- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
POSEY IS A CAREER .316 HITTER who hits as if he is fishing for brim in the creek on Turkey Farm Road. He is patient and quiet. Since the end of his sophomore year at Florida State he has waited for the pitch with his bat nearly flat, or almost parallel to the ground. "It's to remind me to be flat through the zone," he says. "It's a comfort thing. Most hitters who are successful have that long, flat path through the zone."
The flat swing path keeps the barrel of his bat through the zone longer than most hitters, which promotes consistent contact. Last season Posey and Aramis Ramirez of the Brewers were the only NL hitters to drive in 100 runs without striking out 100 times. Posey's strikeout rate is down further this year, to a career-low 11.2%. "His balance and his swing path are extraordinary," says Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens. "But it's also because if the pitcher throws 96 on the black, he's just not going to swing at it because he knows there's nothing you can do with it. He's just really, really sure about himself."
Everything about Posey, from the way he hits to the way he conducts interviews, conveys a quiet, flat certitude. He can remember the exact moment when such equanimity began. "I was seven years old and pitching," he says, "and giving up a few hits and walks. I remember my dad coming out to the mound to tell me that no matter if you were pitching your best game or whether it was your worst, nobody should be able to tell the difference by looking at you. That stuck with me. The older I've gotten and the more I've played, I realize there is a time for emotion, but you have to pick and choose those times."
Last year, for instance, Posey broke out rare fist pumps to celebrate two of the biggest hits of the Giants' postseason: a grand slam in the Division Series clincher over the Reds and a two-run homer in the World Series clincher over the Tigers.
In 2010, Posey hit .305, won the Rookie of the Year Award and became the first rookie catcher to hit cleanup in a postseason game as the Giants won their first World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1958. Last year he hit .336 and became the first catcher to win the batting title, the MVP and the World Series in the same season. In between, Posey suffered a broken leg on May 25, 2011, when Scott Cousins of the Marlins barreled into him on a play at the plate. The Giants sank to 86 wins in that Posey-deprived season. After Posey was hurt, distraught fans flooded the Giants' offices with cards, flowers and offers to run errands or babysit for the Poseys—Kristen was six months pregnant with twins at the time of Buster's injury.
"The perfect metaphor was when he won the MVP last year," Baer says. "He was at the learning center where his mother teaches, for a $10-a-plate fund-raising dinner. The guy just won the MVP! The easiest way to think about what he means to us is to take him out [of the lineup]. You unplug him, as you saw in 2011, and we're just different."
After the MVP and the second world title, the endorsement offers poured in to Posey's agent, Jeff Berry. And Posey rejected just about all of them. He did shoot a commercial for a video game. He does endorse a nutritional drink, an athletic apparel company and Bay Area car dealers, but that's about it.
"I don't ever want to do something that will compromise my preparation for the team," Posey says. "And the more stuff you do, the more time you take away from your family."
Last year Posey did become the first major league player to release a self-branded mobile app, an Angry Birds--type flick game in which players try to hit home runs to win the currency of virtual sunflower seeds. The game is modeled on the arc of Posey's own life. Level 1, for instance, is "Summertime in Georgia," replete with a wooden sign pointing to Turkey Farm Rd., where your preteen Buster cartoon avatar starts out trying to belt Wiffle balls and tennis balls over the turkey barn. You can advance to high school ball, college ball and ultimately to the major leagues.
It turns out that Frank Merriwell, Jack Armstrong and Chip Hilton are not totally dead; their spirit lives on in a new platform, a mobile app, and in a new character, a cartoon boy named Buster.