Nov. 16, 2012
Story Courtesy San Francisco Giants
SAN FRANCISCO — If he could, Buster Posey might carve his National League Most Valuable Player Award plaque into 40 or 50 pieces to distribute to teammates, athletic trainers and club officials.
Posey was named the NL MVP on Thursday in balloting conducted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, topping off an awards-laden year. The catcher has won two Comeback Player of the Year honors; a Silver Slugger Award as the league’s top offensive performer at his position; the Hank Aaron Award, given to the league’s premier hitter; and the “Willie Mac” Award for being San Francisco’s most inspirational player.
Yet all these personal accolades have sharpened Posey’s focus on the team — the same team that last month won its second World Series in three years. “This is an award that can be shared with the whole Giants organization because they have great ownership, a great front office, and that translates to putting good players on the field,” Posey said in a conference call.
Posey received 27 of 32 first-place votes and totaled 422 points to outdistance Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, last year’s MVP, who received three first-place votes and finished second, with 285 points. Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen (245 points) and St. Louis’ Yadier Molina (241), who each garnered two first-place votes, were third and fourth, respectively. Points were awarded on a 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
“Buster’s work ethic, leadership skills and extraordinary talent represent all that is great about our game and what it means to be a San Francisco Giant,” president and CEO Larry Baer said in a statement. “This is a proud day for Buster and his family, for the Giants and for our fans everywhere.”
Braun graciously said of Posey, “What he was able to accomplish this year as a catcher, with a team that went on to win the World Series, was incredible. I thought he was the best player. I think he deserved to be the MVP.”
Speaking on MLB Network, Posey cited some of his teammates:
“Angel Pagan getting on base, Marco Scutaro coming over, Pablo [Sandoval] was on fire toward the end, Hunter Pence was driving in runs. You can go down the list — Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford getting big hits, Gregor Blanco making the best catches I’ve ever seen all year. It goes on and on and on. I’m just happy to play with those guys.” Posey also singled out head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner and the rest of the team’s medical staff for helping him overcome the extensive injuries to his left leg sustained in a home-plate collision with Scott Cousins of the Marlins on May 25, 2011.
“I definitely have a deeper appreciation for being able to play baseball,” said Posey, 25. “I’ve seen that it can be taken away quick.”
Reflecting his physical recovery as well as his adjustment to playing after missing most of the 2011 season, Posey built his MVP candidacy by hitting .385 with 23 doubles, 14 homers and 60 RBIs in 71 games after the All-Star break.
The most significant statistic associated with Posey was 148 — the number of games he played. Manager Bruce Bochy occasionally shifted Posey to first base to spare him from the physical rigors of catching while keeping his bat in the cleanup spot. Of Posey’s 143 starts, 111 came at catcher, 29 at first base and three as a designated hitter.
“I think the biggest thing that impressed me the most and was inspirational for me was how much he actually played,” right-hander Ryan Vogelsong said. “All offseason and even in Spring Training, it was, ‘How much is he going to be able to handle catching?’ It was just really, really inspirational to see him doing what he was doing, because nobody knew. It was such a big question mark of, ‘How much can Buster play?’ He not only exceeded what everybody thought he was going to do; he smashed it.”
Overall, Posey hit .336 to become the first catcher to win the NL batting title in 70 years. He also amassed 24 home runs and 103 RBIs.
Posey stopped feeling conscious of his ankle about two months into the season. “It was easier to run the bases, and cutting around the bases was a big thing to start the season,” he said. “When that started to become more natural again, I think that helped overall with just not really thinking about it.”
Posey ranked among the NL’s top 10 in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, RBIs, multihit games, total bases, hits, doubles, walks and sacrifice flies.
He also established himself as a formidable clutch hitter, compiling a .340 average with runners in scoring position while amassing 18 game-winning RBIs and 31 go-ahead RBIs.
As gaudy as most of Posey’s statistics were, left-hander Jeremy Affeldt praised Posey for possessing an intangible quality — presence.
“When I hear ‘Most Valuable Player,’ I say, ‘Who would I want to build my team around?’ He’s my choice,” Affeldt said. “He’s a leader. I want to build my team around somebody who has the ability to lead. When you build a team around a leader, he’s not going to sway. A contract won’t change him. You won’t see him pouting when he’s not hitting real well. He’s the same guy.”
Personally, maybe Posey’s the same. Professionally, he’s elite. Posey became the third catcher to earn the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards as well as perform on a World Series-winning club. The others are Cincinnati’s Johnny Bench and the New York Yankees’ Thurman Munson.
Posey also joined Giants legends Willie Mays and Willie McCovey as the franchise’s only players to win the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards.
“To hear my name mentioned with those guys doesn’t even seem real,” he said. “I’ve always been such a big fan of the game, and I have such a huge amount of respect for what all of those guys accomplished. To be mentioned alongside them means a great deal to me.”
Posey’s also the 11th catcher to receive the MVP distinction in either league. The others are the Twins’ Joe Mauer (2009), the Rangers’ Ivan Rodriguez (1999), Munson (1976), Bench (1970, ’72), the Yankees’ Elston Howard (1963) and Yogi Berra (1951, ’54, ’55), the Dodgers’ Roy Campanella (1951, ’53, ’55), Cincinnati’s Ernie Lombardi (1938), the Cubs’ Gabby Hartnett (1935) and Detroit’s Mickey Cochrane (1934). Six members of that group — Cochrane, Hartnett, Lombardi, Campanella, Berra and Bench — are in the Hall of Fame.
San Francisco’s previous MVPs were Barry Bonds (1993, 2001-04), Jeff Kent (2000), Kevin Mitchell (1989), McCovey (1969) and Mays (1965). Mays also won the award in 1954 when the franchise was based in New York.
Ascending to the pantheon of Giants greats was impressive enough for Posey. Entering the group of uniquely accomplished catchers as well truly sets him apart.
“Having your name with the likes of Mays, McCovey, Mitchell, Bonds and Kent as well as Bench and Campanella speaks to that special fraternity,” left-hander Javier Lopez said of Posey in an e-mail. “He is truly blessed with skill and determination to succeed, and it’s a tribute to the Giants organization to recognize that and feel comfortable to hand the keys to him and watch him become the best player in the NL so quickly. I know I’ve enjoyed watching it and look forward to what the future holds for him.”