Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jorge Posada: A True Yankee Classic

Associated Press
Jorge Posada, one of the toughest, grittiest yet most humble Yankee to ever wear the pinstripes, officially announced his retirement this morning and the sentiment of his announcement is bittersweet. While it is extremely hard for all us fanatics to see Jorge's career come to an end, I think we all know in our hearts and minds that perhaps it was time. And there is no shame in that; he says his farewell after having an incredible career--arguably a Hall of Fame career--and while his final season in 2011 came with several bumps in the road, all-in-all Jorge gave us the very best of himself every time he hit the field.

 And when I say that perhaps it was time for Jorge to retire, it's not because I believe he is done; in fact, I think that Jorge could easily play two more years as a back-up catcher or a DH. I really do believe that. But if Jorge did play, it would be with another team, and with as much integrity and respect as this man always carries himself with on the field, I just don't think his heart would ever be where it always was with the Yankees. It wasn't simply playing baseball that Jorge loved, but it was playing in the Bronx.

 "I didn't see [playing for another team] in me," Jorge said to YES Network's Michael Kay after the press conference. "I didn't see myself playing in another uniform. I wanted to stay in a Yankees uniform; pinstripes forever."

 So, as Jorge enters the second chapter of his life with his beautiful wife Laura and their two children, Jorge Jr. and Paulina, I find it so much more easy to accept his transition by focusing on his greatness. And if you don't believe that Jorge Posada should be considered a great Yankee, you haven't been paying much attention for the past 17 years. Let the stats speak for themselves:
  • 5-Time World Series champion ('96, '98-'00, '09)
  • 5-Time All-Star ('00-'03, '07)
  • 5-Time Silver Slugger Award winner ('00-'03, '07)
  • 2-Time Top 10 AL MVP candidate ('03-3rd place, '07-6th place)
  • 5th catcher all-time to reach 275 homeruns, 1500 hits, 1000 RBIs and 350 doubles
  • Ranks second only to Yogi Berra in career home runs by a Yankee catcher (Berra - 358)
  • Ranks 3rd in career runs, hits and RBIs by a Yankee catcher with 900, 1668 and 1,065, respectively (Only Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey rank higher)
  • Ranked highest in home runs, RBIs and hits than any other MLB catcher from 2000-2011
And while the stats are an undeniable account of Jorge's greatness, they don't begin to tell the true story of what he's meant to the pinstripes. Jorge represented honor, strength, intelligence and a keen understanding of the game. He played the game with heart because it was what he loved to do. He played the game with grit because that is what is always expected by the Yankees organization and its fan base. He played the game with pride because that was the only way to honor the great Yankee catchers that came before him.

“Jorge has bled the pinstripes for a long, long time," Alex Rodriguez said in a statement. "And he played with a passion that certainly rubbed off on his teammates. To play the number of games that he did, at the level he did, year in and year out, at the toughest position on the field, is a credit to his commitment to his craft. He left everything out on the field, and that’s what made him special."

I'll always remember the grand moments that Jorge gave us over the years, and there were many. The 2-run triple that scored Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui in the 2003 ALCS game 7 against the Red Sox; the tag on Jeremy Giambi during the "Flip Play" in the 2001 ALDS game 3; the home run that put the Yankees ahead for good in game 3 of the 2009 ALDS against Minnesota; hitting the first home run at the new Yankee Stadium; going back-to-back days hitting a grand slam on June 12th and 13th in 2010; hitting the 2-run single that secured the Yankees AL East title last year. These are all incredible memories from an incredible player.

Like many of you fanatics, I am a Yankee fan who not only appreciates the history of the team and organization, but always appreciates the players that come along to keep the Yankee tradition alive. Jorge was such a player. And while it will be very difficult not seeing him in the uniform, it is also gratifying to know that he left the game his way and on his terms. And deservedly so; he's earned his place in Yankees history, in baseball history and in all our hearts.

"The passion that he had for the game...he showed me a lot," Mariano Rivera said to YES Network's Bob Lorenz. "That's why I care for him. That's why I thank God for him."

And so do we. No matter what is to become of Jorge's newest chapter, we will always love and appreciate him for everything he gave us in his 17 years in the pinstripes.

Thank God for Jorge Posada. A true Yankee classic!

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

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