He may have missed out on a spot in Cooperstown, but Jorge Posada is still one of the most decorated catchers in Major League Baseball history. During the 17 seasons he played backstop in the Bronx as a World Series-winning member of the New York Yankees, the switch hitter was a five-time All-Star, won a handful of Silver Slugger awards, and was one of the league’s most feared opponents at the dish.
When Posada hung up the cleats in 2011, he ranked among the top ten home run-hitting catchers in Major League history. His 261 long balls are ninth-most all-time, while his 1,065 career RBIs rank 11th. Posada’s bat helped the Yankees win five titles and reach the playoffs 16 times over his 17 seasons with the squad. He was a steadying presence behind the plate for an organization that was the best of its era.
While Posada was the game’s best catcher for a number of years, the descent late in his career was swift. He saw a major decline in production at the dish in his last two seasons paired with disagreements with New York Yankees’ management , and just two years after notching his eighth 20 HR campaign, Posada was out of the bigs.
So what happened to the slugger and where is he now? Let’s dive into his Major League career as well as his life outside of baseball.
Jorge Posada’s Early Life And Career
Born Jorge Rafael Posada Villeta in Puerto Rico, the youngster was destined for the diamond. The son of a Major League scout and the nephew of former big leaguer Leo Posada, Jorge really had no choice but to embrace the game—and embrace it he did.
At the insistence of his father, Posada built a baseball diamond in the backyard of his childhood home. He would be rewarded for doing household chores by taking batting practice or fielding ground balls on that same hand-built infield. Jorge Sr. had an eye for talent, and he’d soon develop his son into one of the best catchers to ever play at the big-league level (and one who infamously hit without batting gloves while using urine to toughen up his hands).
Posada made the high school squad for Alejandrino High School in his hometown of Santurce (where he also played basketball and volleyball). During his senior season in 1989, he earned All-Star honors as a shortstop. This led to some professional buzz surrounding his future, and upon graduation, Posada was selected in the 43rd round of the 1989 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees.
While the selection was a testament to his abilities on the field, Posada didn’t go quite as high as he’d hoped. Rather than inking a deal with the Bronx Bombers, he opted to pursue the college route. Unfortunately, low SAT scores kept him from attending a traditional four-year program, so Posada took the JUCO path (signing a scholarship to play for Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Alabama).
In 1990, the Yankees came calling again, this time drafting Posada in the 24th round. For a second time, he wouldn’t sign right away and wound up playing the ’91 season with Calhoun CC. He picked up All-Conference honors that season and eventually signed a deal with New York that May.
At the time, the soon-to-be-backstop was still playing in the middle of the infield. As a second baseman, he struggled in his first minor league stint, hitting just .235 in 71 games with Oneonta’s single-A team. It was then that Posada would begin to be groomed as a catcher, with the organization believing he lacked the speed and athleticism to stay at second base.
Posada was reluctant at first, but soon accepted the switch—and it’s a good thing he did. That move, while originally met with hesitance, was one that allowed Posada to quickly move up the minor league ranks. In 1992, he moved over to Greensboro where he hit .277 for the Grasshoppers. He racked up 12 home runs and 58 RBIs in a breakout second season.
Posada was on the move again in 1993, suiting up for the Prince William Cannons. After hitting .259 with 17 long balls, the catcher was promoted to Triple-A affiliate Columbus. Over the next few seasons, Posada would bounce back and forth between the minors and the bigs, filling in as a defensive replacement for the Yankees in 1995 and 1996.
In 1997, though, he’d be called up for good, officially beginning his career in the Big Apple.
Jorge Posada’s MLB Career
Posada had seen limited appearances as a reserve in the ’95 and ’96 campaigns, playing in just nine games. He was only 1-for-14 at the plate in those first two stints, tallying six strikeouts to just a single walk. However, while those first two years weren’t necessarily productive in the stat sheet, the catcher was solidifying his role with the organization.
In 1997, he was called upon to back up Yankees catcher Joe Girardi, whom Posada viewed as his mentor (though this relationship would take a bit of a turn when Girardi was hired as manager).
That ’97 season saw him play in 60 games while also acting as the team’s bullpen catcher. In those 60 appearances, Posada belted six home runs and posted an average of .250 at the dish. The Yankees would reach the playoffs that year before falling to the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.
In the offseason, there was offseason buzz surrounding a possible trade sending Posada and third baseman Mike Lowell to the Montreal Expos for Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Those talks never materialized, though, leaving the young catcher to remain in New York.
In 1998, Posada fielded even more playing time, appearing in 111 games. He saw an uptick in both average and power as the switch hitter blasted 17 homers and drove in 63 runs. Again, the Yankees made the playoffs, advancing all the way to the World Series. Posada hit .333 with a home run in the title series as New York swept the San Diego Padres to bring home the crown.
It was more of the same in 1999, as the Yankees notched another four-game sweep in the World Series (this time against the Atlanta Braves). Posada saw a dip in average in the ’99 campaign, hitting just .245 on the year, but he ended the season on a tear: over the second half of the slate, the catcher hit .285.
While Posada was making major contributions as a reserve, the 2000 season would offer his first chance to become an everyday starter. Girardi became a free agent following the ’99 World Series campaign, leaving the door open for a young Posada to fill the role. He jumped at the opportunity, soon reeling off a string of four consecutive All-Star seasons.
During his first year as a mainstay in the starting lineup, Posada hit .287 and tallied his first 20-homer season. His 28 long balls led to a Silver Slugger award at the end of the year, given to the league’s best hitter at their respective position. The catcher was also named to his first All-Star Game midyear and helped the Yankees win their third straight World Series title.
Posada won another Silver Slugger in 2001 and landed his second straight invite to the Mid-Summer Classic. He tallied his first 90-RBI season while hitting .277 with 22 home runs. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees made it to another World Series, but it took some heroics from Posada and shortstop Derek Jeter in the ALDS to make that possible.
Many may not recall, but it was Posada that applied the tag to Jeremy Giambi on Jeter’s iconic “flip play” against the A’s that postseason. The Yankees wound up winning the game 1-0 while facing elimination in a series that would ultimately go the distance.
10/13/01: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics – Derek Jeter makes an unbelievable flip play to Jorge Posada, to catch Jeremy Giambi at home plate during Game 3 of the ALDS. pic.twitter.com/1iQMGWSSOg
— Jake Montgomery (@JakeM0NTGOMERY) August 21, 2019
While New York wound up on the right side of that play, they would go on to lose the World Series in walk-off fashion to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game Seven. Posada hit just .174 in the series while striking out in eight of his 23 at-bats.
The 2002 season was the first in four years that the Yankees failed to reach the World Series, as the eventual champion Anaheim Angels knocked them out in the ALDS. While the result was disappointing, Posada experienced another breakout year. He recorded a second straight season with at least 20 home runs and 90 RBIs, earned his third All-Star invite, and secured another Silver Slugger award.
At that point, Posada was developing into one of the league’s best hitters, which allowed New York management to overlook some of his defensive miscues, as the 2002 campaign was the catcher’s second straight in which he led his position in errors (Posada would also outdo his peers when it came to allowing passed balls in two seasons during his playing days). However, it’s safe to say some of the legendary pitchers he caught for—including Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte—didn’t have many complaints.
Still, his success at the dish was helping him blossom into one of the game’s stars. That would only continue in 2003, when he finished third in the MVP voting. Posada recorded his first career 30-HR year as he tied Yogi Berra for the most home runs hit in a single season by a catcher in Yankees’ franchise history. He also notched his first-ever 100-RBI campaign and hit .281 at the plate.
That performance helped the Yankees get back to the playoffs where they’d fall to the Florida Marlins in the World Series. While he was one of the league’s top hitters, he seemed to struggle in the postseason. He was a career .219 hitter in the World Series, and he didn’t do that number any favors in 2003 by sporting a .158 batting average over the six-game set.
The 2004 campaign is remembered by Yankees fans for all of the wrong reasons. That’s mostly due to the team blowing a 3-0 lead against the hated Red Sox in the ALCS to miss out on back-to-back World Series appearances. While the team failed to bring home a title, Posada continued his productivity in the box. He hit .272 on the year with 21 home runs and 81 RBIs in the heart of the Yankees’ order.
He’d help New York reach the postseason in both ’05 and ’06 by posting lines of .262/19/71 and .277/23/93, respectively. However, the Yankees failed to reach the World Series in either year, and while Posada was still producing, he failed to reach an All-Star Game in the three seasons following his monster 2003 campaign. Was his career on the back end? Was this run coming to a close?
Well, it’s safe to Posada soon put an end to that talk with another MVP-caliber season in 2007.
In that campaign, the slugger posted a career-high .338 batting average, notching another 20-HR and 90-RBI season. He finished the year ranked sixth in the MVP voting, ultimately losing out to teammate Alex Rodriguez. Unfortunately, the Yankees dropped a third consecutive ALDS series, missing out on a championship run.
After the breakout year, Posada opted to test free agency but eventually turned down an offer with the Mets to return to the Yankees. What would turn out to be his final MLB deal would be worth four years and $52 million, but Posada failed to live up to that billing as catching began to take a toll on his body. He missed the majority of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury and the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in his career.
2009 was a bounce-back year for both Posada and New York, as the team won its first World Series since 2000. Their star catcher returned from injury to hit .285 and mash 22 home runs (he also experienced his most productive World Series as a hitter, knocking in five runs and batting .263).
Posada’s output would take a hit the two years following as he failed to bat .250 in either season. His home run totals decreased with each year, too, and head coach Joe Girardi was beginning to use Posada in the designated hitter role as opposed to behind the dish. The veteran took offense to the change, and even removed himself from the lineup in one game upon seeing his new position.
However, that wasn’t the only way he lashed out against his former mentor. He was said to have called his own pitches and also descrubed Girardi as “just a manager” while referring to Joe Torre as his “father on the field,” saying that the Yankees’ new skipper was causing the organization to deteriorate.
Posada eventually called it quits after a 2011 season in which he hit just .235, the lowest mark of his career. He totaled 275 home runs, 1,065 RBIs, and 1,664 hits over his 17-year career.
Jorge Posada’s Life After (And Outside) Of Baseball
While Posada’s playing days have come to an end, he’s been a busy man away from the diamond. Shortly after his retirement, the backstop was named to the Latin America Baseball Hall of Fame (he’s also seen his No. 6 jersey retired at Calhoun Community College).
He and his wife, Laura, have two children, one of whom—Jorge Posada Jr.—has a condition called craniosynostosis. The disease causes the skull stop growing prematurely in infants, which impedes the growth of the brain and can cause abnormal head shape or visual, mental, or sleeping impairments(his son had a numbner of surgeries to address the ailment).
Posada formed the Jorge Posada Foundation in order to raise awareness and funds for research of the craniosynostosis., as well as provide emotional support. Over the years, he’s gone into great detail while describing the personal strain he’s experienced as the parent of a child with the condition and and how he and his family have been able to persevere. As a result, the Posadas have received the Puerto Rican Family Foundation Excellence Award for their commitment to youth.
Posada is well-known for his work off the field, even throughout his playing days. He was a Roberto Clemente Award nominee in 2005 and won the Thurman Munson Award in 2000 for his philanthropic work in New York. He’s landed honors as Mentor of the Year by the K.I.D.S and Fashion Delivers charities, and was was also given the Parent Magazine Award in 2007.
While he’s supported his community in the States, he’s also been able to give back to his home country of Puerto Rico. In 2017, Posada worked alongside fellow catcher Yadier Molina to start a GoFundMe page for the victims of Hurricane Maria, and also launched his own fundraiser to aid those most affected by the storm.
Posada’s playing days are through, but as you can see, he continues to be All-Star in other aspects of his life. He and his family currently live in Florida. While he’s been out of the game for nearly a decade, Posada’s baseball legacy lives on as one of the best catchers to ever wear the New York Yankee pinstripes.