Jorge Posada was more than a great player. In the tradition of Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson and Joe Girardi, Posada was an extremely intelligent, perceptive catcher.
The New York Yankees were playing the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington on April 17, 2000. The Yankees had just scored a run in the top of the 11th inning to break a 4-4 tie. Allen Watson replaced Mariano Rivera on the mound in the bottom half of the inning.
The Texas Rangers loaded the bases with no outs against the former New York Mets' left-hander. Yankees' manager Joe Torre pulled Watson in favor of Todd Erdos (remember Todd?) to face the switch-hitting Luis Alicea.
Alicea hit a dribbler in front of the plate. The ball may have come off of Alicea's foot, but home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled it a fair ball.
Posada reacted immediately. He pounced on the ball and stepped on home plate to force Jason McDonald for the first out.
Alicea was still in the batter's box, perhaps believing the ball was foul. Posada tagged him out for an unassisted double play.
Not only did Posada react instantly, he knew that tagging Alicea before stepping on home plate would have removed the force on McDonald.
But that's not the end of the story.
Umpire Kellogg told Posada that McDonald had scored. Kellogg hadn't seen Posada touch home plate.
Posada didn't argue. He asked Kellogg to confer with his colleagues. The other umpires told Kellogg that Posada had touched the plate before tagging out Alicea.
While Posada's unassisted double play—a rare accomplishment for a catcher—doesn't stand for Posada's having been an above-average defensive player, it does demonstrate Posada's above-average baseball intelligence. He possessed great baseball instincts as well as a deep understanding of the game.
Although Posada was generally adequate on defense, if he is not voted into the Hall of Fame it may be because his hitting—while excellent for a catcher—won't be sufficient to overcome that mere adequateness. Hall of Fame voters may decide that if defense has kept a player such as Ted Simmons out of the Hall, it should keep Posada out as well.
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