Gammons: Posada has right Hall of Fame credentials
By Peter Gammons
Jorge Posada is proud, he is tough -- very tough -- and does not forget the hard times of being a 24th-round Draft pick once considered an organizational pawn. Nor does he forget perceived slights, be they pitchers who battled him on pitch selection, whispers that he would never be Joe Girardi handling those great Yankees staffs of the 1996-2000 championships, or those knockdown, drawn-out public spats with A.J. Burnett.
It was Posada's pride and his stubbornness that led to him sitting down a game and the necessity of a Brian Cashman in-game news conference, but Posada never would have spent 17 years as a Yankee and earned five World Series rings if he weren't that way; when you once had nothing, no one tells you that you cannot do something. And the twilight is never easy for someone who has been so good and worked so hard to prove and reprove himself.
Posada could have moved on to another team this winter and earned another $3 million to $5 million as a catcher/designated hitter, but he clearly understood how difficult the end can be. He chose to bid adieu, retire as one of those few pure modern Yankees like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams, wrapped in the greatest uniform in sports.
Years from now, depending on the whims of the voters each December, Posada will go into the Hall of Fame in that uniform, like Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey. The voters will marvel at those five rings and seven pennants, and think about all the great pitchers he caught. Go back to Game 4 of the 1999 World Series, when Joe Torre, who'd started Girardi in the first three games against the Braves, started Posada with Roger Clemens going for the clincher, knowing that Posada would be taking over the first-string catching duties the following spring.
From that game through the 2009 season, which included an injury-shortened 2008 in which he played in only 51 games, Posada's average season was .283 with 21 homers and 82 BBIs, with a .386 on-base percentage and .879 OPS. In that decade, the Yankees won two World Series and four pennants. His final game in that run was Game 6 of the World Series, a win over the Phillies that captured his career: three hits by Jeter, started and won by Andy Pettitte, with a five-out save by Mariano Rivera.
In Posada's career, he caught three certain Hall of Famers in Rivera, Clemens and Randy Johnson. He caught others who will get varying degrees of consideration: Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Pettitte, CC Sabathia, David Cone.
One cannot overstate the value of a catcher who produces offensively, and while catching those extraordinary pitchers and winning championships, Posada caught more games than all but 23 others, all the while ranking in the following categories among catchers since 1901:
How Jorge Posada's career statistics rank among catchers since 1901:
The only catchers who had a higher OPS+ were Mike Piazza, Mickey Cochrane, Dickey, Johnny Bench, Ernie Lombardi, Gabby Hartnett and Berra.
Think about that.
Posada was never Jeter or Alex Rodriguez in terms of buzz, never controversial. He never really was a "star." Posada was a grinder who could hit the critical looper against Pedro Martinez in one of the greatest games he ever experienced. Because he was never Broadway or Page Six material, he may have trouble passing the Cooperstown eye test, but unlike Ted Simmons, Posada will go onto the ballot at a time when most votes are more scrutinized than they were 20 years ago, and someday he will be up on that great podium in Cooperstown thanking many of the same people he thanked during his retirement news conference at Yankee Stadium.
It would be nice if Posada made that speech before Jeter and Rivera are elected to the Hall, because when they touch the plaque handed them by Jane Forbes Clark, Jorge Posada should be in the background, applauding from the stage of fellow Hall of Famers.
Peter Gammons is a columnist for MLB.com and an analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.