Jorge Posada has crouched behind home plate for the last time. He’s called his last pitch as part of the super-triumverate of himself, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter. If he does in fact hang up his catcher’s mask and glove for good, Posada will finish his career as one of the Yankees all-time greats.
The interesting thing about being a Yankee is how you’re perceived. You don’t have to be great to be a Yankee great. You do have to be loyal, dedicated, and work hard. Jorge Posada encompasses all of those traits. He played 17 seasons in New York, spent his entire career with the team, and will surely be given the fondest of send-offs by the team and Yankees fans.
Posada’s career is a remarkable one, but not quite Hall of Fame worthy. That, however, does not mean he won’t go down as one of the Yankees all-time greats. Will his number be retired? Will he be among the greats enshrined in Monument Park? Maybe, but we first must understand how he rates against other Yankees catchers in history.
Posada’s final slash-line is .273/.374/.474, good for a 121 OPS+. He accumulated 1.664 hits, 275 home runs, and played in 1,829 games. For a catcher, dealing with the abuse of over 1,800 games is impressive. To maintain his production over all those seasons is even more impressive. It was not until last season that Posada finally started to slide and found himself in a back-up role and designated hitter role.
Nevertheless, Posada’s production over the years was good enough for 44.7 WAR. He played in 129 postseason games and was a five time All-Star. If that’s not enough, he has a hand full of World Series rings (five in total). He played in seven World Series. No matter what metric employed – rings, WAR, games played, OPS, etc – Posada ranks among the Yankees greats including Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, and Thurman Munson.
Berra played two more seasons than Posada. His final slash-line was .295/.348/.482. He has 2,150 hits and 358 home runs. Berra’s career OPS+ is right in line with Posada’s at 125. His WAR is better at 61.9. The extra two seasons, the additional hits, and additional home runs might be the difference between his placement in the Hall of Fame and any chance Jorge Posada has at making the Hall of Fame.
Berra has two handfuls of World Series rings (ten to be exact), and he played in a total of 14 World Series. Sure he had more opportunity to play in those World Championships, but his production helped lead the Yankees there.
Berra is not the only Yankees great catcher. Bill Dickey, who preceded Yogi Berra, is not discussed as often as Berra, but he was equally productive and equally Hall of Fame worthy. In fact, he was inducted nine years after his playing career came to an end.
Dickey played in 17 seasons for the Yankees. He had a triple-slash of .313/.383/.486. He finished with 1,969 hits, 202 home runs, and an OPS+ of 127. His production led to 54.4 WAR, still more than Posada’s 44.7. Dickey was an 11-time All-Star and played in nine World Series. The Yankees won eight of those Series. Finally, at the end of his career, Dickey gave way to Yogi Berra.
Thurman Muson will be the final comparison. Munson had a great career, but never made the Hall of Fame. He played in 11 seasons for the Yankees, splitting time between his catching duties, the outfield, designated hitter, and third base. He finished with a .292/.346/.410 line. He had 1,558 hits and 113 home runs. His OPS+ was slightly off Posada’s mark at 116.
Munson finished his career with 43.4 WAR, very close to Posada’s total. He played in seven All-Star games, was the Rookie of the Year in 1970, and he was the MVP in 1976. He won two World Series with the Yankees and played in three total. Munson’s career was short but productive.
Posada stacks up well to each of these players in Yankees history. He probably ranks about equal with Thurman Munson. Of course, the difference there is Munson’s MVP and ROY awards. Munson played in six less seasons and was worth only 1.3 WAR less than Posada. It’s clear that both Berra and Dickey were deserving of their Hall of Fame nods, and they both should rank higher than Posada when reviewing the history of Yankees catchers.
Baseball-Reference’s Hall of Fame Monitor seems to agree with my placement of Posada. Munson’s rating is 90 and Posada’s rating is 98. In the end, Posada may be the third best catcher in Yankees history, perhaps his number will be retired*, but he is not quite Hall of Fame worthy. No matter the outcome, Posada was a great Yankee and surely helped them in each of their World Series victories during his time with the club.
*Posada wore five numbers while playing for the Yankees, so it becomes an interesting question of what number would be retired if the Yankees ultimately choose to bestow that honor upon Posada.