Did Joe Torre Cost Jorge Posada His Shot At Cooperstown?

LOS ANGELES, CA: Jorge Posada #20 of the New York Yankees hugs manager Joe Torre of the Los Angeles Dodgers before their game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

With Jorge Posada reportedly set to retire, now we get to start talking about his Hall of Fame case in earnest. But did Joe Torre torpedo Posada's chances 15 years ago?

You might have heard: over the weekend, Jorge Posada retired.

Well, not exactly. Rather, there were reports that Posada will retire. Sometime soon. But of course, these days reports are all we need. And in this case it probably is all we need, since the Yankees don't want Posada to come back and he apparently doesn't want to play for any other team.

Anyway, you can read all about that. In the wake of the reports, I got this e-mail message:

I am looking over the 3 part time years that Jorge split with Girardi. Joe must have been drunk. This friggin' loyalty may have cost Posada the HOF.

1997 - Posada 188 AB, 101 OPS+
1997 - Girardi 398 AB, 69 OPS+


1998 - Posada 358 AB, 115 OPS+
1998 - Girardi 254 AB, 85 OPS+


1999 - Posada 379 AB, 91 OPS+
1999 - Girardi 209 AB, 60 OPS+


Man, I did not know Girardi was his bad. But Torre gave Girardi 600 ABs for 2 years, when he could not crack the 70 OPS+ line. I think was never noticed or talked about because those Yankee teams won so much.

He got a total of nearly 850 AB during this 3 years span. That is a damn near
travesty.

Is there any way you could project what Jorge could have done with 2.5 seasons (half 1997, full 1998, full 1999), and see if they would have greatly increased his chances?

Sincerely,
Vinnie

We can certainly get close enough for government work, Vinnie.

Posada totaled 1,070 plate appearances from 1997 through '99. Upon earning (to say the least) the full-time job behind the plate, he totaled 1,779 plate appearances over the next three seasons. So we can simply give him another 709 PA in the previous three seasons, and see what we've got...

Okay, so I worked the math and it's hard to argue that playing more during those seasons would have put Posada over the top. Using the most rudimentary of assumptions -- and assuming he would not, it should be allowed, have gotten hurt during his "extra" playing time -- we can give Posada another 156 hits and 23 home runs, which leaves him with career totals of 1,720 hits and 302 home runs.

Hardly numbers that would excite the skeptics among the electorate. Posada would remain eighth all-time among catchers in home runs, and move from 17th to 15th in hits.

Posada's real problem, in terms of his career numbers, isn't that Joe Torre relegated him to part-time duties for three seasons, when he was good enough to play a lot more. His real problem is that he didn't get that job until he was almost 26 years old. As you know, that's exceptionally old for a great player. And it wasn't all Posada's fault.

In 1995, Posada went .255/.350/.435 in Class AAA. In 1996, he went back to triple-A Columbus and fared even better: .271/.405/.460. In some and perhaps most organizations, Posada would have spent much of those two seasons in the majors. But the Yankees were trying to win, they were winning, and Posada did take some criticism for a relative inability to throw out baserunners. So yeah, playing for the Yankees cost him some playing time ... But let's be honest about this ... If Posada hadn't spent his entire career playing for the Yankees, would we be having this conversation?

I don't know. Maybe. He's a pretty good candidate, actually. He just needs a little extra something, and unfortunately he doesn't have it. Unlike Bernie Williams, Posada did not fare well in the postseason.

Williams
Regular: .297/.381/.477
Post: .275/.371/.480

Posada
Regular: .273/.374/.474
Post: .248/.358/.387

Which isn't to say I would vote for Bernie Williams. I'm just saying that if you consider Williams a borderline candidate (which he is) and you're looking for a tiebreaker, you can mention that he played in 121 postseason games and put a lot of runs on the board. He played almost exactly as well on the biggest stage as during the regular season.

The same isn't true of Posada. If you gotta go to the tiebreaker with him, he's going to come up short.

Posada played in more than 120 games in only eight seasons. Ultimately, that's what hurts his Hall of Fame candidacy. And it's hard to blame Joe Torre, who was doing pretty well at his primary job in those years.

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