• The Core Four

    Posted by on May 3rd, 2010 · Comments (8)

    The Core Four is a phrase that has often been thrown around when discussing Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte. I don’t remember when exactly people started referring to them as ‘The Core Four.’ I think Michael Kay had something to do with it.

    It’s pretty self-explanatory how the name ‘The Core Four’ was created. Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte have been important cornerstones on championship teams. They’ve played with each other for nearly two decades. There’s four players. It rhymes. It sounds good.

    Last week, SI had a cover story on The Core Four. I’m sure you’ve all read the article by now and have seen the picture that headlines it. If you haven’t, it’s definitely worth a look.

    With the advent of free agency and the inevitable pitfalls of age, it’s amazing that they have remained together for so long. Only a team like the Yankees would be able to consistently sign four superstar players to lengthy and expensive contracts. This wouldn’t – and couldn’t – happen in Kansas City or Cincinnati or Oakland.  Jeter, Posada, and Rivera are the only trio of teammates to play 16 consecutive seasons together – in any sport. Pettitte would be in there too if not for a three-year stint with the Astros from 2004-2006.

    What makes the situation unique is that they all came up around the same time (they all debuted in 1995), they are all similar in age (Jeter is the youngest at 35, Rivera the oldest at 40), and they are all in the upper echilon of the game’s greats. Two of the four are sure-fire Hall of Famers (Jeter, Rivera), one (Posada) has a very good chance of being enshrined in Cooperstown, and one (Pettitte) has an outside shot.

    I think Yankee fans tend to agree that Posada should be in the Hall of Fame. He has a career slash line of .278/.379/.482. He is a five-time All Star. He’s been on four World Championship teams. He has been extremely durable (he has caught 1,507 career games as of today). He also caught a perfect game. The case for Jorge Posada’s Hall-of-Fame candidacy is definitely strong.

    But what really stands out is Posada’s comparatives to other catchers. Take a look at his OPS+ numbers in comparison to some other current and future Hall of Famers:

    Mike Piazza- 142
    Johnny Bench- 126
    Jorge Posada- 125
    Yogi Berra- 125
    Carlton Fisk- 117
    Gary Carter- 115
    Ivan Rodriguez- 108

    Posada’s OPS has been above the league average in every full season he has played, except 1999. This, while playing in one of the biggest offensive eras in the game’s history.

    And unlike 99% of catchers, he has aged very well. Some would argue that he’s gotten better (offensively, not defensively) throughout his career. He had his best season in terms of OPS in 2007 (his age 35 season), and even though he’ll be 39 later this year, he is still hitting close to .300 with five homers and twelve RBI’s through his first 19 games of 2010.

    Non-Yankee fans tend to believe that Posada just hasn’t been good enough to merit Hall of Fame enshrinement. He has never really been looked at as the best catcher in baseball. During the early part of his career, Pudge Rodriguez was the best. In the last few years, it’s been Joe Mauer. So it’s understandable why people don’t think he belongs in. He never has been dominant.

    That said, I think he should be a Hall of Famer. And I think in time, he will get elected. I think the numbers speak for themselves – and he’s still not done yet.

    Anyway, back to the main point. People always talk about how the Yankees of the early ’90′s were terrible. And they were. The emergence of guys like Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte really allowed the team to erase their bad memories from the early ’90′s and transition into a period of dominance. But when you think about it, the struggles of the early ’90′s were necessary in order for the Yankees to obtain such good talent. Derek Jeter, for example, was a first-round pick (6th overall) in 1992. If the Yankees hadn’t had such an awful season in 1991, Jeter would have fallen into the hands of some other team.

    Guys like Posada (24th round), Pettitte (22nd round), and Rivera (not even drafted, signed as a free agent in 1990) basically fell into the hands of the Yankees. Good scouting had a lot to do with it. But it’s amazing when you think about how many teams passed up on them.

    And now here we are, close to twenty years after some of these guys were signed. The Core Four have remained together all this time (Pettitte took a vacation from 2004-2006). They are still putting up big numbers and have shown few signs of slowing down. Four players, five championships, sixteen seasons. One team.

    I don’t think we’ll ever see this again.

    Comments on The Core Four

    1. Raf
      May 3rd, 2010 | 12:48 am

      But when you think about it, the struggles of the early ’90’s were necessary in order for the Yankees to obtain such good talent.

      I don’t think this is particularly true. The Yankees were competitive by 1993, and they had the best record in the AL when the strike hit in 1994.

    2. butchie22
      May 3rd, 2010 | 7:18 am

      Raf wrote:

      But when you think about it, the struggles of the early ’90’s were necessary in order for the Yankees to obtain such good talent.I don’t think this is particularly true. The Yankees were competitive by 1993, and they had the best record in the AL when the strike hit in 1994.

      I think 94 was the year that they(The Yanks) along with The Expos were primed to do some major damage that season if it had continued. It also helped that George Steinbrenner was banned from baseball during that time. Not every young prospect was dealt away during that time for a big named player AND there was a great emphasis on building from within. For all the drief I heap upon Cash Man, he’s trying to do something similar to what Stick ,Buck and Watson had done albeit in a far smaller and muted fashion.

    3. butchie22
      May 3rd, 2010 | 7:24 am

      One more thing…about Passedballsada, he is a middling defensive catcher BUT his offense is so potent that you can’t leave that bat out of the lineup. There are also claims that Posada is a leader in the clubhuse and is Jeter’s right hand man on the team as well.Mates, Pudge and Mauer were/are far better defesively than Jorge was along with a veritable cast of hundreds who have played baseball as well. BUT that bat is something else, especially at his advanced age. Far be it from me to accuse him of shooting up HGH(which I don’t think he is),but he is still an offensive monster at this late stage of his life.

    4. Tresh Fan
      May 3rd, 2010 | 8:35 am

      I don’t think Posada is Cooperstown-bound. Don’t get me wrong. He’s had a very good career, all in all; but his candidacy for the Hall is very shaky. In a way he reminds me of Ted Simmons. Some of you older dudes may remember him. For those of you who don’t: Simmons was a switch hitter who caught a total of 1,771 games (including 2 no-hitters), was named to 8 All Star teams, and had a career OPS+ of 117. Yet in his first year of HoF eligibilty in 1994 he polled only 17 votes—2 fewer than Pete Rose—for 3.7%, thus eliminating him from any future consideration by the BBWAA. So far the Veteran’s Committee has yet to even look at him. And why? Because Simmons had the reputation of being a very poor defensive backstop. Now I don’t know if he really was all that bad. I mean, how would he have caught all those games if he wasn’t at least adequate at the position? But that was his rep. And I think Posada may be headed in the same direction.

    5. Raf
      May 3rd, 2010 | 9:06 am

      butchie22 wrote:

      Not every young prospect was dealt away during that time for a big named player AND there was a great emphasis on building from within.

      There never really was a great emphasis on building from within, as most of the players from 1993 on up were acquired from outside of the organization. As a matter of fact, of the core 4, only Pettitte & Rivera really hit the ground running (and one can even argue that Rivera really didn’t emerge as a setup man until Wickman was traded; both Wickman and Nelson were the setup guys). It took an injury to Tony Fernandez for Jeter to break in (barring any unforeseen occurrences he was to be the starting shortstop in 1997), and Posada didn’t become a full time starter until 1998.

      @ Tresh Fan:
      I think what works in Posada’s favor is that he plays in a major media market, and he has played on some successful postseason teams.

    6. Tresh Fan
      May 3rd, 2010 | 1:15 pm

      @ Raf:
      Playing in a major media market and on some successful postseason teams didn’t do all that much for Elston Howard, who was in 10 World Series, on 12 All Star teams, won a cople of Gold Gloves AND an MVP award—all with an OPS+ of 108. The best Howard could do was 83 votes (20.7%) in 1981, the year after his untimely death.

      And, FWIW, I would take Howard over Posada (just my preference). :)

    7. 77yankees
      May 3rd, 2010 | 9:08 pm

      Out of the current team, Jeter, Mo & A-Rod are lock first ballot Hall of Famers. We need to examine the numbers of Tex, Cano & C.C. once they hit the 10 year marks of their careers before we can pass judgment on their HOF chances.

      But Posada – along with Pettitte – I just don’t think they’re Hall of Famers.

    8. Raf
      May 3rd, 2010 | 10:10 pm

      Tresh Fan wrote:

      Playing in a major media market and on some successful postseason teams didn’t do all that much for Elston Howard, who was in 10 World Series, on 12 All Star teams, won a cople of Gold Gloves AND an MVP award—all with an OPS+ of 108.

      You could probably answer this question better than I, was the NYY hype machine then as it is now?

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