By Chris Haft
Special to The Examiner
Buster Posey learned long ago that the joy of playing baseball comes with responsibility.
It’s not enough for Posey to bat in the middle of the Giants’ order, producing runs. The team also expects him to play error-free baseball behind the plate, while also handling the pitching staff.
Fortunately for the Giants and Posey, he has mastered the various demands placed upon him. The 34-year-old has excelled enough to be named to seven National League All-Star teams, on top of winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2012.
Posey’s authority enables him to discuss the facets of baseball with considerable ease, as he did here in a recent question-and-answer session with The Examiner.
Examiner: No matter what happens for the rest of the season, can you say that this has been a successful year? You and the team have accomplished so much on various levels.
Posey: I think once you maybe have a chance to digest the year, like once you’ve been away from it for a month, you can maybe say that. But I think in the moment, it’s the same as any year. If you don’t win (the World Series), it doesn’t feel complete or a success. Once you’re able to remove yourself a little bit and have time to think about it, it’d probably be fair to say that. but right now I’d say no.
Examiner: Is this a perspective unique to you, since you were a winner right away?
Posey: No. I’d be willing to bet most guys at this level are so competitive that they wouldn’t be satisfied with 100-plus wins if you didn’t ultimately end up winning the World Series. But I do think it’s important at the same time to appreciate what we have accomplished. But I think there’s that fine line of appreciating it but still remaining hungry.
Examiner: It seems like you guys have been able to do that. What has been behind that?
Posey: I think it’s just coming in every day and having a plan. Preparing a game plan on the pitchers and hitters we’re facing and just able to turn the page, good or bad, from the night before.
Examiner: They say baseball is a game of failure. And you guys have experienced so little of it. How has that happened?
Posey: The funny thing is, even though we’ve won 104 games to this point, it doesn’t necessarily feel like to me that there’s been less failure. And that’s a weird thing to say, probably. Maybe the difference between 10 to 15 wins in a season doesn’t feel like that much over the course of six months.
Examiner: How well has your plan worked to regulate your playing time? (Posey and Giants manager Gabe Kapler agreed that the former would catch an average of twice in every three games.)
Posey: I think it’s worked great. The ability to recover gets harder the older you get. Playing two out of every three most of the year has given my body a chance to recover and bounce back a little easier.
Examiner: Being more well-rested, what does that enable you to do that you otherwise might not?
Posey: The biggest thing, when I’m hitting, is the ability to feel like I can move fast and powerfully. Sometimes when I think you get fatigued, a little extra inflammation in the back and hip, it’s harder to move fast and you lose a little bit of bat speed. Now that you’ve lost a little bit of bat speed, it’s like I have to cheat to (hit) this ball (and) probably chase a little more.
Examiner: How has the dynamic changed at home with the new set of twins?
Posey: We’re loving it. It’s busy. I don’t really watch TV anymore. The older twins are loving the baby twins and the baby twins are loving the older twins. Kristen and I are loving every minute of it.
Examiner: Are the baseball gods angry at Brandon Belt?
Posey: The guy sure seems to run into some tough luck, that’s for sure. I think what’s disappointing to a lot of us, especially to those of us who have known him over such a long time — we’ve really seen him grow with his confidence over the last couple of years. He told me at the start of Spring Training, “I’m a better hitter now than I’ve ever been.” For him to say that going into the year was eye-opening for me, because I had never heard him speak that way before. You saw the results manifested on the field this year.
Examiner: Is there one trait that unifies the pitching staff?
Posey: I’d say the ability to attack the strike zone. Also their understanding when it’s time to expand (the strike zone). It’s not that complicated. But I feel like they’ve done a great job of doing that.
Examiner: That sounds like something you might not pick up until you’re a veteran.
Posey: Gaus (Kevin Gausman), Disco (Anthony DeSclafani, (Alex) Wood — those guys have all been around a long time. I think they’ve done a nice job of kind of grabbing Webby (Logan Webb) this year and helping with his maturation. The bullpen has been outstanding. You’ve got veteran arms down there as well. I really don’t think we’re where we are right now if (Camilo) Doval and (Kervin) Castro don’t pitch as well as they have the last three weeks.
Examiner: How much of this success can be attributed to Gabe Kapler?
Posey: A lot. The whole process of preparation starts with him. His attention to detail is very important. And with him being a leader, the rest of the coaching staff follows suit.
Examiner: Though you could meet in the postseason, has this already been a golden year for the Giants-Dodgers rivalry?
Posey: It’s incredible. I feel fortunate to be a part of it. It’s fun but it’s also kind of tiring at the same time. You feel like with 104 wins (and) four games to go, you should be able to map out your schedule instead of waking up to the grind each day. But, again, when you’re able to separate and look back on it, we’re going to be happy to have had the experience of doing it. Because who knows then this will happen again? It might not happen ever. Or it might not happen for a really long time.
This interview, conducted before Thursday night’s victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been edited for clarity.
Chris Haft is a longtime baseball scribe who covers the San Francisco Giants for The Examiner.