A few weeks ago we had our Yankees/Red Sox Disappointment draft on a podcast episode. I thought about writing a column on the Yankees disappointments by position. But why? We’ve seen enough bad play and disappointments over the past few years. I would rather focus on some of my favorites. This is part one of a series of my favorite players by position. This won’t be a regular column but when the opportunity arises, I’m laying out my favorites.
1996 Joe Girardi is my favorite Yankees catcher of all time. Joe Girardi was quietly a spark plug that drove the 1996 Yankees. The 1996 Yankees team was filled with talent, with multiple Hall of Fame Players and several more borderline Hall of Fame players. The team was stacked.
However, I don’t know if the 1996 Yankees are World Series Champions without Joe Girardi as the starting catcher.
Joe Girardi was known as a defensive catcher who could handle a young pitching staff. Even in 1996, it was obvious Joe Girardi was a great baseball mind. He seemed to be everything the Yankees needed to complete their championship caliber line up.
A quick glance at Girardi’s stat line doesn’t show much, he put up average offensive numbers. A deeper dive into his stats begins to shine light on his overall value.
Joe Girardi had a career year in 1996, putting up some of his best offensive stats. Joe Girardi had a career high in both hits (124) and batting average (.294). His value wasn’t just in his average but in the timing of his hits. Girardi was regularly involved in big moments providing big hits all season long.
Not only was he hitting but he also managed to steal 13 bases as a catcher showing his value and his dedication to winning.
The 1996 Yankees staff was made up of some veteran pitchers as well as some young arms. We saw the emergence of both Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. Joe Girardi was brought to the Yankees as a defensive upgrade with the hope that he could elevate the Yankees pitchers which he did. Anyone who watched that 1996 season will tell you that he handled the Yankees pitching staff magnificently.
Joe Girardi closed out 1996 with a major clutch hit in Game 6 of the World Series. With the score tied at 0, Girardi hits a triple off Greg Maddux, scoring Paul O’Neill giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Girardi scored moments later off a Derek Jeter RBI.
Joe Girardi hustling around the bases to manage a triple in Game 6 will forever be etched in my mind. That 1996 season cemented Joe Girardi as my favorite Yankees catcher that I have seen play with my own two eyes.
Jorge Posada is probably the #1 catcher for most Yankees fans. Statistically speaking he should be first but watch that 1996 Game 6 triple again and you’ll understand my sentimentality.
Jorge Posada is one of the best hitting catchers of all time. A switch hitting catcher, hitting in the middle of the lineup for multiple World Series winning teams.
Jorge Posada was a 5 time All Star who won 5 Silver Sluggers and even finished 3rd in the MVP voting in 2003.
Jorge Posada was a fiery presence in the Yankees clubhouse. Yankees fans were lucky to have a guy like Posada on the team. The Captain Derek Jeter led by example, his main lieutenant was Jorge Posada who led by passion and emotion.
I think that is why Posada was so beloved by Yankees fans. He brought an intensity that we didn’t see with the rest of the Fab 5 (Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte).
Posada was known for his “in your face” attitude, he was never afraid to call another player out if needed.
Jorge was also an under the radar clutch hitter. Everyone remembers Derek Jeter as being Captain Clutch but Jorge must have had just as many clutch hits. Can anyone forget the big 2 run double off Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS? The fire he showed when he reached second base is the fire he brought to every game. If you somehow forgot, or just want to watch it again, here is the video.
Look at that fire. He sparked the team and sparked the win. If it wasn’t for Jorge, I would have had to eat crow from nearly the entire St. Anselm graduating class of 2004 but fortunately I didn’t. Thank you Jorge for ensuring I avoided that experience.
The one knock on Posada was the way he would feud with his pitchers. He didn’t like it when pitchers shook him off. I always felt that was a mistake on his part which is why I don’t feel like he ever got the best out of any of his pitching staffs.
One last note on Posada, had he been a full time DH, avoiding the wear and tear on his body from catching, he’s probably in the Hall of Fame.
One of our Forgotten Yankees! Mike Stanley was a fan favorite in the final days before the Derek Jeter era. Mike Stanley broke out in 1993, a year I will never forget.
The Yankees were coming off some of their worst years ever, 1993 marked a turning point as we began to see this team moving towards playoff contention. Mike Stanley was a huge part of that turnaround.
Mike Stanley had .305 batting average in 1993 following up with a .300 batting average in 1994. Mike Stanley also provided some power in the middle of the lineup. Stanley hit 26 home runs in 1993. Today’s game kind of devalues that number but believe me, 26 home runs from your catcher in 1993 was a big deal. He wasn’t a one year wonder either, he followed up the next two strike shortened years with 17 and 18 home runs. Those totals likely would have been in the 20s as well had the seasons not been shortened.
Mike Stanley was a crucial bat in the Yankees lineup as they began their turnaround. It was sad seeing him leave for Boston but his departure made way for Joe Girardi and the rest was history.
Russell Martin was only on the Yankees for two seasons. He did not win a World Series and most Yankees fans would probably forget he existed. However Russell Martin was a throwback catcher that won me over in his brief stint with the Yankees.
Russell Martin handled the Yankees pitching staff better than any catcher since Joe Girardi. I’ve regularly called out Brian Cashman for his inability to put together a quality pitching staff, I’ve always felt that one of the reasons was his unwillingness to go with a defensive minded catcher. Russell Martin was the compromise. He was a tough as nails player who could hit but also brought defense to a position that should always be defense first.
In Martin’s short tenure Yankees fans saw the best years of Ivan Nova’s career. Yankees fans saw David Robertson’s breakout rookie season. And we saw Hiroki Kuroda come over to the AL East with a bit of a resurgence to his career. Kuroda was coming to the hitter friendly AL East from the pitcher friendly NL West, no one expected him to perform as well as he did.
I really think Russell Martin deserves credit for how well he handled the Yankees pitchers. I loved his leadership and grit. I was devastated when he left for Pittsburgh after two seasons in New York