I think we’re asking the wrong question

Last night on the YES Network broadcast, the gang in the booth were discussing whether or not former Yankee Jorge Posada (who just turned 50…we think…?) should be in the Hall of Fame.

The short answer is “no”. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that Jorge was much better than most of us realized at the time, and is closer to being a Hall of Famer than many of us think, but those qualifications do not a Cooperstown plaque make.

But that isn’t what struck me about the conversation. I understand the loyalty to the Yankees’ organization, but I felt like someone was being overlooked, as Posada isn’t even the best Yankees catcher to not be in Cooperstown.

Posada’s career was not as impressive as Thurman Munson’s, and Jorge was not the player Thurman Munson was – it’d be impossible to argue otherwise. If we’re going to take up the cause of getting a Yankee catcher into Cooperstown, let’s spend our energy on the right one.

Let’s keep it simple for now and look at WAR numbers: Munson posted 46.1 career WAR, while Posada posted 42.7 – while playing 6 more seasons than Thurman. The gap of their peak WAR (player’s best seven seasons) is similar – Munson 37.0 to Posada 32.6.

You: “Well if Munson is a Hall of Famer, let’s not compare him to Posada, let’s compare him to Hall of Famers.”

Me: (Shrugs) “OK…”

Munson has the highest peak WAR among MLB catchers who are not in Cooperstown, with a better number than five catchers who are currently in Cooperstown. So at his best, he was clearly as good as other HOF catchers. In career WAR, Munson trails only Wally Schang and Gene Tenace, but only barely – and both played much longer than he did – among catchers not in Cooperstown.

In fact, other than Tenace’s whopping 0.7 more WAR in four additional seasons, here are the catchers who’ve played since integration with more career WAR than Munson:

Bench, Carter, Rodriguez, Fisk, Piazza, Berra, and Simmons.

I know, I know, it’s not all advanced metrics. People do love themselves some awards and post-season heroics (personally, I think those things are more of a result of randomness, small sample sizes, and having good teammates, but hey, I’ll play along.)

Munson won an MVP (with two other top-ten finishes), a Rookie of the Year, three Gold Gloves, played in seven All-Star games and won two World Series rings.

Oh, and by the way: In 135 post-season plate appearances, he posted a .378/.496 OBP/SLG line. His career averages were .346/.410.

It’s funny how one question often leads to a better question. In this case, “Is Jorge Posada a Hall of Famer” isn’t a very good question. But “Why is Thurman Munson NOT in Cooperstown?” is a good one.

Did I miss something? Let me know.

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