every time.

Aaron SmallJorge was a great guy and teammate. Loved working with him as a pitcher/catcher relationship. We meshed well together. Smart catcher with a great knowledge of the game and of American League hitters. Enjoyed my two years with him. Great family man as well. Blessed to say that I had the chance to play with him.

Grace: Not sure I have a favorite memory.

Jon S: Walkoff against Texas.

Ben: Bloop vs. Pedro, especially after what happened earlier in the series.

David: He caught David Wells’ perfect game against the Twins, and he also hit the last ever home run in the Metrodome. And I loved how he never wore batting gloves. I really respected that. Even if he did pee on his hands.

Drew: I have an off the field one. There was a video they used to play on TV during rain delays where they would ask the players weird questions and I remember one with Jorge. He said he learned to move his ears because he was driving home and his glasses were falling off his face and he didn’t want to take his hands off the wheel, so he just willed his ear muscles to pull his glasses back up.

My favorite memory came on May 25th, 2011. I’ve talked about this game before. The Yankees were trailing the Blue Jays 4-3 in the ninth. Down to their last out, Curtis Granderson hit a single to tie the game. The next batter, Mark Teixeira, hit a single to win it. It was a wonderful night at the ol’ ballpark, and I was there, fresh off a hellish finals week to end my sophomore year of college.

The loudest roar of the night wasn’t the Granderson single. It wasn’t the Teixeira walk-off. No, the loudest roar of the night came when Jorge Posada stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. He didn’t start the game, so he was pinch-hitting for someone, I can’t remember who, because it didn’t matter. And in a collective roar, the 50,000 fans at the ballpark hoped for one more magical moment in what would be his final season.

This was just a few days after he had pulled himself out of the lineup when he learned he was hitting ninth. Well, Jorge was never one to hide his thoughts. This was unacceptable to him. He sort of threw a tantrum in the clubhouse*, even though he was hitting just .176 that season, and that’s when we knew this was probably the end.

*Cooper: ‘Worst memory is how he was kind of a dick his last season with Joe G moving him down in the lineup.’

But the fans were on his side. Posada stepped into the batter’s box, double tapped his bat to home plate, and the crowd noise did not stop, and he ripped a 94 mph Frank Francisco fastball into the right-center gap for a double. Then he came out of the game for a pinch-runner, which eventually scored as the tying run.

I’ll always remember that sequence because it was probably louder when Posada WALKED TO THE PLATE than when he actually hit the double.

So, yes, I have good memories of Jorge, and I’m very clearly biased when I say that I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

I say this because this is the first year he is eligible, and we’re a month away from the vote. Unfortunately, there is about a .00001% chance he makes it, about the same odds that I make it. It’s just not going to happen, certainly not in his first year of eligibility. I’d be surprised if he gets more than 5% of the vote.

I also asked my friends if they think he belongs in the Hall:

Jon R: No, I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer, but he deserves votes and consideration.

Cooper: I guess I’d have to look at the the numbers, but gut reaction is no.

Jon S: Yes for hall.

Grace: Yes he should be.

Ben: Strong no to hall.

David: I don’t believe he should be in the HoF. He was a very good and durable catcher for a long period of time, but I’m a small Hall kind of guy. In my opinion, he was never great. Yankees HoF for sure, but not baseball HoF.

I’m outnumbered, but dammit, I think he’s a Hall of Famer. And I think the math agrees with me.

As you probably know, it’s really difficult for a catcher to make the Hall of Fame. Only 17 have made it, but many of them are from a bygone era:

Pre-1920:

Roger Bresnahan
Buck Ewing

1921-1950:

Mickey Cochrane
Bill Dickey
Rick Ferrell
Gabby Hartnett
Ernie Lombardi
Ray Schalk

Negro Leagues:

Josh Gibson
Biz Mackey
Louis Santop

1950-present:

Johnny Bench
Yogi Berra
Roy Campanella
Gary Carter
Carlton Fisk
Mike Piazza

So, only six catchers have made the Hall of Fame in the last 66 years. Again, it’s a tough bar to clear.

For the sake of comparison, let’s look at Posada’s numbers against those six guys, ranked by OPS+:

Mike Piazza: .308/.377/.545, 142 OPS+, 427 HR, 59.4 WAR
Johnny Bench: .267/.342/.476, 126 OPS+, 389 HR, 75.0 WAR
Yogi Berra: .285/.348/.482, 125 OPS+, 358 HR, 59.5 WAR
Roy Campanella: .276/.360/.500, 123 OPS+, 242, 34.2 WAR
Jorge Posada: .273/.374/.474, 121 OPS+, 275 HR, 42.7 WAR
Carlton Fisk: .269/.341/.457, 117 OPS+, 376 HR, 68.3 WAR
Gary Carter: .262/.335/.439, 115 OPS+, 324 HR, 69.9 WAR

Posada’s offensive numbers fit in quite comfortably with his peer group. And I think they also show one of Posada’s most underrated assets – his ability to walk*. His .374 career on-base percentage is second only to Piazza. He had four seasons with an OBP greater than .400. The other six guys had four seasons, COMBINED.

*I went to a game in 2004 where the Yankees won on a walk-off walk by Posada.

Posada became the Yankees’ full-time catcher in 2000, and for the next eleven years, he had an OPS above the league average, every single year, with only one extended stint on the DL in 2008. He made five All Star teams, won five Silver Sluggers, hit 20+ home runs eight times, and, of course, played in 125 additional playoff games and won five World Series.

But with catchers, you also have to factor in defense. The widely accepted notion is that Posada’s defense was not very good. And as a fan who watched literally hundreds, probably thousands, of games with Jorge Posada behind the plate, I would agree with that.

But I don’t think it was as bad as everyone thinks. Measuring catcher defense is more art than science, but I think the numbers are pretty close to reality. The all-time leaders in defensive WAR for catchers are Ivan Rodriguez (+28.7), Gary Carter (+25.5), Bob Boone (+25.3), and Jim Sundberg (+25.0). To me, that matches the eyeball test. Yadier Molina and Russell Martin lead active players.

Jorge Posada finished his career with a defensive WAR of +2.1, which, yeah, doesn’t put him in the upper echelon of defensive catchers, but it isn’t terrible either. It’s actually higher than Mike Piazza. And it was much higher in the early part of his career. His last few years were awful.

What I’m getting at is that I don’t think Posada’s defense was as bad as everyone thinks. And his offensive numbers were really good, better than some of his peers. He wasn’t as good as Bench, or Berra, but no one is.

I think we’ve set a standard that is too high for catchers. I say we add a few more to the Hall. Add Posada, add Ivan Rodriguez, and down the road, add Joe Mauer and Buster Posey and Yadier Molina.

Now let’s watch some of my favorite Jorge videos.

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