Bye-bye Buster: Analyzing a Giant’s retirement

Giants catcher won three championships and The City’s heart

Catcher Buster Posey, the Giants’ most popular player and the lone remaining link to all three of the team’s recent championships, is expected to announce his retirement Thursday.

The Giants did not release a statement, and Posey did not respond to a request for comment. The Athletic broke the news Wednesday.

Why would Posey do this?

When Atlanta sealed its World Series conquest over Houston on Tuesday night, the clock began ticking toward a deadline regarding Posey’s baseball future. Club management had until five days after the conclusion of the World Series to accept its $22 million option on Posey’s 2022 contract or pay him a $3 million buyout. It was speculated that the Giants would negotiate a deal with Posey that would pay him a more club-friendly — that is, lower — amount.

But the cerebral Posey doesn’t always behave so simply. When ballplayers were given the option of sitting out the 2020 season due to the health risk of COVID-19, Posey declined to play for the Giants and instead spent the year with his family — his wife, Kristen, the twins that she gave birth to in 2011 and the twins they adopted in 2020.

During the Giants’ franchise-record 107-win regular season, Posey revealed no hints about retiring. The 34-year-old’s productivity at the plate had waned since 2014, the last of San Francisco’s World Series-winning years. But he experienced a renaissance this season, being selected to the National League All-Star team for the seventh time in 12 years. In 113 games, he recorded a slash line of .304/.390/.499 with 18 home runs — six more than he hammered during the previous two seasons combined. He combined that with 56 RBIs.

“The biggest thing, when I’m hitting, is the ability to feel like I can move fast and powerfully,” Posey told The Examiner shortly before the season ended. “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.”

Asked about his home life, Posey said, “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.”

Family has remained a top priority for Posey since the early stages of his professional career. One season, after helping the Giants capture their first World Series triumph in 2010 and winning the NL Rookie of the Year award, he sustained multiple injuries to his left leg in a horrific home plate collision with Scott Cousins of the Marlins. Since that incident, Posey has remarked on more than one occasion that being sidelined enabled him to bond with his newborn twins more quickly and closely than he would have had he been in the middle of a season with the Giants.

Make no mistake: Posey remained a determined competitor during his Giants tenure. He fit into this role easily, being a fulcrum for the offense with his hitting and serving as a leader of the pitching staff with his catching.

He related easily to everybody, from those who barely controlled their fury like Madison Bumgarner or more quirky types such as Jeremy Affeldt or Hunter Pence.

If Posey indeed retires, Curt Casali and Joey Bart become the top candidates to succeed him.

Posey was the last major piece in the Giants’ roster rebuilding that made them a championship-level team. They selected him in the first round (fifth overall) of the 2008 draft, following two other successful top selections: Bumgarner (2007) and right-hander Tim Lincecum (2006).

The Giants summoned him to the Majors for good in late May of 2010. In barely more than a month, he inherited the starting catcher’s position when San Francisco traded Bengie Molina to Texas.

Posey became instantly and immensely popular with Giants fans. They loved his syrupy right-handed swing, which recalled the classic cuts taken by another San Francisco baseball legend, Joe DiMaggio. They savored his outbursts of glee, most notably the “Buster Hugs” he’d share with pitchers after no-hitters or title-clinching victories. And they cherished his choirboy-type good looks, which his layers of catching equipment failed to obscure.

If sentiment drove Hall of Fame voting, Posey would be a shoo-in for Cooperstown. He possesses certain credentials, such as the NL Most Valuable Player Award and the batting title which he won in 2012. He has won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, reflecting his versatility. But his retirement, which some observers might consider premature, has frozen his career record at 158 home runs and 729 RBIs, spread over 1,371 games. He statistically falls short of the group of Hall of Fame catchers whose careers started or gained momentum after 1950. The list features Johnny Bench (389 homers, 1,376 RBIs), Yogi Berra (358 homers, 1,430 RBIs), Roy Campanella (242 homers, 856 RBIs), Gary Carter (324 homers, 1,225 RBIs), Carlton Fisk (376 homers, 1,330 RBIs), Mike Piazza (427 homers, 1,335 RBIs), Ivan Rodriguez (311 homers, 1,332 RBIs) and Ted Simmons (248 homers, 1,389 RBIs).

However, it’s generally agreed that Posey possesses the intangible qualities associated with top catchers, such as leadership and a certain gravitas.

Said Giants legend Willie McCovey before his death in 2018, “Buster could have played with us.”

Chris Haft is a freelance contributor who covers the Giants for The Examiner.

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