Hip, Hip: Previewing the Hall of Fame Case for Jorge Posada

It's a Jorge Posada kind of day. (Chris Trotman/Getty)
It’s a Jorge Posada kind of day. (Chris Trotman/Getty)

I would not have realized this without Mike mentioning it in a post last week, but Jorge Posada will be up for induction into the Hall of Fame during the next round of elections. He last played in 2011, a season that was humbling for him to say the least. His career ended on a positive note, though, as he was one of the few Yankees to show up during the ALDS against Detroit; in that disaster series, Jorge hit .429/.579/.571, notching six hits in the five game set. Amazingly enough, he didn’t drive a single run home in the series. Regardless of the ugly times in 2011, it wrapped up a fantastic career that deserves its share of inspection.

Posada’s Major League career started in earnest in 1997, when he played in 60 games and racked up 224 PAs for the Yanks; it got fully rolling in 1998, when his playing time jumped up and he played in 111 games and went to the plate 409 times. 1999 was rather similar; he played in 112 games and had 437 PA. 2000 was Jorge’s real breakout. Amassing 624 PA across 151 games, Posada raked, hitting .287/.417/.527 with 28 homers and an OPS+ of 139 (.405 wOBA; 140 wRC+). It started a string of four straight All Star Game appearances and four straight Silver Slugger awards. All told, Posada made it to five All Star Games and won five Silver Slugger awards (2000-3, 2007) and had a career line of .274/.374/.474/.848, good for a 121 OPS+ and a .367/123 wOBA/wRC+.

(Photo via NY Daily News)
(Photo via NY Daily News)

If we judge a player by the company he kept, then Posada was nothing short of an offensive leader at his position. His only offensive “sin” during his career was that he was not, in fact, Mike Piazza. Among catchers with at least 5000 PA from 1995-2011, Posada ranks second to Piazza in wOBA; wRC+; and home runs. He’s third in fWAR (44.3) behind Ivan Rodriguez (60.3–whom Posada outhit by 19 points in wOBA and 16 in wRC+) and Piazza (51.2).

Doubtlessly, Jorge Posada was the AL’s best offensive catcher for the years of his career; hitters like Mike Napoli and Joe Mauer definitely caught up to him in the later years of his career, but Posada’s offensive longevity and consistency were marvelous. Only twice–1999 and 2011–did Posada fail to hit at a league average rate, and that’s not adjusting for his position. Eight times, he notched marks at least 20% better than league average.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)
(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

But in the end, it probably wasn’t enough. Jorge wasn’t as good a hitter as Mike Piazza and he wasn’t as good a catcher as Ivan Rodriguez. He falls somewhere in the middle there, which definitely hurts him. This isn’t to say that his numbers are necessarily Hall-Worthy, but to say Posada was anything short of the second best offensive catcher of his time is unfair. The other big slight against him is another over which he had no control. Posada appeared in games for the Yankees staring in 1995, but wasn’t the full time catcher until 2000. Those years of being a part time player robbed him of the counting stats that a lot of voters take into consideration. Regardless, Posada managed to club 275 homers and drive in over 1,000 runs in his career, good marks for anyone, let alone a catcher. had he received more consistent playing time before 1998-2000, his candidacy might be more than something to dream on.

Considering the fate we just saw Jim Edmonds suffer–falling off the ballot ungraciously and undeservingly after just one appearance–it’s not likely that Posada sticks around very long. That wouldn’t be a big injustice or a travesty or anything, but as a player we feel a lot of emotional connection with, it’ll be a touch sad to see Jorge–like his teammate Bernie Williams–disappear from the ballot easily. In the end, though, it doesn’t change anything about the man and the player Jorge Posada was for the Yankees for so many years. It’s years too late, but thanks for the great career, Jorge. A retired number in Monument Park isn’t Cooperstown, but it’s a damn fine consolation prize.

Thoughts prior to the 2016 Hall of Fame announcement

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Later tonight the 2016 Hall of Fame class will be announced. A couple of former Yankees are on the ballot — Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Gary Sheffield, etc. — though I don’t think any of them will get in this year. I wasn’t planning to write anything about the Hall of Fame, but then some stuff popped in my head, and, well, here we are.

1. I don’t think I’ve ever cared less about the Hall of Fame than I do right now, and that’s a shame. All of the focus these days is on guys with performance-enhancing drug ties, and we end up having the same inane arguments year after year. Remember when we used to spend time arguing about borderline candidates instead? That was so much more fun. I’d rather argue over whether Larry Walker is a Hall of Famer. Or Fred McGriff. Or Edgar Martinez. That used to be fun because fans are passionate and the internet allows you to seek out smart folks to debate with. Now everyone spends their time ballot shaming because someone didn’t vote for a player for PED reasons. This isn’t good for baseball.

2. I’m not sure who decided keeping a player out of the Hall of Fame is an appropriate punishment for PEDs, but I think it’s garbage. I watched Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire race to the home run record in 1998 and it was the coolest thing ever. They helped save baseball following the 1994 strike and pushed the league into an era of unprecedented prosperity. And now the Hall of Fame voters — full disclosure here: I’m in the BBWAA and am on track to have a Hall of Fame vote in nine years — are basically trying to tell me my memories of that era as a fan don’t matter because McGwire cheated and Sosa and whoever else may have as well? Get outta here. Players cheat. They always have cheated and they always will cheat. That’s just the way it is. The baseball I remember and fell in love with as a kid is no more tainted than any other era in the game’s history.

3. All of this PED nonsense can be avoided if the Hall of Fame just comes out and makes some sort of ruling on how to treat these players. If there’s hard evidence a player used PEDs — a failed test, an admission, etc. — then vote as you see fit. If there’s no hard evidence, the player is to be assumed clean. Boom. There’s the solution right there. Maybe not that exact standard but something along those lines. Something to provide clear guidance. That would help move things along. Instead we have this ridiculous ongoing PED issue and some of the greatest ballplayers in the history of baseball are being left out of the club built specifically for the greatest ballplayers in the history of baseball.


4. Know what’s crazy? Jorge Posada will be on the Hall of Fame ballot next year. It still feels like he just retired, but Jorge hasn’t played in four years now. Geez. The Core Four is a dumb nickname — oh hi Bernie Williams and David Cone and everyone else, sorry but you weren’t important enough for a catchy nickname — but Posada will be the first member of the Core Four to hit the Hall of Fame ballot, and that’s going to be a big deal. (Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will appear on the ballot for the first time in 2019 while Derek Jeter will follow in 2020.) I’m curious to see what kind of support Posada gets when the time comes. He was one of the best hitting catchers of his generation and also an important piece of the most recent Yankees dynasty. I think it’s fair to say Posada is a borderline candidate. He seems like someone who might fall into Edgar Martinez cult hero status.

5. I guess I might as well close with a prediction: I’ll say both Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza get in tonight while Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines fall just short. American hero @NotMrTibbs is collecting all the public ballots, and right now both Bagwell and Raines are over the 75% needed for induction. The non-public ballots have historically dragged everyone’s voting percentage down — I guess the voters who don’t make their ballots public are small Hall guys — so I think Bagwell and Raines will fall just short of the threshold. We’ll see. In the words of Marc Topkin, “the Hall is a museum to tell the story of the game’s best and most successful players, not a cathedral to deify those deemed worthy by arbitrary holier-than-thou standards.” One day all of the best players will get in. I think.

Ken Griffey Jr. headlines newcomers on 2015 Hall of Fame ballot

The first baseball crushed my soul. (SportsLifer.com)
The first time baseball crushed my soul. (SportsLifer.com)

The 2015 Hall of Fame ballot was officially released by the BBWAA today. As a reminder, a player must have played at least ten seasons and be retired for at least five seasons to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot. This year’s ballot runs 32 players deep: 15 newcomers and 17 holdovers. The full ballot is at the BBWAA’s site.

Headlining those 15 newcomers is Ken Griffey Jr., who looks to me like the only lock for induction this year. Other notable newcomers include Trevor Hoffman, Jim Edmonds, and Billy Wagner. Mike Lowell, who only wore pinstripes briefly, and Randy Winn (!) are the only newcomers with ties to the Yankees.

Among the notable holdovers on the Hall of Fame ballot are Jeff Bagwell (55.7% of the vote last year), Barry Bonds (36.8%), Roger Clemens (37.5%), Mike Mussina (24.6%), Mike Piazza (69.9%), and Tim Raines (55.0%). Players need to appear on 75% of the ballots — there are 475 voters this year — for induction. Piazza has gradually inched closer in recent years and could get over the hump this winter.

Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, and Gary Sheffield join Clemens, Mussina, and Raines as holdovers on the Hall of Fame ballot with ties to the Yankees. Guys like Clemens and Bonds will never get into Cooperstown due to the various performance-enhancing drug allegations. Alex Rodriguez likely awaits the same fate.

The ballots are due by December 21st and the voting results will be announced on January 6th. At this very moment, my guess is only Griffey and Piazza get this winter.

Saturday Links: Miller, Bailey, Hall of Fame, Security

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Yankees and Tigers continue their series later today, after the 69th annual Old Timers’ Day. All the fun starts at 4pm ET. Here are some stray links to keep you busy until then.

Miller Still Shut Down

Ten days ago the Yankees placed Andrew Miller on the 15-day DL with a forearm muscle strain, and, as of Thursday, the left-hander still has not resumed throwing according to Dan Martin. “I’m still resting,” said Miller. The Yankees said Miller would be shut down 10-14 days after being placed on the DL and he’s still within the window, obviously. Miller’s not behind schedule or anything. He’s right on schedule, I guess. Hopefully he can resume throwing sometime in the next few days and get back to the team before the All-Star break. The bullpen without Miller has a totally different dynamic.

Bailey returns to the mound

Remember Andrew Bailey? The magic of Spring Training had us all thinking Bailey could actually help the Yankees this season, but instead he suffered a setback a few weeks into the season as he worked his way back from shoulder capsule surgery. Bailey was shut down in April with a shoulder strain and was scheduled to start a throwing program in May, though I guess that was delayed.

Earlier this week, Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty that Bailey has indeed returned to the mound, throwing an inning in an Extended Spring Training game on Wednesday. I’m not sure what the plan is now — ExST is over (or will be very soon) now that the short season leagues are starting — but it sounds like Bailey is on the mend. The Yankees are going to want to see him pitch in minor league games, including back-to-back days before bringing him up. If Bailey can help at some point, great, the Yankees can use another reliever, but obviously the odds are quite long right now.

A-Rod‘s bat going to the Hall of Fame

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

There’s no word on what will happen with his 3,000th hit bat, but Alex Rodriguez has already donated his 2,000th RBI bat to the Hall of Fame, writes Ryan Hatch. “We extend our gratitude to Alex for donating the bat he used to record his 2,000th RBI to the Museum,” said Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson. The bat will be displayed as part of the “Today’s Game” exhibit at the museum. A-Rod has some other stuff in the Hall of Fame, including the helmet from his 500th homer and his spikes from Game Six of the 2009 World Series.

Alex became the second player in history with 2,000 RBI officially, joining Hank Aaron (2,297). It’s a weird situation though. RBI did not become an official stat until 1920, and MLB ignores everything that happened before then. Baseball Reference has retroactively calculated RBI totals and both Babe Ruth (2,214) and Cap Anson (2,075) have 2,000+ RBI, but MLB does not recognized their pre-1920 totals. It’s like they don’t exist. It’s so silly. Either way, A-Rod is in the 2,000 RBI club. Whether he’s the second member or the fourth member is immaterial. It’s an extremely exclusive club.

Yankees beef up security after Astros hack

Earlier this week word got out the FBI and Justice Department are investigating the Cardinals for hacking into the Astros’ proprietary database, which is a crime. Like an actual crime with legal implications. Last June some trade information was leaked from Houston’s system, at which point the Yankees beefed up their security system. Here’s what Brian Cashman told Christian De Nicola:

“We certainly added some more measures, spent more money to protect what’s privileged,” Cashman said. “It’s more inconvenient now for us to access our stuff, but we did it — again — to look for where those vulnerabilities were and made some adjustments and spent some more money to upgrade the process.”

“There were some extra steps. Were they necessary? We’ll never know, but we’re more secure by doing so. We felt secure before, but we made it more difficult now. It’s a little more inconvenience when we’re accessing our system ourselves, but we spent some more money to add some further measures, regardless. There were grumblings by employees at the front end of it, because to access our system it’s more difficult now for all of us to do so, but we’re better protected by the way we went about it.”

Every team has their own internal information system these days and, of course, all their scouting reports and statistical data are different. They all use stats differently and they all have different scouting reports, so the need to protect that information is obvious. I’m guessing the Yankees were not the only team to improve their security after the Astros’ leaks last year. Twenty-nine other clubs probably improved their security as well.

Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz all elected to Hall of Fame

A Hall of Famer, but not because of his time in pinstripes. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
A Hall of Famer, but not because of his time in pinstripes. (AP)

The Hall of Fame has four new members. On Tuesday, the BBWAA announced Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz have all been inducted into Cooperstown. This is the first time four players have been inducted in one year since 1955 (Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons, Dazzy Vance) and the first time three pitchers were inducted in one year in history.

Biggio fell two votes short of induction last year, and historically when a player misses by that narrow a margin, he gets in comfortably the next year. That’s what happened here — Biggio appeared on 82.7% of the ballots this year, well more than the 75% necessary for induction. The full voting results are available at the BBWAA’s site.

Johnson is an inner-circle Hall of Famer and appeared on 97.3% of the ballots, the eighth highest voting total of all-time. He spent two seasons with the Yankees and is presumably going into the Hall of Fame as a Diamondback. Arizona signed him to a four-year contract in 1999 and he won four straight Cy Youngs from 1999-2002, so yeah. Pedro and Smoltz appeared on 91.1% and 82.9% of the ballots, respectively.

The Yankees had some pretty great battles against those three over the years, including beating Smoltz’s Braves in the 1996 and 1999 World Series. Johnson bested the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS and 2001 World Series and is simply one of the best pitchers ever, arguably the best lefty ever. Pedro … man did he and the Yankees share some memorable moments. His 17-strikeout one-hitter at Yankee Stadium on September 10th, 1999 is one of the most dominant pitching performances I’ve ever seen:

Former Yankees Tim Raines (55.0%), Roger Clemens (37.5%), Mike Mussina (24.6%), Gary Sheffield (11.7%), Aaron Boone (0.4%), Tom Gordon (0.4%), and Tony Clark (0%) all fell well short of induction. Boone, Gordon, and Clark drop off the ballot because they received fewer than 5% of the vote.

In his final year of Hall of Fame eligibility, Don Mattingly received only 9.1% of the vote, so he exhausted his 15 years on the ballot and was not inducted to Cooperstown. He topped out at 28.2% of the vote during his first year of eligibility back in 2001 and has sat closer to 13% over the last decade or so, including only 8.2% last year.

Down the line, Mattingly could be eligible for induction via the Expansion Era Committee, which meets every three years to identify and vote on Hall of Fame candidates who started their careers after 1972. The Expansion Era Committee did not elect anyone this winter and will meet again in 2017. I love Donnie Baseball as much as anyone, but I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer and I don’t think he’ll get in via the Expansion Era Committee either.

Among the first-time-eligible players set to jump on the ballot next year are Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman, and Billy Wagner. No notable ex-Yankees though. Jorge Posada is set to appear on the ballot for the first time the year after that, giving me two years to prepare to the mother of all Hall of Fame campaigns.

Five ex-Yankees among first-timers on 2015 Hall of Fame ballot

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The Baseball Writers Association of America announced the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot on Monday, which runs 34 players deep. That’s split into 17 hold-overs and 17 first-timers. The full ballot can be seen at the BBWAA’s site. Ballots are due back on December 27th and the results will be announced at 2pm ET on January 6th. The induction ceremony is next summer. A player must appear on 75% of the ballots to be elected into Cooperstown.

Among the 17 first-timers are former Yankees Aaron Boone, Tony Clark, Tom Gordon, Randy Johnson, and Gary Sheffield. Don Mattingly, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, and Roger Clemens are among the hold-overs. Mattingly is in his 15th and final season of Hall of Fame eligibility. He appeared on only 8.2% of the ballots last year after topping out at 28.2% back in 2001, his first year on the ballot. I love Donnie Baseball, but I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer. Apparently the voters feel the same way.

Johnson and fellow first-timers Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz seems like locks to get this year. Craig Biggio, who was literally two votes short of induction last year, will almost certainly get in as well. After that you also have Clemens and Barry Bonds, who seem unlikely to get in despite being two of the greatest players we’ll ever see, and Tim Raines and Mike Piazza, two guys you’d think would be in by now. The ballot is stacked (again), which means deserving players like Moose will likely be left on the outside looking in (again). For shame.

Sunday Night Open Thread

Former Yankees manager Joe Torre was inducted into the Hall of Fame this afternoon, along with Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, and former Yankees infielder Bobby Cox. Maddux thanked both former battery mate Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild during his speech. Torre’s speech is above — he accidentally omitted George Steinbrenner and told reporters afterwards he “feels terrible” — and his plaque is right here, in case you missed it.

Here is your open thread for the night. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is a good one, the Dodgers at the Giants (Ryu vs. Peavy). Talk about that game, the Hall of Fame inductions (more video), this afternoon’s loss, or anything else right here.