By Sweeny Murti
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There are very few players -- if any -- that I covered that were more emotional than Jorge Posada.
But he still caught me a little off guard, as I did him, apparently, when I asked him last week what it would mean to him if the day ever came he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
There was a long pause. And then a "Wow."
"Just hearing those words from you ... my heart kind of stopped a little bit," Posada said.
"I don't know, I don't know."
"I don't know what would happen. ... I don't know. I'm still the same, it would not change me. But I would be grateful," he said.
Posada appears on his first Hall of Fame ballot this year. He knows he is a longshot for election at any point, and is certainly not expecting it to happen in the first year he's eligible.
Over a 17-year career spent entirely with the Yankees, Posada hit .273 with 275 home runs, 1065 RBIs, an .848 OPS and 121 OPS-plus.
In the last 30 years there have been four catchers elected to the Hall -- Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, and Mike Piazza. All four have more home runs and more games caught than Posada, although his OPS-plus (121) is higher than both Fisk (117) and Carter (115), and only slightly lower than Bench (126). Their defensive prowess combined with offensive power is what elevated them, and Bench was the only one of the four who won first-ballot election.
"I just hope that I get votes," Posada said. "I know it's going to be hard. I know my numbers don't pop 'Hall of Fame.' I just hope people vote (for me). It's not like I'm Ivan Rodriguez."
Rodriguez is also on the ballot for the first time this year. Posada notes that his contemporary and friend has "ridiculous" numbers and is a "first-ballot Hall of Famer." For himself, he simply wishes consideration.
"I'm very happy with my career," Posada said. "I think I had a helluva career. We won a lot of championships. We did a lot of things together as a team."
Winning is the part that Posada always prided himself on as a player, and now cherishes as a retired player. An integral part of four World Series champions (1998-2000 and 2009) and owner of a fifth ring for his cameo in 1996, Posada has more championship hardware than Bench, Fisk, Carter, Piazza, and Rodriguez combined.
That group also has Gold Gloves and MVP Awards coming out their ears. I asked Posada if he would trade a couple rings for a couple of those individual honors that could enhance his Hall of Fame candidacy.
"No chance," Posada said without hesitation, and then repeated it. "No chance. No chance. All I wanted to do when I was out there in the big leagues was win. I got a chance to play with Mr. Mattingly. And I saw in 1995 probably one of the toughest heartbreaks I've ever seen."
Posada was a rookie when the Yankees lost a thrilling, but crushing five-game ALDS to the Mariners in Don Mattingly's last season, his only postseason.
"I didn't want that to happen (again). I wanted to win. As a group we wanted to win. Our main goal in spring training was to get to the World Series and win and that's all that mattered to me," Posada said.
Posada has been telling friends and family who offer their support that he isn't getting into the Hall this year.
"If it does happen it's going to take time," he tells them. And that's good self-awareness of his Hall of Fame credentials.
"I know what's going on, I know what it takes, I've been around," Posada told me. "It's just going to take time if it does (happen)."
I told Posada that my hope for him is to stay in the discussion, staying on the ballot and having his career appreciated every year at this time, even if it doesn't end with election. And he agreed, but for a different reason.
"It's not going to happen this year. So really disappointing would be if I don't even get 5 percent (the threshold needed to stay on the ballot for next year). That would be really disappointing. And then to see guys that did PEDs and got caught get votes and I don't. That would really upset me," he said.
Everyone knows how muddy the numbers become when trying to decipher who did what during the steroid era, and Posada mentioned players other than himself that he'd like to see elected ahead of PED offenders.
"It does (bug me) because you play your career clean and did a lot of things clean ... and if I'm borderline and some of these guys that did things get votes, it ruins a guy that didn't get votes. ... Not me, a guy like Edgar Martinez is a guy that deserves to be a little bit higher," Posada said. "For me, Edgar Martinez is a Hall of Famer. Fred McGriff is a Hall of Famer. And these guys are not getting the votes because now we're talking about guys that did PEDs getting votes that these clean guys are not getting."
I mentioned that there have been whispers about Rodriguez for years, but Posada doesn't believe they have merit.
"I know Pudge, and I worked out with Pudge in the offseason in Puerto Rico with his trainer," Posada said. "Pudge for me is a dear friend. I saw him work out. I don't know if he did or if he didn't, but I tell you what, he worked really, really hard. I saw it with my own eyes."
Posada also has high hopes for two former teammates he'd like to see elected -- Tim Raines and Mike Mussina.
"One of my favorite teammates. You wanted to be around him because he was always having fun," Posada said of Raines, a Yankee from 1996-98.
"Probably the smartest guy I ever caught," Posada said of Mussina. "Me catching him was like a day off because he put the ball wherever he wanted."
Posada told me he will pay close attention to the voting, although he won't be obsessed by it. He will be waiting on Jan. 18, not for the call, but to see if his friends makeit and to see how much support he receives.
Posada belongs in the discussion and that's a reward not every player gets. It's not a slight to say someone isn't a Hall of Famer, and Posada accepts that. He just wants to stay in the discussion, and of that he is deserving.
But Posada doesn't seem to want it for himself as much as he wants it for his family.
"I just hope that I stay around (on the ballot), hopefully my parents stay around so one day maybe it happens," Posada said. "My parents are getting old and I just hope that if it does happen they are still around."
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