The Yankees finally got around to announcing the signing of Jorge Posada today. 4 years and 52 Million is significantly more than most teams would like to spend for a 36 year old catcher. Catchers typically just don't stay productive into their late thirties and early 40s. Here's the thing, though: Posada is not a typical catcher. He's exceptional.
That's where the Posada haters out there will simply have to deal with it. Jorge Posada will be voted to the Hall of Fame. Frankly, it shocked me when I learned that there actually were Posada haters, but they're out there and this will get their panties in a bunch. Yankee fans look at Jorge Posada and say, how could you hate the guy? All he does is play hard every season and You know who you are, haters. The average Posada hater falls into two categories: 1) Members of Jason Varitek's backwards hat wearing boy band, who are jealous of the clearly superior and far less self-aggrandizing Yankee and 2) Met fans who see Posada as a whiny, undeserving rider of the Yankee captain's coattails. Collectively, they spend lots of time dismissing the acheivements of the second best catcher of the last ten years.
Posada is one of only eight catchers in Major League history to record at least 20 home runs in seven or more seasons, joining Mike Piazza (11), Johnny Bench (11), Yogi Berra (10), Gary Carter (9), Carlton Fisk (8), Lance Parrish (7) and Roy Campanella (7). He and Ivan Rodriguez are the only two catchers in Major League history to record two seasons of 40 or more doubles.
Damn right! And all he needs is one more and that list drops to an impressive Piazza, Bench, Berra, Carter, Fisk. Wow. That's like the Mount Rushmore of catchers.
Well, he's just a .277 lifetime hitter! That sucks! Not so fast, haters. Jorge Posada has incredible patience at the plate. His active OBP of .3806 ranks 21st overall and leads all catchers, including the amazing Mike Piazza.
Let's assume that Jorge retires at the end of his Yankee contract, when he is 40 years old. He's averaged 68 runs, 21 HRs and 82 RBIs over the last three years. Were he to match that production for 4 more seasons and do it all as a catcher, his career totals would be
302 HR, 1189 RBI
Those are first ballot hall of fame numbers. Those numbers are right behind Yogi (358 and 1430)and Fisk (376 and 1330) in 17 seasons, rather than 19 and 24 seasons, respectively. They aren't that far behind Bench's (389 and 1376) in the same number of seasons. They are significantly behind Piazza's (427 and 1335 and counting - albeit as a DH now). In short, those numbers are very impressive. They'll get him in.
The obvious question is, is it realistic to expect him to do that? Probably not. You'd have to expect a decline from Jorge as he gets older, despite the fact that he's a very durable player and diligent worker. I do expect him to stay at catcher for the rest of his Yankee career, at least primarily. I don't expect him to move to DH full time like Piazza did, although he's a good enough hitter to warrant it. What I expect is for him to play two more years as the full time catcher before working in a young catcher that is currently in the Yankees system - someone like teenage offensive force Jesus Montero is the main plan for Jorge's successor, but it could be Frankie Cervelli (the yanks most advanced catching prospect - reminds me of LoDuca, hopefully without the crazies), Chase Weems (kind of a lefty Biggio) or Austin Romine (compared to pudge in arm strength and build). At the point that they work those guys in, he'll spend some time at DH or possibly even 1B. He probably will experience a decline in numbers because of age and this potential change in role, so let's discount those numbers 25%. That would make Jorge's final line roughly:
280 homers, 1100 RBI
That, with his championships and being an integral point of the most recent Yankee Dynasty, will be enough. Those numbers may seem a little unremarkable in the "steroid era", but not when you consider the day in, day out wear and tear that 13-17 seasons at catcher puts you through. And don't forget the five all-star appearances. Jorge's durability and production show he's an exceptional player. They count. And when you consider everything he will have achieved when he hangs it up, he'll deserve the honor.
So some day in July of 2016 or so, I'll drag my family to Cooperstown so they can watch Jorge Posada be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. And I'll stand and cheer a great Yankee and Hall of Famer.
P.S. And as preparation for the event, Toast and I will have to hit the local Ommegang brewery.