Duty called yesterday in the form of Jorge Posada's retirement news conference, and as it turned out, I got a bonus of sorts when Prince Fielder ended his free agency in brilliant fashion.
Let's tackle Posada first:
1. The Yankees really went to town for his news conference. My goodness. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Hal and Jennifer Steinbrenner, a video featuring fans. It was something else.
And that was partly due to the context. The natural comparison was to Andy Pettitte's retirement news conference roughly a year ago, which featured far fewer dignitaries and far more angst. The Yankees would've paid Pettitte pretty much anything to pitch for them last year. Whereas the Yankees wouldn't have offered Posada so much as a minor-league contract for 2012.
Another reason why the Posada news conference was a better show: The Yankees and Posada have been planning this for weeks. The Pettitte announcement was put together in roughly 24 hours.
2. For my column, I wrote that Posada would be missed largely because of his old-school approach to the game and to public relations. I mentioned David Cone as one of the pitchers with which Posada struggled to work, and last night, at the B.A.T dinner, I saw Cone and said, "Hey! I just wrote about you."
Cone acknowledged that yeah, he didn't particularly like pitching to Posada. You need only scrutinize the box scores to confirm that one; Joe Girardi was Cone's guy from 1996 through 1999, and then Cone pitched to Jim Leyritz and Chris Turner in 2000. But Cone also agreed that those difficutles reflected Posada's fire and passion, and those qualities made Cone ultimately respect Posada.
The highlight of the news conference came when Diana Munson spoke about Posada caused her to re-engage in baseball, after checking out for many years following Thurman Munson's death. Pretty powerful stuff. Diana Munson added her belief that her husband and Posada would've been best friends.
Willie Randolph attended the news conference, and I tracked him down at the BAT dinner to ask him what he thought of Diana Munson's statement, given Randolph's knowledge of both Thurman Munson and Posada. Randolph agreed that the two men would get along quite well.
3. The Hall of Fame conversation surfaced once again, naturally, and I spoke on one radio show - I believe it was ESPN Hartford - in which the host said that Posada's numbers compared favorably to those of Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, and Carlton Fisk.
But you can't compare raw numbers from different eras. At least, that's not my approach. You have to look at how each player did within his own era. Which is why WAR is such a valuable statistic.
By Baseball-Reference.com measures, Bench had 71.3 WAR, Carter 66.3, Fisk 67.3 and Posada 44.7.Even giving Posada a nice bonus for virtually an entire season's worth of postseason contributions, I don't think Posada quite gets there.
4. So who retires next, Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera? Rivera continues to talk like this very well might be his last season, and he has privately told some friends the same thing. I remain skeptical, however, until the season plays out.
This isn't someone in decline like Posada, or someone whose body was beginning to quit on him, like Pettitte. This is someone who at age 41 was still one of the best relievers in baseball.
5. I wrote about a sidebar about the Yankees' starting pitching surplus. My best bet is that the Yankees go to camp with seven starters and see how things play out. They'd trade A.J. Burnett in a second if anyone would take him, but no one will take him. Phil Hughes? Not sure it makes sense to sell low on him, unless there's a team out there that thinks really highly of him and is willing to give up something of value.