And then there were two. Last year it was lefty pitcher Andy Pettitte who decided to hang up his cleats, and this offseason, it’s long-time-catcher-recently-turned-DH Jorge Posada. The famed “core four” (Can someone please tell me when that term was coined? I feel like it snuck up on me.) has been whittled down to the dynamic duo. (That’s Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera for those of you playing at home.)
According to reports, Posada will officially announce his retirement in the next two weeks. No need for Yankees fans to worry about seeing Jorge in an Orioles or Mariners jersey.
Truth be told, I’ve never been a huge Posada fan, which is odd for me because I like the fiery ones (former Yankee right fielder Paul O’Neill and tennis great John McEnroe are among my favorite athletes). But I appreciate the role Posada played on four of the last five Yankees World Series championship teams. I also appreciate his passion and that he’s a bit of a throwback. Posada was one of the few major leaguers who did not wear batting gloves, preferring pine tar to toughen up his hands during spring training. (Apparently, this is aided by urinating on them, and his Yankees teammates would joke about not shaking Posada’s hands during spring training.)
I remember when Jorge took over behind the plate for good at Yankee Stadium. It was during the 1998 playoffs. The switch-hitting Posada became the starting catcher, relegating veteran Joe Girardi (now the Yankee manager) to the backup role. It was a symbolic passing of the torch. Even though veteran pitchers like David Cone preferred Girardi — Cone even made him his personal catcher — Posada’s bat was just too good not to be in the lineup everyday.
This past year was a bit tumultuous for the five-time All-Star as he was turned into the Yankees DH. He struggled mightily, hitting .235 with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs, and was eventually consigned to part-time bench player. The low point came when Girardi dropped Posada, who was hitting a whopping .165 at the time, to ninth in the lineup during a series in May against the Red Sox. Jorge benched himself instead of playing, sparking controversy both in the media and in the clubhouse. In the end, he did manage to come up with some dramatic hits in 2011 and was one of the few highlights of the division series against the Tigers, where he hit .429 in a five-game loss.
My favorite highlights from Posada’s career? His solo homer for the only run in Game 3 of the 2001 division series and his delivery of the tag on Jeter’s famous “flip play.” He also hit the first home run in the new Yankee Stadium on April 16, 2009 and caught David Wells’ perfect game in 1998.
Posada’s 17-year major-league career has been solid: .273 AVG, 275 home runs, .374 OBP and a .474 slugging percentage. He is one of five players to have at least 1,500 hits, 350 doubles, 275 home runs and 1,000 RBI while playing at least half of his career games behind the plate, along with Ivan Rodriguez and Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk. That should put him in discussion for the Hall of Fame when he is eligible. Whether or not he ends up there is fodder for another day.
For now let’s just wish Posada well and send him off with a rousing: Hip, hip Jorge!