A link from the past, if you will…
It really seems like this season can’t be appreciated fully unless you imagine it from the perspective of someone who just woke up from an 11-month coma. Any hope the Giants had to win a championship in the future – 2012 or 2013, if you wanted to be wildly optimistic – started with Buster Posey getting regular playing time as soon as possible. The Giants decided that it was just too risky for a contending team to start the season with a rookie catcher, and they brought back the organizational woobie for several million dollars. Giants fans could take solace, though, that Posey would probably get a chance to get some innings at first base.
Take the wayback machine just a little bit further back, and you get to this game. The Giants were desperate, absolutely desperate, for any sort of offensive spark, but Buster Posey watched Eli Whiteside catch for 12 long innings. The message was that the risk of Posey catching a few innings wasn’t worth the potential benefit of having Posey take a few at-bats.
It’s amusing now, but at the time, that mindset was the first bullet point on the internal Lunatic Fringe memos calling for an organizational junta. The best position player prospect since Will Clark was ready to hit for a team that couldn’t, but he played the exact wrong position. He played the position that was weighted down with lore and secret rituals, and he was playing for a manager who was an officer of the fraternal order.
And then Buster Posey won a division. And then he won a pennant. And then he won a championship. And then he won Rookie of the Year. You’d be stupid not to have him taking your NCAA bracket too. Posey over Duke, 89-61, with three Blue Devils caught stealing. They said there would be an adjustment period. If this was the adjustment period, it’s hard to imagine what it will be like when Posey settles in.
Jason Heyward was worthy of the award too. Absolutely he was. If Heyward had won, I would not have been bitter all – it still would have rankled me more that Andres Torres was robbed of a Gold Glove. Heyward played the whole season; Posey came up in May. But Heyward played a corner position; Posey was at the other end of the defensive spectrum. Posey had the hitting streak; Heyward had an edge with the on-base percentage. The debate could go back and forth, back and forth.
The tiebreaker, then, could have been how Posey handled an otherworldly pitching staff. In September, Giants opponents had a .189/.251/.292 batting line. Basically, the Giants turned every hitter into Adam Wainwright. They had a historic run. Posey was calling every pitch. The Giants finished with the lowest ERA in the majors, and they played in a park that has been mostly neutral over the past decade.
So last offseason, the rallying cry was:
The Giants are idiots. The role of a catcher on a team is grossly, grossly overstated. There has never been any measurable effect on total runs allowed from one catcher to another. The Giants need to let Posey play. They need to focus on the things he can do well, and not focus on the things they’re worried he can’t do well.
Is it disingenuous, then, to think now that Posey’s ability to catch (and catch so danged well) was enough to separate him from Heyward, even after accounting for the edge that Heyward has in playing time? Maybe. But Posey made a fellow like me, a certified catchgnostic, start to turn. There was something about Posey’s ability to lead and be a pitcher whisperer that made me think like an old-timer.
Like rain on your wedding day, Posey’s awesomeness made me think that a special catcher might have value that is extremely hard to measure through establish statistics, which was exactly what the Giants were trying to say when they re-signed Bengie Molina. We just disagree(d) on the definition of "a special catcher."
There’s no ambiguity on that definition now. Posey is the definition. He’s like Johnny Bench crossed with Batman, but better. Congratulations, Buster Posey.