Jorge Posada formally announced his retirement from baseball at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday morning, ending a 17-season career that was spent solely with the Bronx Bombers. Posada walks away from the sport with a fine résumé that includes 1,574 games behind the plate, 11 postseason home runs and five World Series rings (a haul that includes the 1996 season, when he failed to make the postseason roster).
The press conference was packed with close teammates such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, friends such as Thurman Munson's widow Diana, and well-wishers including a number of longtime season ticketholders who shared their memories of Posada during an extended career retrospective. Posada was teary-eyed when he honored his parents in his native Spanish he spoke growing up in Puerto Rico, and thanked the Steinbrenner family, saying, "I could never wear another uniform; I will always be a Yankee."
Posada, 40, was reported last month to have decided that hanging up his catcher's mask was a better option than fighting for a roster spot on a non-Yankees team for the first time in his career. He started off the 2011 season with a hefty bat, hitting five home runs in his first 10 games as the everyday designated hitter. However, Posada slumped for a month, fought with his manager over being assigned the ninth spot in the batting order, and was eventually benched.
But Posada's season ended with joy, making his major-league debut at second base while his team was up by 14 runs in the ninth inning in a late-August whomping of the Oakland Athletics. Posada originally came up as a middle infielder but was moved to catcher full-time at age 20 in the Sally League. He begged and pleaded with manager Joe Girardi to have the chance to play second in a blowout and was rewarded.
Few players have had long, successful careers with the New York Yankees and somehow ended up underrated, yet Posada might fit that description. Despite playing in the shadow of Ivan Rodriguez for a long time, Posada took home five Silver Slugger Awards, made five All-Star teams, and finished with a career OPS+ of 121, which would place him eighth all-time among catchers. In 2003, Posada finished third in the AL MVP race, hitting 30 home runs and driving in more than 100 runs for the first (and only) time in his career.
Yet with those career highlights, he probably will not be elected by baseball writers to the Hall of Fame on his first opportunity a few years from now. Posada also comes from a royal lineage of Yankee catchers, from Bill Dickey to Yogi Berra to Elston Howard to Thurman Munson; perhaps the passing time will be Posada's ticket, as his placement in that pantheon begins to take shape.
Retirement cannot be easy for Jorge. Despite a spot on the depth chart at designated hitter opening up when the Yankees agreed to send would-be rookie slugger Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners last week, Posada still decided not to change his plans and fight for one last chance. He's not going out anywhere close to the top of his talents or with a shiny new World Series ring to add to his collection, but Jorge Posada may have played his way to an eventual Cooperstown induction.
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