|Posada: Power, Patience, and Pinstripes
by Brendan Fitzgerald (Newsletter Contest Winner)
"What do you have to say about the relationship you've had with the fans over the years?"
"The fans have been unbelievable to me. I give a lot of credit to them for getting me here."
As Posada uttered these words to the reporter, he began to choke back tears and had to leave the interview. Questions arose. Had he played his last game as a Yankee? When he eventually announced his retirement months later, many New Yorkers were heartbroken. I watched all the videos I could find of Jorge Posada. It was very emotional to fathom that he would not play a Major League Baseball game again. Weeks later, I began to delve into the statistics of Posada's historic career and quickly realized it is not inconceivable to believe he is one of the top 20 greatest catchers of all time. He was crucial to the Yankees dynasty of the 90s as a switch hitter with great patience (13.1% career walk rate), incredible power (275 career homeruns), a good arm (28% caught stealing rate) and the ability to call a game that is revered by many. However, Posada's legacy is more than just numbers. His fiery leadership in the clubhouse and on the field provided the team with energy and spark. He showed tremendous respect for teammates, managers, coaches, umpires, the fans, and the opposition. Most importantly, he was a family man who looked after and cared for his family. The Jorge Posada Foundation he founded raises money and awareness for craniosynostosis. His non-profit shows his caring goes beyond his immediate family.
The Yankees have been defined by their catchers throughout the years and rely on them to be the backbone of the team. The history of Yankee dominance can be traced though the great catching lineage of Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, and Jorge Posada. 25 out of the 27 (92.5%) Yankee World Series Championship teams had at least one of these catchers on it. Dickey taught Berra how to throw. Berra presumably taught Howard tricks about catching as he passed over the catching reigns. Posada modeled his game after his idol, Munson. It is not a coincidence that the Yankees' longest World Series Championship drought was between the time of Thurman Munson's horrific passing (1979) to the time of Jorge Posada's arrival (1996) as they lacked a very good catcher during that period. Posada fits right in with this historic group as he was part of 5 world championships at a time when it is harder to win with expansion, revenue sharing, and league parity.
Posada seemed to be overshadowed his whole career by fellow franchise cornerstones including Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte. Everyone seems to remember Derek Jeter coming out of nowhere to retrieve an errant throw from the outfield and flip the ball home to record the third out and quell an Athletics rally in game 3 of the 2001 ALDS. They forget that it was Posada's quick swipe tag on Jeremy Giambi that registered the out or that Posada accounted for the game's only run with a solo homer in the 5th inning off Barry Zito. They also tend to remember Aaron Boone's walk-off home run against the Red Sox's Tim Wakefield in the bottom of the 11th of game 7 of the 2003 ALCS to send the Yankees to the World Series. They fail to remember that the walk-off would have never been possible without Posada's 2 run bloop double in the 8th off Pedro Martinez to tie the ballgame. However, nobody will ever forget the name Jorge Posada when his plaque gets enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame or when the #20 rests beside fellow legends like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle in Monument Park for all of New York to see. Every time I watch my Posada bobble head jiggle on my desk or wear my Posada jersey in public I will never forget the fact that all my fellow Yankee fans and I were blessed to see a true Yankee legend in every sense of the phrase. I yearn for one final chance to chant "Hip Hip Jorge" to honor the wonderful relationship he provided all Yankees' fans.