As a National Baseball Hall of Fame voter, I know what somebody destined for Cooperstown looks like, talks like, hits like, pitches like and inspires like, and here's an example these days: Buster Posey."Well, thank you," said the man himself, always in low-key mode around the Giants' clubhouse and away
As a National Baseball Hall of Fame voter, I know what somebody destined for Cooperstown looks like, talks like, hits like, pitches like and inspires like, and here's an example these days: Buster Posey.
"Well, thank you," said the man himself, always in low-key mode around the Giants' clubhouse and away from the ballpark.
When it comes to Posey's demeanor on the diamond, that's another matter. His performance at the plate with a Louisville Slugger and behind it with a catcher's mitt continues to speak loudly during his nine seasons in the Major Leagues. They've all been in San Francisco, where he is as entrenched as famous bridges across the bay and cable cars on hills.
Everybody knows Posey can play, but do we really know? I'm thinking we're taking him for granted. Seriously. He has four trips to the All-Star Game on his resume, along with a National League Most Valuable Player Award, three NL Silver Slugger Awards, three World Series rings and an NL Gold Glove Award. He is also a former NL batting title champion, and he was the NL's Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year and Hank Aaron Award winner.
All Posey has done this season entering Friday is own the third-best batting average in the Major Leagues at .344 with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs, and he's accomplishing as much despite the season-long struggles of the Giants.
"Yeah, I mean, it's a challenge, especially since things seem to go easier when things are going well," Posey said, referring to the Giants owning one of the worst records in the Majors at 27-48. "I think this applies to a lot of things in life. When things aren't going well, you start to worry about things you can't control, and it also holds true with baseball. When things are going well, your mind is free, and you go out and play instead of overanalyzing things."
Posey gets that mental thing, all right, and the same goes for that physical thing, because his baseball accolades say so. When you study the totality of each of his full seasons with the Giants, he has never spent one less than splendid. He operates at a consistently high level.
You know, like a Baseball Hall of Famer in waiting.
Still, unlike many already in Cooperstown or those headed that way, Posey never spent his childhood fantasizing about someday earning a bronzed plaque as a Baseball Hall of Famer. He was too busy performing incredible feats as a pitcher and shortstop in his hometown of Leesburg, Ga., when he wasn't prospering in football, basketball and soccer.
"I think, as a lot of kids, I had a dream to play Major League Baseball, but I think I was pretty good about enjoying the moment, enjoying my high school years, enjoying my time in college and not looking too far ahead, and just appreciating where I was at the time,'" said Posey, 30, who cheered as a youth for perennially playoff-bound Braves teams, making an easy three-hour drive to the north in Atlanta, where they spent the 1990s winning a record 14 consecutive division titles, five NL pennants and the 1995 World Series championship.
"I liked a lot of their pitchers -- Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz -- and I liked a lot of their position players. Chipper Jones, for one, and Andruw Jones came up when I was probably 7 or 8 years old, so I got to watch them my whole childhood. And the fact that they always won didn't hurt."
Then Posey was off to Florida State University to make a name of his own, and it happened in a hurry. Not only did he remain efficient at shortstop through his freshman year with the Seminoles, but he also continued to hit as well in Tallahassee as he did at Lee County High School.
Soon afterward, Posey changed positions. In fact, after he followed the urging of an FSU assistant coach by turning into a catcher before his sophomore year with the 'Noles, he finished second in the balloting for the Johnny Bench Award, which is given yearly to the top collegiate backstop. He captured the award his junior year, and with even more potent offense, he was named the Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year.
The thing is, given Posey's athleticism at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, he could have risen to the top of the college game and beyond as a shortstop. Or even as that standout pitcher he was in high school.
Why stick with catcher?
"I think it was just the chance to be involved with every play, working with the pitchers, being able to think through some at-bat in an entire lineup," Posey said. "When I first started catching, I also liked the ability to help a guy get through a game when maybe he doesn't have his good stuff, and obviously, when he has his good stuff, it's a lot of fun. I really didn't have a favorite Major League catcher in college, but I would watch a lot of games. If one was on, I'd try to pick up little things from whomever was catching at that time."
Now others are doing the same with Posey, who accomplished the previously unthinkable last season. After eight consecutive years of the NL Gold Glove Award for catchers going to the Cardinals' Yadier Molina, Posey stopped the streak, and he eased into a smile with the memory.
After all, the 34-year-old Molina seemed destined to win NL Gold Glove Awards every season until he retired.
"He also was heading to signing a three-year-extension, so I didn't know if I would win one anytime soon," Posey said, laughing. "It was a tremendous honor to win the Gold Glove because I've always taken a lot of pride in my defense. That also was true when I was younger, whether I was in the infield or now as a catcher. To be recognized with that award is really cool."
Offense is pushing Posey toward Cooperstown, though. His lifetime batting average of .309 ranks among the elite in baseball history of catchers who played nearly a decade or more. Take Bench, who is considered the best catcher ever: His career batting average was .267.
Bench also had 389 homers to Posey's 126.
That's 126 and counting.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com.