One thing I’ll never forget about Jorge – the pine tar on his helmet.
As a Yankee fan it’s almost a requirement to honor the past and reminisce about former players who once wore the pinstripes. But my favorite position to play and most of my favorite historical players, are catchers. Whether it’s Yogi Berra or Jose Molina, name any Yankee backstop and I have seen their highlights and know their stats. I simply love the catcher position. Heck, even Sal Fasano started to grow on me during the ’06 season.
Yet my favorite catcher, probably since I grew up with him behind the plate, is Jorge Posada. Through thick and thin, this guy was a true warrior. Say what you want about his defense, I always thought he was a solid catcher, and was not doing the Yanks as much harm as people said he was in his later years. To me, pitching is 50% the pitcher’s duty, and 50% the catcher’s. And he was the catcher of five world champion pitching staffs. That has to say something.
Of course his glove was his trusty sidekick to the powerful bat he had. The reason why so many fans hate on Russell Martin is because he’s not Jorge Posada. That’s a fact. We as Yankee fans have been spoiled by generations of power-hitting, MVP-caliber backstops, and so Martin is clearly not that. Yet he’s a serviceable catcher capable of calling a game and playing above-average defense, which is what I like in a catcher more than anything. But Jorge did that and then some. Or that and a lot more.
His 275 home runs, 1,065 RBI, and .273 career batting average are stats that can go up against any great backstop in MLB history. I’m looking at you Hall-of-Famer Johnny Bench. You too Bill Dickey. Jorge Posada was no Babe Ruth of catchers, but he was an Iron Horse of the position, catching 1,574 out of the 1,617 games he played in, and still hitting consistently and for power.
Another aspect, and maybe the most important, of Jorge Posada’s game, was that he was as true a team player as anyone. Derek Jeter is the captain, but Jorge was the vocal leader of the team. He spoke up at team meetings, defended his teammates, and gave it all on the field every night. It’s a trait not too many players in baseball have, probably because they simply didn’t have the chance to be in Gene “Stick” Michael’s Yankee farm system in the early 1990’s. (When I talk about this, I don’t think of 2011. That was a lost year for Jorge and one where the Yankees treated him very disrespectfully.)
To conclude, this is no analysis or anything that has to do with the current Yankee team. But I love sports history, particularly Yankees history, and I was a huge fan of Jorge and still am to this day. Although the Yankees are doing just fine without him, there’s rarely a game that passes where I’m not thinking of #20 squatting behind the plate, with white-out covering his finger nails and his death stare behind the mask.
Hip hip, Jorge!