Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees tosses his bat after being hit by a pitch in the third inning of Game Four of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
In 1995, three young men made their major league debuts with the New York Yankees. Mariano Rivera, the oldest of the trio, made 19 appearances (including 10 starts!); 21-year-old Derek Jeter played in 15 games, hitting .250, and Jorge Posada, who had just turned 24, made his debut by catching the ninth inning of a game on September 4, 1995 that the Yankees were winning 13-3.
You know the rest. Rivera has become the greatest closer in baseball history. Jeter joined the 3,000-hit club last summer on his way to the Hall of Fame. And Posada, who took over for current Yankees manager Joe Girardi as New York's principal catcher in 1998, has put together one of the best careers ever for a Yankee catcher and ranks ninth on the all-time New York list for offensive WAR and eighth in games played.
None of the three has ever played a game in another uniform; it's the longest run in baseball history for three such teammates.
That run appears to be over; Posada, appearing at a fundraiser for his foundation Wednesday night, said he won't play in a Yankee uniform again:
"It's not gonna happen," Posada said Wednesday night at a Manhattan function for The Jorge Posada Foundation. "I don't think there is even a percentage of a chance that I can come back."
The free agent says he's not bitter with the organization he has played for his entire career. He said five or six teams have shown interest in his services.
"I will always be a Yankee. The New York Yankees, for me, is my second family," Posada said. "It'd be tough to put on another uniform for real and learn a new set of rules. But it's one of those things where I have to see if I wanna keep playing."
The reality is that Posada got off to a terrible start in 2011 and had the worst offensive season of his career, hitting .235/.315/.398 with 14 home runs in 115 games. He turned 40 in August and played just 16 games in the field (14 at first base, one at his former position of catcher and bizarrely, one game at second base after Girardi had double-switched his way out of infielders.
Another reality is that many players Posada's age don't know when to hang it up. Hall of Famers Willie Mays (final year .211/.303/.344 with 6 HR), Hank Aaron (.229/.315/.369 with 10 HR), and Billy Williams (.211/.320/.339 with 11 HR) all hung on probably a year or two too long, embarrassing themselves in the field and at the plate. Is that what Posada wants? It might be what his wife Laura wants:
"I think after he stays home a few more months and he realizes how hard it is to stay home with the kids, I think he’s going to pay a team to have him play. Honestly, what I said to him was you need to really be sure about your decision, because you don’t want to have any regrets. You don’t want to feel in your mind that you didn’t accomplish something that you set out to accomplish when you started playing baseball. He has been playing baseball all his life, so it’s really hard to wake up and not have anything to do." [emphasis in original article]
She went on to suggest he stick around to get 300 career homers (he currently has 275) and that maybe he could play for the spankin' new Miami Marlins, since they make their offseason home in that area.
What could Posada have not accomplished? He's a five-time All-Star who has been in 15 postseasons and has four World Series rings. He's probably not a Hall of Famer (although several HoF catchers -- Carlton Fisk, Gabby Hartnett and Bill Dickey -- have similarity scores putting them close to him), but he's had a career better than probably 98% of all major league players.
What's the point? To play one or two more years in the likely-to-be-garish new uniforms of the Marlins, who already have some pretty good young catchers? Posada would be reduced to spot play and pinch-hitting in Miami (meaning it would take him probably three or four years to get to 300 HR), not to mention looking ... orange.
Sometimes knowing when to retire is just as important as thinking "I've got to keep going". Now would seem a good time for Jorge Posada to put a dignified end to an outstanding career, rather than hang on as a shadow of what he once was.