NEW YORK, NY: Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees connects for an RBI single in the bottom of the first inning against the Cleveland Indians. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Jorge Posada is a borderline Hall-of-Fame case. Should his Yankee-centric career be what pushes him over the top?
There are 13 catchers in the Hall of Fame. Two of them -- Roger Bresnahan and Rick Ferrell -- are somewhat controversial Veteran's Committee selections. You can argue that this is because Hall voters are rightfully finicky; you can argue that this is because Hall voters don't adjust for position well, which is why Orlando Cepeda is in and Ted Simmons is out.
As far as borderline cases go, Jorge Posada's case might as well have been created in a lab by scientists researching internet arguments. His HOF Monitor is 98, where a 100 is a likely Hall-of-Famer. His HOF Standards are at a 40, where 50 is a likely Hall-of-Famer. If you don't want to follow those links for the definitions, here's what you've probably already figured out: Posada is a borderline case sitting on the neutral zone of a demarcation line of a boundary.
I can think of nothing more tedious than comparing Posada's stats to various HOF catchers -- maybe in five years' time, but not now. But with Posada reportedly about to retire, it's not too early to wonder openly if his Hall-of-Fame candidacy should blow past the tipping point because he was a career-long New York Yankee.
Oh, my. I've made you shoot Honey Smacks through your nose and all over your computer. Terribly sorry about that. Didn't mean it. I was actually being totally serious. Let me explain.
The Yankees have been baseball's best team since 1995. You can argue why, but considering the five World Series titles, seven pennants, and 16 playoff appearances since then, it's pretty clear that they're more than just a chapter in the book anyone might write about the past 17 seasons. It's been alternately frustrating and dispiriting for 29 other teams, but the Yankees have been something of a dynasty -- at least as much of a dynasty as the Wild-Card Era will allow.
A primary reason has been the homegrown players the Yankees developed, kept, and enjoyed for a decade-plus. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, and Posada were all Yankees products, and they were all huge cogs in the Yankee machine well into their 30s, even as big-money reinforcements shuffled in around them. The first two are obvious inner-circle Hall-of-Famers. Pettitte was pretty borderline before his mix-up with performance-enhancing drugs. Bernie Williams might not even get enough votes to stick on the Hall-of-Fame ballot next year.
The Williams case in particular seems to argue that voters can't really be bothered to blow their collective nose with the late-'90s/early-'00s Yankee mystique. So this is probably a moot point.
But as a tiebreaker -- as that last piece of evidence to sway you either way -- is it wrong to suggest that a player staying with a perennial contender should count for quite a bit? This line of thinking takes a hit when you realize that Posada wasn't the constant, but one of several constants. Still, one of the reasons the Yankees were so good for so long is because they had a plus hitter at a position where most teams had liabilities. Posada's contributions to the success of those teams were significant. And at the same time, he was building a career that would have made him a borderline HOF case if he were a Mariner or Padre.
If it's too hard for you to remove the Yankee funk that's fogging your logic receptors, maybe a comparison would help. Tony Perez was recently elected to the Hall of Fame, in no small part because he qualified under this team-association/dynasty loophole that I'm attempting to explain. Perez was one of the key cogs in the Big Red Machine -- one of the most storied collections of talent in baseball history. It's this association that nudged him in.
The same will happen to Posada, eventually. He's already close. The taint of Yankee will get him in. And, once you bite your lip and maybe punch a wall, you might have to agree. The Yankees were annoyingly good for annoyingly long -- if Jeter and Rivera are the only two Hall representatives from that era, it just wouldn't seem right.