Lee County native Buster Posey waves to the crowd and is showered with confetti during a victory parade in San Francisco two weeks ago celebrating the Giants’ World Series title. On Thursday, Posey — who hit a major-league best .385 with 23 doubles, 14 homers and 60 RBI in 71 games after the All-Star break — was named the National League MVP in just his third season in the majors.
POSEY'S RUN TO THE MVP --- By The Numbers:
Number of players in San Francisco Giants franchise history to win the NL MVP honor
Number of Player of the Year awards Posey has now won at every level of his baseball career, including Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year (2005, Lee County), Golden Spikes Award (2008, Florida State), NL Rookie of the Year (2010) and NL MVP (2012)
3 & 2:
Number of years Posey has played in the major leagues — and the number of World Series rings he already has won
Number of other Georgia natives besides Posey to win the NL MVP (Cairo’s Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1949)
Number of years it had been since a catcher won a NL batting title before Posey won this year (Ernie Lombardi, Cincinnati Reds, 1942, was the last to do it)
Number of votes Posey received to be the NL All-Star team’s starting catcher — marking a National League record and Posey’s first All-Star appearance
Percentage of votes Posey got in a recent online poll of readers who said “Yes” when asked if Buster was already a lock for the Hall of Fame
Number of first-place votes out of a possible 32 that Posey got by the Baseball Writers Association for the NL MVP award
Posey’s on-base percentage — second-best in MLB
.336 & .385:
Posey’s batting average that won him the National League batting title and his batting average post-All-Star break, which was the best in the majors
Number of times Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain shook off Posey’s pitch call during Cain’s perfect game he pitched with Posey behind the plate June 23 against the Houston Astros
LEESBURG — It’s official: In 2012, Buster Posey was one of the two best baseball players on the planet.
The 25-year-old San Francisco Giants’ star catcher and Leesburg native was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player on Thursday. Posey received 27 of 32 possible first-place votes, while Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen finished second and third, respectively.
Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who was baseball’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, won the American League MVP with 22 first-place votes.
Posey, who was back home Thursday evening to serve as the guest speaker at the Lee County Transitional Learning Center’s annual fundraising banquet, called it an “amazing honor” shortly after he watched the announcement live on the MLB Network.
“This is an award to be shared with the entire organization,” said Posey, who was voted the winner of the award even before he led San Francisco to its second World Series title in three years when the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers because the Baseball Writers Association of America has to cast its ballots before the postseason began. “I’m fortunate to play with such a great group of guys.”
The Giants, meanwhile, simply felt fortunate to have Posey playing for them.
“This is a great achievement and I couldn’t be happier for Buster” said Giants Senior Vice President and GM Brian Sabean. “He is establishing himself as one of the premier athletes in baseball today. His leadership and ability to produce offensively and play solid defense behind the plate makes him one of the most exciting and valuable players in either league. I also want to congratulate our entire baseball organization, including Buster’s teammates, our scouting and player development staff, our coaches and training staff for the role they all played in helping Buster earn this special honor.”
Added manager Bruce Bochy: “I’m thrilled that Buster won this very prestigious award. To go through what he’s gone through over the past year and then do what he did in 2012, not many people can do that. He’s so valuable with the way he catches, handles the staff and hits cleanup while handling all that’s thrown at him. He not only has a huge impact on our lineup but a bigger impact with the way that he leads by example and we are extremely lucky that he’s a part of our organization. Buster is an exceptionally talented baseball player who has earned this high honor through his hard work, dedication and competitive spirit.”
Demp Posey, Buster’s father, beamed with pride as he walked around the Learning Center on Thursday, shaking hands and accepting countless congratulations. When asked to surmise all that his son has accomplished in just three years, Demp could only think of one word.
“Crazy,” he said over and over again. “It’s a great story, but it is crazy. I mean, it’s unbelievable, right? And I’m saying that as his dad who thinks he can do anything. He’s done this his whole life in terms of reaching the highest level there is. He did it in high school. He did it in college. And now he’s doing it in the pros. My only question to him now is, ‘Well, what are you going to do next?’
“He and I have talked about it, how it’s easy to get complacent with all he’s done in such a short amount of time. But the great thing about Buster is that none of this changes him. He loves to play the game, loves to get better, loves to put in the hours. He’ll come back next year and work harder than ever because that’s just who he is. He also understands that he could work harder than ever and never get back to another World Series or win another award. He truly gets that what he and the Giants did could never happen again, and that’s why this is so special.”
In just his second full year in the majors, Posey — who missed most of his sophomore season in 2011 following a brutal home-plate collision that left him with a broken left leg and torn tendons in his ankle — put together another amazing season to follow up his NL Rookie of the Year campaign in 2010. He hit a career-best 24 homers, drove in 103 runs and posted a career-highs in doubles (39), runs scored (78), on-base percentage (.408) and slugging percentage (.549).
“I definitely have a deeper appreciation for being able to play baseball,” Buster said. “I’ve seen that it can be taken away quick.”
He returned better than ever in 2012 and earned his first All-Star nod with an NL-record 7,621,370 votes, while winning the NL batting title with a .336 average --- becoming the first catcher in 70 years to do so. He also won the Silver Slugger Award, was named Comeback Player of the Year and voted by his teammates as the Willie Mac Award winner for being the club’s most outstanding leader.
He also ranked among NL leaders in on-base percentage (second), slugging percentage (fourth), RBI (sixth), multi-hit games (52, T-6th), total bases (291, T-7th), hits (178, T-8th), doubles (T-8th) and walks (10th).
But Posey may have ultimately been judged by the baseball writers on what he did for his team post-All-Star break when he emerged as the overwhelming leader of the Giants following the 50-game suspension of the NL’s leading hitter and Posey’s teammate, Melky Cabrera, for failing a drug test.
Posey hit .385 — the best average in the majors — with 23 doubles, 14 homers and 60 RBI in 71 games after the All-Star break and led the Giants to the division title by a whopping eight games over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Add all of that up, and Posey wasn’t challenged much by last year’s MVP, Braun (.319, 41 homers, 112 RBI) — who has since had a cloud of suspicion cast over him because of a positive drug test following his MVP win in 2011 — or McCutchen (.327, 31 HRs, 96 RBI), whose team faded badly down the stretch thanks partly to a terrible slump by their speedy outfielder.
Posey’s teammates, meanwhile, weren’t surprised in the least to hear the news.
“Just look at the consistency that he brings every single day,” relief pitcher Sergio Romo, who threw the final pitch in Game 4 of the World Series to Posey before the two leapt into each other’s arms in celebration, told the Sillicon Valley (Calif.) Mercury News on Thursday. “He’s a true professional and you always know what you’re going to get with that man.”
But the praise from Posey’s teammates didn’t end there.
“You don’t see many catchers that are legitimate four-hole hitters,” infielder Ryan Theriot told the newspaper. “Buster is that guy, he reminds you of a Mike Piazza back in the day and his defense is head and shoulders above. He handles himself like the leader that he needs to be in order to be a catcher. He’s a young player, but he demands respect. As a catcher you have to have that, and he’s got that quality. He’s a born leader.”
Others marveled at how Posey was not only able to return to full strength in 2013 following such a career-threatening injury in 2011 but rise to the highest levels once again.
“To go through what he’s gone through over the past year and then do what he’s done, not many people can do that,” shortstop Brandon Crawford told the newspaper. “That’s how you would want to play the game and how you try to play the game. He’s been a great example for the rest of us. That’s why he won the Willie Mac Award (as the team MVP, which is) voted on by us.”
Posey becomes the first member of the Giants to earn the honor since Barry Bonds in 2004, while Posey is just the fifth player in the history of the Giants’ organization to earn the honor. When the Giants were based in New York from 1883-1957, pitcher Carl Hubbell won it in 1933 and 1936, and Willie Mays won it 1954, then the franchise moved after the 1957 season to San Francisco, where Mays won it again in 1965, followed by Bonds in 1993, Jeff Kent in 2000, Bonds again from 2001-04 and now Posey in 2012.
Posey also became just the fifth catcher in the history of Major League Baseball to win the NL MVP. The first to do it was Gabby Hartnett (Chicago Cubs, 1935), followed by Ernie Lombardi (Cincinnati Reds, 1938), Roy Campenella (Brooklyn Dodgers, 1951, ‘53 and ‘55), Johnny Bench (Reds, 1970, ‘72) and now Posey.
The position demands so much in the field that success behind the plate rarely translates over to success at it — and Posey knows he’s fortunate to posses a lethal mix of both.
“I think anybody that has caught before understands the grind of catching, not only the physical, the nicks, the wear and tear of squatting for nine innings night in, day out, but just the mental grind of working a pitching staff,” Posey said. “It’s demanding.”
Posey is also the just 14th player in MLB history since the rookie award started being handed out in 1947 to earn both honors. The last was Braun (2007 rookie, 2011 MVP).
Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong said that without Posey, the Giants would be a completely different club.
“His toughness definitely rubs off on us,” he told The Mercury News. “Even with how demanding the catcher position is, I’ve never seen him give away an at-bat. You know he’s got to be physically beaten down sometimes and mentally tired from calling games, but he stays out there and has good at-bats. To see him stay out there through all that, it rubs off on you.”
In a recent online poll shortly after the Giants won the World Series and before Posey was named MVP, readers were asked what percentage felt Posey was already a lock for the Hall of Fame.
A whopping 89 percent answered, “Yes,” while another 65 percent in a separate poll said they expect him to win between 4-5 World Series rings before his career ends.
Bochy, however, may have put a value on what Posey means to the Giants better than anyone else.
“I hate to think where we’d be without him,” he said. “He’s that important. He’s that good.”
Albany Herald staff member Barry Levine, The Associated Press, The Silicon Valley News and the San Francisco Giants contributed to this report