Jorge Rafael Posada Villeta
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 190 lb.
- School Calhoun State Community College
- Debut September 4, 1995
- Final Game September 28, 2011
- Born August 17, 1971 in Santurce, P.R.
Jorge Posada was the starting catcher of the New York Yankees from 1998 to 2010. During that time, the Yankees won four World Series and Posada staked a claim as one of the best hitting catchers of all-time.
Posada was selected in the 24th round of the 1990 amateur draft. While he grew up in Puerto Rico, he attended junior college in the United States, where he was noticed by scouts. He was actually a second baseman during his first professional season, with the Oneonta Yankees of the New York-Penn League in 1991. He hit .235 in 71 games, but walked 51 times, already showing signs of superior plate discipline. He also played 11 games behind the plate that season, and by 1992 was a full-time backstop. He hit .277 in 101 games for the Greensboro Hornets of the South Atlantic League that year, banging 22 doubles and 12 homers. In 1993, he played 118 games with the Prince William Yankees of the Carolina League and another 7 with the Albany-Colonie Yankees of the AA Eastern League, batting .260 with 27 doubles and 17 homers. Now a top prospect, he skipped AA in 1994, landing the starting job behind the plate with the AAA Columbus Clippers, where he hit .240 with 11 homers in 92 games. Back with Columbus in 1995, he hit .255 in 108 games.
The Yankees called up Jorge for the first time in September of 1995. With the team set to return to the postseason for the first time since 1981, there was little opportunity for the youngster to get much playing time, so he mainly watched, getting into only one game on September 4th when he caught one inning. In spite of his lack of playing time in the big leagues, the Yankees added his name to the postseason roster as a third-string catcher behind Mike Stanley and Jim Leyritz. The team's fans probably first became aware of his existence when he was called to pinch-run for Wade Boggs in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the ALDS against the Seattle Mariners. He came in to score on Ruben Sierra's double, and the Yankees went on to win the game on Leyritz's 15th-inning homer. He was back at Columbus for one more season in 1996, hitting .271 in 106 games, with 22 doubles, 6 triples and 11 homers. He was back with the Yankees for 8 games, going 1 for 14, but this time was not on the postseason roster. The Yankees went on to win their first World Series title since 1978 that season, and while he was technically part of that team, his contribution was almost non-existent. It would not be the case in future years.
In 1997, Posada made the major league team out of spring training and spent the season splitting catching duties with Joe Girardi. He got into 60 games and hit .250 with 12 doubles and 6 homers; he also drew 30 walks, for a solid .359 OBP. That combination of better than average OBP and power would hold over the years and make him an extremely valuable member of the Yankees' line-up, as he turned the catcher position, usually the weakest in the batting order, into one of the most productive. However, his defense would always a bit of an achilles heel, especially his relatively weak throwing arm. He hit his first major league homer on May 4th, off the Kansas City Royals' Jim Converse. That first season, Girardi got most of the playing time as a result of his better defense, including in the ALDS, when the Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians. In 1998, Jorge was the starter, however, and would not relinquish the job for 13 seasons, except for a brief time late in 2008 when he was injured. He played 111 games in 1998 as the Yankees had a superlative season, winning 114 games on their way to a World Series sweep of the San Diego Padres. On May 17th, he caught David Wells' perfect game against the Minnesota Twins. Posada hit 17 homers and drove in 63 runs that year, and hit homers in both the ALCS and World Series. The Yankees repeated as World Champions in 1999, although Posada had one of his weakest seasons, hitting just .245 with 12 homers in 112 games. He was still sharing playing time with Girardi in the postseason, but started two of the four games in the World Series, going 2 for 8 with a double against the Atlanta Braves.
Posada emerged as a true star in 2000, when the Yankees won their third straight championship. Now the uncontested starter following Girardi's departure, he played 151 games, and hit .287 with 35 doubles, 28 homers and 86 RBI. He was named to the All-Star team for the first of five times and also won his first of five Silver Slugger Awards as the American League's best-hitting catcher. The Yankees beat the crosstown New York Mets in the World Series that year, with Posada starting all 16 postseason games. In 2001, he hit .277 with 22 homers and 95 RBI, returned to the All-Star Game, won the Silver Slugger Award again and played in the World Series for the fourth straight year, again starting every postseason game behind the plate. On September 2nd, he caught Mike Mussina's bid for a perfect game against the Boston Red Sox, when Moose struck out 13 and finally gave up a single to Carl Everett with two outs in the 9th inning. Jorge had a great series against the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS, going 8 for 18 to make the difference in a tightly-fought series in which the Yankees trailed two games to none. In the third game on October 13th, he hit a 5th-inning solo homer off Barry Zito for the Yankees' only run, then in the 7th caught Derek Jeter's amazing flip throw that nailed Jeremy Giambi at the plate to preserve the win. However, the Yankees lost the Fall Classic in seven games to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He had another All-Star, Silver Slugger year in 2002, banging out 40 doubles and 20 homers while driving in 99 runs, but the Yankees stumbled in the postseason, losing to the Anaheim Angels in the ALDS.
In 2003, the Yankees returned to the World Series for the 5th time in 6 years, and Posada was again at the center of things. He reached 100 RBI and hit 30 homers for the only time of his career, finishing with 101 ribbies, while hitting .281 with a .401 OBP in 142 games. He was 8 for 27 with 4 doubles and a homer in the memorable 7-game win over the Boston Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS. In Game 7 on October 16th, he hit a two-out double off a tired Pedro Martinez in the 7th inning, scoring Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui to tie the game which the Bronx Bombers would win on Aaron Boone's homer in extra innings. But like the rest of the Yankees' hitters, he fell flat in the Fall Classic as the Yankees lost to the Florida Marlins. His next three seasons, from 2004 to 2006, were still very good, but not quite at the level of the previous four, and he failed to make the All-Star team or win a Silver Slugger during that stretch. He hit between 19 and 23 homers, with a batting average between .262 and .277, but the Yankees did not manage to go deep in any of the three postseasons. In 2007, he put it all together for one last time, though, hitting an amazing .338 at age 35 - the 4th best average in the American League - with 42 doubles and 20 homers. He was an All-Star for the final time, won the Silver Slugger Award also for a fifth and last time, but it all came to naught when the Yankees were surprised by the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, during which he hit only .133.
2008 was the Yankees' last season in historic Yankee Stadium. The team would have wanted to leave the hallowed confines of the "House that Ruth Built" as a winner under new skipper Girardi, but it wasn't to be. Posada was injured for much of the second half, playing only 51 games and being limited to a mere 3 homers as veterans Jose Molina and Ivan Rodriguez closed out the year as the team's two backstops. New York missed the postseason for the first and only time of Posada's career that year, and there was much speculation in the off-season that he was done, coming off an injury-filled season at 37, with his throwing arm - never particularly powerful - just about gone. However, he made a great comeback in 2009, playing 111 games - 100 of them as the catcher - and hitting .285 with 22 homers and 81 RBI. Not only did the Yankees return to the post-season, but they inaugurated New Yankee Stadium with another World Championship, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in 6 games. Posada was the first Yankee to hit a homer in the new ballpark, connecting off Cliff Lee on April 16th. Like in the good old days, Jorge played in all of the postseason games, being the DH in those Molina caught for pitcher A.J. Burnett, who seemed to have irreconcilable differences with Posada's pitch selection. Jorge was still the starter in 2010, although catching only 83 games and making two sojourns on the disabled list during which young Francisco Cervelli got a lot of playing time. His batting average fell to .248, but the power was still there, with 23 doubles and 18 homers. One major highlight came on June 12-13, when he tied a major league record by hitting a grand slam in consecutive games.
The Yankees now had a difficult decision to make for 2011: let Posada catch again for the final year of his contract, release him, or find some other solution. Encouraged by his good power numbers, they decided to make Posada a full-time designated hitter, with Russell Martin being brought in as a free agent to handle catching duties. Jorge was in fact the starting DH against righthanded pitchers for most of the season, but the end of the line was clearly drawing closer. His batting average fell to .235, and he went for long stretches when he was contributing almost nothing with the bat. A few power spurts during the season helped him finish with 14 homers and as many doubles, but he was benched increasingly frequently as the season progressed, especially after top prospect Jesus Montero was called up in September and showed a live bat. He played a few games in the field, the most memorable being the only game at second base of his major league career; it came in the 9th inning on August 25th, in the game in which the Yankees became the first major league team to hit three grand slams in one game. Another highlight was on August 13th, when he hit the 10th and last grand slam of his career and drove in 6 runs in a win over the Tampa Bay Rays at New Yankee Stadium. Finally, he had a last hurrah in the ALDS as he hit .429 against the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees bowed out in five games, though, and after the season, rumors began mounting that he would announce his retirement before the following spring, rumors which were confirmed when Posada confirmed his retirement at a press conference organized at New Yankee Stadium on January 24, 2012.
Posada was a teammate of Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter for all 17 seasons he played in the major leagues, more seasons than any other trio of teammates in history. It is likely that all three will eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown. Jorge probably faces the most difficult task of the three, as he was often overshadowed by stars more prominent in the media during his playing career, but his numbers do not lie: 1,829 games - over 1500 of them behind the plate - and a career batting line of .273/.374/.474 with 275 homers, 379 doubles and over 1,000 RBI. His career OPS+ was an excellent 121. Also worthy of notice is that he retired having played the second highest number of postseason games in history, 125, trailing only Jeter, and was well ahead of anyone for postseason games as a catcher - 119 to 63 for Yogi Berra. Only Bill Dickey had played more game at catcher in Yankees history, and he was in the franchise top ten for both doubles and homers. He was also remarkably consistent during his career, being durable and productive year after year. Very few catchers have been able to put up such brilliant offensive numbers for such a long period. Ironically, two of them - Berra and Dickey - also spent their entire career (or just about) with the Yankees. On August 22, 2015 the Yankees retired Posada's number 20 and put up a plaque for him in Monument Park.
Posada became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2017, but he received only 3.8% of the vote and was dropped off the ballot. He had the misfortune to come up when the ballot was loaded with talented players, and to go face-to-face against his contemporary Ivan Rodriguez, one of the top catchers of all time. Clearly, he deserved a better hearing but would have to wait for the Veterans Committee to take up his case.
- 5-time AL All-Star (2000-2003 & 2007)
- 5-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2000-2003 & 2007)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 8 (2000-2004, 2006, 2007 & 2009)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2003)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (2003)
- Won four World Series with the New York Yankees (1998, 1999, 2000 & 2009)
- Phil Pepe: Core Four: The Heart and Soul of the Yankees Dynasty, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2013. ISBN 978-1600788116