Giants catcher Buster Posey announced his retirement on Thursday at a news conference, and one of my first thoughts was this: Posey is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
He's a .302 career hitter, a former MVP and batting champion. He was an above-average defensive catcher and one of the best to play his position.
So why, then, have I been hesitant to think the same thing about someone who played five miles from my house instead of thousands?
That's a good question, and the answer probably has to do with more with proximity and expectations than anything else.
But Posey's retirement has had an oddly clarifying effect: If Posey is a Hall of Famer, then Joe Mauer certainly is, too.
Mauer also won an MVP. Mauer was a three-time batting champion. He was an above-average defensive catcher. Like Posey, he battled the effects of injuries that robbed him of some at bats in his prime and still finished his career with a .306 batting average.
If we look at the Wins Above Replacement leaderboard on Baseball Reference, Mauer is No. 9 all-time for catchers, while Posey is No. 16. If we just look at their seven best years, Mauer is No. 5 and Posey is No. 10.
So what's the holdup in my mind? Probably years of negative feedback loops from fans who wanted Mauer to hit more home runs. And the inherent bias that comes from watching an individual failing to achieve team postseason success.
As much as postseason production can be indicative of clutch play from an individual or team, it can also be a very random small sample size.
That said, there's no doubt that playoff glory can sway voters. Two World Series titles surely helped Kirby Puckett get into the Hall as fast as he did.
And there's also no doubt that Posey dwarfs Mauer in playoff accomplishments, at least from a team perspective: Three World Series titles vs. an 0-10 record in career playoff games.
In those 10 games, Mauer hit .275 with a .641 OPS. In his 58 playoff games, Posey hit .252 with a .667 OPS. Was Posey in the right place at the right time, with the right teammates, while Mauer wasn't? Hard to say.
What isn't hard to say is this: If Posey is a Hall of Famer, so is Mauer. We'll see if the voters agree when Mauer is eligible in 2024 and Posey is in five years.