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Another offseason, another farewell.
Jorge Posada, the New York Yankees' longtime catcher, will officially announce his retirement this week after 16 seasons and four championships. He is the second of the Core Four to retire, following Andy Pettitte (sob!) last season. At age 40, coming off Posada's first (and only) season as a full-time designated hitter, it's the right thing for him to do and the right time to do it.
So allow me to say thank you.
I will leave it to others to discuss Posada's Hall of Fame credentials. He retires with 275 career home runs, 1,065 RBIs, a .273 batting average and .374 on-base percentage. Those numbers don't include his 11 home runs, 42 RBIs and 103 hits in the postseason. He will always have a place as one of the greatest Yankees and one of the best offensive catchers to play the game. I know the Yankees would not have won the four World Series he was a part of (1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009) without him.
The news got me thinking about Posada's great moments. The most significant that I witnessed in person came in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS at Yankee Stadium. His two-run double off Pedro Martinez tied the game at 5-5 and will forever be etched in my memory. Even nine years later, I get chills just thinking about that moment ... the hit, his fist pump at second base, the deafening cheers, the electricity of the crowd.
Everyone will remember Game 7 as the Aaron Boone game thanks to his walk-off home run, but Boone wouldn't have reached the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning without Posada's double.
Another Posada moment took place during the 2011 ALDS against the Detroit Tigers. In a stroke of genius by the Yankees, Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Posada before Game 1 of the series. Posada caught 368 of Mariano's record 603 career saves. Posada had made only one appearance behind the plate during the 2011 season, and he donned full catcher's gear for the occasion. It was a remarkable moment.
Later in the series, as Posada stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth of Game 5, I came to the stark realization: This could be the final at-bat of Jorge's career, or at least as a Yankee. I knew it was a possibility heading into the series, but didn't want to think about it because it would mean the Yankees weren't going to advance to the ALCS (that wasn't even worth considering).
Although he grounded out in his last at-bat, Posada finished the series with a .429 batting average, a fitting swan song. I'm thankful I had a chance to stand up and cheer for Posada one last time at Yankee Stadium. Not everyone got that chance.
Jorge, thank you for 16 years of consistent hard work and production. Thank you for wearing the pinstripes proudly. Thank you for your big hits and home runs, and making the tag on the famous Derek Jeter flip play. Thank you for opting not to play backup for another team in another uniform. Thank you for being a Yankee for life.