After 17 glorious seasons with the Yankees, Jorge Posada will officially announce his retirement from baseball today at 11am ET at Yankee Stadium. He spent his entire career in pinstripes and retires as a .273/.374/.474 career hitter with 275 homers and five World Series rings (though all he did in 1996 was tag along for the ride). Posada has a prominent place in Yankees history and his career 44.9 bWAR is tenth most in baseball history among players who spent at least 75% of their career games behind the plate. He’s not a lock for the Hall of Fame, but Jorge has a very good case and figures to spend several years on the ballot.
Jan. 23rd: The team says that Posada will officially announce his retirement at an 11am ET press conference at Yankee Stadium tomorrow. It will be broadcast live on YES, Yankees.com, and MLB.com LIVE. Plus I’ll be here to liveblog it.
Jan. 20th: Via Mark Hale, Jorge Posada will announce his retirement at a press conference on Tuesday. We heard this was coming a few weeks ago, but now it will be made official. I don’t know the exact time or place of the press conference, but I’ll liveblog it if possible.
The now vacant DH spot had some thinking that Jorge could change his mind and come back for another year, but that won’t happen. “I’m not getting ready for another season,” said Posada to Dan Martin recently. “I tried and it wasn’t in me. I’m still fighting it, but the more I did, the more I realized I’m not gonna play.” Sadface.
With Jorge Posada reportedly set to hang up his spikes, we can sit back and reflect on his career. He played 15 full seasons with the Yankees and parts of two more early on, contributing to four World Championships and tagging along for a fifth (that actually came first). He went to five All-Star Games, won five Silver Slugger Awards, and owns a pair of top six finishes in the MVP voting (2003 and 2007). His 2000 season (.287/.417/.527 with 28 homers and 107 walks) should have garnered MVP votes as well, but alas it did not.
Posada was never the focal point of the Yankees’ offense but he was always a steady contributor behind the thunder in the middle of the order. Playing that many years as a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate means that Jorge is among the team’s all-time leaders in basically every offensive category, and that’s what we’re going to recap today. His place in Yankees history.
Playing Time (Games, PA, AB)
Posada is eighth on the franchise’s all-time games played list, donning the pinstripes for 1,829 contests. Two of his former teammates (Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams) rank ahead of him, as do a bunch of Hall of Famers (Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth) and Roy White. He started 1,450 of those games behind the plate, or 79.3%. Posada has the 12th most plate appearances (7,150) and 14th most at-bats (6,092) in Yankees history.
Batting Line (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS+)
A career .273/.374/.474 hitter, Posada was never really the type to hit for average, topping .280 in a single season just four times (2000, 2003, 2007, 2009). As a result, he ranks just 36th on the franchise’s all-time batting average list (min. 3,000 PA). However, Jorge had a knack for reaching base on something other than a hit (more on that later), so he places 17th on the team’s all-time OBP list. His SLG is 21st in team history and his ISO (.201) is 13th. In terms of offense relative to era, Posada’s 121 OPS+ is the 21st best in franchise history. That lumps him in with guys like Hideki Matsui (123), White (121), and Hall of Famer Joe Gordon (120).
Base Knocks (Hits, doubles, homers)
Jorge finished his career with 1,664 career hits, the 14th most in team history. You can probably guess most of the guys ahead of him on the list, but he’s right behind Tony Lazzeri (1,784) and Willie Randolph (1,731). His 379 doubles are seventh most in team history while his 275 homers are eighth most. Only Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi, Bernie, and Alex Rodriguez are ahead of him on the dingers list. If you must know, Jorge is tied for 94th in franchise history with a whopping ten triples.
On-Base Skills (BB, IBB, HBP)
Only six Yankees have drawn more walks that the 936 Posada drew during his career: Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, Bernie, Randolph, and Jeter. Of those 936 walks, 78 were intentional, or one more than teh feared Jim Rice in 1,908 fewer plate appearances. Anyway, only Don Mattingly, Mantle, and Bernie were intentionally walked more times than Jorge in Yankees history. By getting plunked with 74 pitches, Posada is fifth on the team’s all-time hit-by-pitch list behind Jeter, Frankie Crosetti, Jason Giambi, and A-Rod. Surprisingly, only one of those 74 came at the hands of Pedro Martinez. Jeremy Guthrie and Chan Ho Park (twice each) are the only pitchers to get him more than once.
Run Production (Runs scored, RBI, sac flies)
When you’ve reached base more times than all but eleven players in franchise history, you’re bound to score a lot of runs. Posada is 17th on the franchise’s runs scored list with exactly 900. That’s pretty good since the vast majority of his career plate appearances (83.8%) have come as the fifth, sixth, or seventh place hitter and not higher up in the order. Most of us understand the flaws with RBI, but like pitcher wins they do have some value over time since they show durability and general offensive competence. Jorge is 11th in Yankees history with 1,065 rib eye steaks. A number of those runs came on his 47 sac flies, a total that is tied with Mantle and Bobby Murcer for the tenth most in team history.
Sabermetric Stats (wOBA, WPA, bWAR, fWAR)
Although he ranks 21st in OPS, Posada is a little further down the line in wOBA, 24th in team history at .366. He’s sandwiched between Matsui (.367) and Mattingly (.361), so some pretty good company. Posada is 17th in win probability added at +12.714, and 0.93 of that came in one game. In terms of wins above replacement, he’s either the 11th or 12th best player in team history using Baseball-Reference (+44.9) or FanGraphs (+47.6), respectively. Yogi and Bill Dickey are the only backstops ahead of him on either list. I don’t know where exactly he ranks as far as great Yankees go, but precise placement is trivial. Jorge is an all-time great Yankee, and you didn’t need any of these silly lists to tell you that.
As expected, the Jorge Posada reflection articles are pouring in after we learned that he is planning to announce his retirement in the coming weeks. The two best I’ve read so far come from Tyler Kepner and Jack Curry, who wrote more about Jorge the person rather than Jorge the baseball player. Both pieces get RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so check ’em out.
The Yankees had lost two in row, three of five, and four of seven. Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui were on the disabled list with wrist injuries and a neck strain kept Jason Giambi on the bench for the day. Coincidentally, he was mired in a 1-for-18 slump. Miguel Cairo started at first base, Andy Phillips at designated hitter. The Rangers were in town with their .283/.349/.454 team batting line, and Shawn Chacon was scheduled to get the ball for the Yankees even after taking a line drive off his left shin in his previous start. The date is May 16th, 2006.
Predictably, Chacon put the Yankees in an early hole. They were down two-zip before they even came to the plate, and six-zip when Joe Torre pulled Chacon with one out in the second. Long reliever Aaron Small’s second pitch was clobbered into the right field bleachers at the Old Stadium for a three-run homer. The Yankees managed to get one back when Cairo singled in Bernie Williams in the bottom half of the inning, but Small gave it right back in the top of third when Mark Teixeira doubled in the junior Gary Matthews.
This one had all the feel of a blowout, one of those inevitable games that occur during the course of a 162-game season. The Yankees were already down nine runs with three of their best offensive players on the sidelines, and the soft part of their bullpen was being thrown at the feet of one of the league’s best offenses. Their win expectancy at that point was two percent, and that felt a little generous. A comeback was unthinkable, but the Yankees and their de facto cleanup hitter had a different idea.
The chipping away officially started in the bottom of the third inning. Johnny Damon singled to start the frame and came around to score on Derek Jeter‘s double. Jeter managed to steal third before Alex Rodriguez popped out in foul territory, bringing Jorge Posada — that de facto cleanup hitter — to the plate. Posada worked the count full before singling back up the middle to drive in Jeter for the team’s third run. A seven-run deficit is still rather significant, but it’s better than a nine-run deficit. More importantly, the comeback wheels were in motion.
Small managed to keep the Rangers in check the next two innings, allowing his offense to chip away a little more in the fifth. Jeter led off the inning with a walk and went to third on A-Rod‘s double. Posada skied John Koronka’s 72nd pitch of the night to deep left field, but it stayed in the park for a sacrifice fly. Jeter trotted home and Alex moved over to third. Robinson Cano, batting fifth for just the third time in his career, plated A-Rod with an RBI ground out. Those two runs turned a 10-3 games into a 10-5 game and effectively ended Koronka’s day.
The Rangers started to make a little bit of noise in the top of the sixth, but Posada helped put an end to a potential rally. Small was lifted with two outs and Teixeira on first, as Torre went to the southpaw Ron Villone to face lefty swinging Blalock. Blalock clobbered Villone’s first pitch the other way to left. Melky Cabrera, playing in just his 12th career game, retrieved the ball and fired back towards the infield. Teixeira was running on contact with two outs and was chugging around third by the time Jeter made the relay throw. Posada received the ball at the plate, then received Teixeira’s left shoulder into his chest as he blocked the plate.
“It was pretty tough,” said Posada after the game. “That was probably the hardest I’ve ever been hit.”
Teixeira, who was listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 lbs. at the time, was running at full speed and said afterward that a collision was his only play in that situation.
“It’s a tough play for a catcher, obviously, but he’s one of the best,” said Teixeira after the game. “He made a very nice play. I’m out if I just slide. Because of the timing of it, if I could have hit him to knock the ball loose, that was my only option to be safe.”
The play at the plate ended the inning and prevented the Rangers from piling on any more runs, and it seemed to inject some life into the offense. Jeter homered in the bottom half of the inning after Melky started the frame with a single and Damon followed with a walk. Suddenly it was a 10-8 game, and the Yankees kept coming after Joaquin Benoit replaced Scott Feldman.
A-Rod walked next, making it four straight batters to reach base to open the inning. Posada then drew a walk of his own to put the tying run on base, and he eventually moved over to third when Bernie doubled in a run to make it 10-9. Cairo slashed a single to left with two outs to score Posada and Williams, turning a one-run deficit into a one-run lead. The Yankees had come all the way back from nine runs down, tying the largest comeback in team history. Of course, the game was far from over.
That 11-10 lead was short-lived thanks to Scott Proctor, who started the seventh inning by walking Kevin Mench and giving up a two-run homer to Brad Wilkerson. Five pitches into the inning, the Yankees were down a run again. In the bottom half of the inning, Damon and Jeter again applied pressure by starting things off with back-to-back singles. A-Rod grounded back to the pitcher, but it allowed Jeter to move up a base and put runners at second and third with one out for Posada.
Jorge worked the count to 2-2 against the forgettable Rick Bauer, then lifted the fifth pitch of the encounter towards left-center. It wasn’t deep enough for a homer and it didn’t even drop in for a hit, but his second sacrifice fly scored Damon and re-tied the game. Two-hundred and seventy four pitches, 39 base runners, and 24 runs into the game, the Yankees and Rangers were tied after seven.
The eighth inning went by without a hitch thanks to Kyle Farnsworth and Ron Mahay, the only pitchers in the game to record a 1-2-3 inning. Farnsworth was the only guy to appear in the game and not allow someone to reach base. Go figure.
Tied at a dozen in the top of the ninth, Torre gave the ball to Mariano Rivera. On this crazy night, not even Mo was safe. Mench opened the inning with a broken bat bloop single, then pinch-runner Adrian Brown moved to second on Wilkerson’s bunt. After a walk to Mark DeRosa, Rod Barajas drove in Brown with another broken bat bloop hit to give the Rangers a 13-12 lead. That put the game in the hands of closer Akinori Otsuka with the top of the order due up.
As he had done all night, Damon got things started with a leadoff single that was nothing more than a ground ball that took a bad hop past Teixeira at first. “This field gets very choppy,” Teixeira later said. “The last one almost hit me in the hand. I just kind of got my hand up there to block it.”
Damon moved up to second on Jeter’s ground ball back to the pitcher, the first time all game the Cap’n failed to reach base. A-Rod nearly tied to game with a line drive back up the middle, but Matthews reeled the ball in to bring Posada to the plate with two outs, the team’s final chance.
Otsuka was a fastball-splitter pitcher, and he went after Jorge with splitter after splitter. The first three were down below the zone for balls, then Posada took the get-me-over fastball for an autostrike one. Otsuka went back to that fastball in the 3-1 count, and Jorge was looking for it.
“I was just hoping it was out of the park so we wouldn’t have to keep playing,” said the Yankees’ backstop after the game. “I didn’t want to play anymore. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone.”
As Jorge said, the ball was gone off the bat, a walk-off two-run shot deep into the right field bleachers. Posada rounded the bases and hopped on home plate with his hands in the air, mobbed by his teammates as the comeback bow was officially tied.
In terms of win probability added, good ol’ WPA, it was the greatest regular season game of Posada’s career at +0.93. It’s not particularly close either. He went 2-for-3 with the walk-off homer, a walk, and two sacrifice flies. Jorge scored the tying run in the sixth, drove in the tying run in the seventh, then won the game in the ninth. He also went 1-for-1 protecting the plate, and years later he and Teixeira would share a laugh over the collision after becoming teammates.
Aside from the game-tying double off Pedro Martinez in Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS, this game was the first that jumped to mind after I’d heard about Posada’s intention to retire over the weekend. It was just so perfectly Jorge. He helped drive the offense with his patented power and patience, and he took a pounding behind the plate when he needed.
Posada did exactly that for the Yankees for a decade and half, but his contributions often went under the radar because of others on the team. In Game Seven it was Aaron Boone. In Game Three of the 2001 ALDS — when his solo homer accounted for the only run of the game — it was Derek Jeter’s flip play. There was always something that stole the spotlight from Posada, but not in this game. The injuries allowed his star to shine as he carried his team to one of the biggest comebacks in franchise history.
It looks like Yankees fans won’t have to worry about seeing Jorge Posasda in a different uniform this season. WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reports that Jorge will announce his retirement within the next two weeks. We’ll surely have a riveting tribute to Jorge once he does make the announcement. For now we can reminisce about our favorite Jorge memories — I’m sure his double off Pedro Martinez ranks highest for many. We can also get a head start on making arguments for his Hall of Fame candidacy. Remember, he still has the highest WAR of any catcher since 2000.
And then there were two.
As the Yankees gear up for an active off-season as the team prepares for the 2012 season, the clock is ticking inexorably forward for the players with whom I’ve grown up. Bernie Williams faded from view in 2006, Andy Pettitte stepped down after the wear and tear of 2010 grew to be too much, and now, it seems, it is Jorge’s turn.
The erstwhile catcher turned part-time DH spoke on Wednesday night at a charity event for his foundation. He hasn’t decided to hang it up yet, and a few Major League teams have come a-knockin’. The Yankees however are not one of them. “I don’t think there’s even a percentage of a chance that I can come back. It’s not going to happen,” Posada said.
I can’t imagine Posada’s emotions as the season ended. Drafted by the Yankees in the 1990 amateur draft when he was all of 19 years old, the Puerto Rican native has spent an eternity with the Yankee organization. In fact, only Mariano Rivera has been with the organization for longer. Over the past 17 years, Posada has earned more than $117 million from the Yanks, and he has put up numbers as a catcher that make him a serious contender for Cooperstown. He hit .273/.374/.474 with 275 home runs and starred in October on four World Series winners.
“I,” Posada said, “will always be a Yankee. The Yankees for me is my second family. It would be tough to put on another uniform for real and learn another set of rules and all that stuff, but that’s one of those things. I have to see if I want to keep playing.”
Posada, who had a tough time coming to grips with a team that no longer needed his full services this year, knows what baseball is all about. After 17 years in the Majors with the same team, Jorge harbors no grudges. “At the end of the day, it’s a business,” he said. “You look back and you wish there was some things that could have gone differently, but they didn’t. There’s nothing I could control. Everything happened for a reason. I’m not bitter at the Yankees. I’m not bitter at Joe Girardi. I’m not bitter at Brian Cashman. It just happened.”
We lived through the Posada drama this year. Mired in a bad slump, he benched himself when he was on the verge of hitting ninth. He ended the year at just .235/.315/.398 in 387 plate appearances, and he saw the future in Jesus Montero emerge in September. He isn’t quite ready to call it a career though, and his .269/.348/.466 line against right-handers has made him a wanted man. Still, Jorge said, questions remain: “Do I want to do it for somebody else? Do I want to leave home? Do I want to do it all over again without knowing anybody? It would be tough. I’ve got great people, great friends and great teammates and it would be tough to learn new people again.”
His wife last night expressed an interest in seeing Jorge play for the Marlins at a new stadium near their home. It would be the final hurrah of a great career, but I selfishly would rather not see him anywhere else. He’s Jorge Posada, Yankee. Even as other Hall of Fame lifers have ended their careers elsewhere, I want to see my favorite players go out on top as proud Yankees. It’s the cheesiness of the emotional impact of the game. Jorge was there through my teen years and well past college. Don’t wind up playing out a perfunctory final season with Tampa Bay or the Marlins just to show the world you can.
Jorge told reporters last night that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do, but he said he’s been talking to Bernie about it all. “Make sure you make the right decision,” Jorge said Bernie told him. “Don’t say or do something that you are going to regret.” Go out on your own terms, go out when you want to, and hopefully after 20 years, go out a Yankee.