On Oct. 3, the final day of the 2021 regular season, Buster Posey picked up two singles as part of an 11-4 Giants win over the Padres, clinching the division title and giving the veteran catcher an even 1,500 hits for his career. After the game, Posey remarked on the milestone, describing it as a “nice mark, a nice round number,” before quickly drawing attention to the hits’ impact on the team’s win.
“I think being able to drive in some runs there with those last two hits probably [means] more than even getting there,” Posey said, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The attention-deflecting nature of that comment was pure Posey, and whether or not the 34-year-old catcher knew at the time that those would be the final regular-season hits of his career is unclear. What is abundantly clear, though, is the impact Posey has had on the Giants franchise and Major League Baseball over the past 13 years.
After 1,429 games and nearly 10,000 innings squatting behind the plate (regular season and playoffs), Posey is ready to call it a career. The seven-time All-Star and 2012 National League MVP is expected to make an announcement Thursday, according to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic. In typical Posey fashion, the decision was kept under wraps all season long, even as he put up one of the best performances of his career.
Posey's career is not an out-of-nowhere success story. As a high school senior, he was the Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year before enrolling at Florida State, where he excelled for three seasons and won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s best amateur player as a junior. The Giants took him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2008 draft, and he made his major league debut 15 months later.
His seven-game cup of coffee in 2009 aside, Posey arrived on the scene big-league ready. Measured by OPS+, he put up the fourth-best offensive season by a rookie catcher age 23 or younger in a century, earning him the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year Award. That October, he helped lead the Giants to their first World Series title since 1954, before the team relocated to San Francisco. Posey caught every inning of the team’s postseason run, batting .288 in the process.
Posey’s follow-up act was cut short in 2011 by a devastating leg injury that ended his season after just 45 games, a blow so severe to the game that MLB altered the rules about baserunners making contact with the catcher at home plate. In what would become a theme of his career, Posey overcame this significant obstacle to turn in his finest performance.
The 2012 season saw Posey put together one of the best individual seasons from a catcher in the game’s history, batting .336/.408/.549 with 24 home runs in 148 games to win the batting title and the NL MVP Award. He was the first catcher to win the award in the NL since Johnny Bench in 1972, and is the most recent to do so in either league. That playoff run to the franchise’s second World Series title in three years featured what was perhaps Posey’s signature October moment—a grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Reds.
That 2012 campaign kicked off a run of offensive mastery we might never see from a catcher again. From 2012-17, Posey played in 879 games—just over 146 per season, with roughly 80% of them coming at catcher. During that span, he put up a .311/.380/.476 slash line with 106 home runs, good for a 136 wRC+. Bench never had a six-year stretch that successful at the plate, and neither did fellow Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk or Ivan Rodriguez. In addition to the MVP award and his second World Series title, this stretch saw Posey make five All-Star teams, win four Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove and finish in the top 15 of MVP voting three other times.
Posey’s stature in Giants lore was already well established before the 2021 season, when he turned back the clock after appearing to be well on his way to a late-career decline. His performance in 2019 was by far the worst of his career, and he opted out of the 2020 season to spend time with his wife and newly adopted twin daughters amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Though we didn’t know it at the time, Posey’s 2021 season played out like a near-perfect swan song.
Posey appeared in 106 games behind the plate and put up his best offensive numbers since 2014, helping lead the Giants to their best regular season in franchise history. The magic of San Francisco’s 107-win season ended in a brutal loss to the Dodgers in the NLDS, though Posey did his part, going 6-for-20 at the plate and leading the team with three extra-base hits.
Along the way, the oft-reserved Posey was reticent to discuss his future plans, but offered some reflection following the Game 5 loss at how appreciative he was to finally get to play against the rival Dodgers in the postseason.
“It’s very special. I was hopeful at some point in my career I’d get the chance to play the Dodgers in the playoffs. It came down to the final game, a 2-1 game. You hope to come out on the other side of it,” Posey said, per Baggarly. “But it was a well-played series and I don’t think anyone on our side will have any regrets.”
Tasked with being the face of a franchise for over a decade, regret is the last thing Posey should feel about his singularly superb career. Now that it’s reached its end, the soft-spoken backstop will likely have more to say about his time in the big leagues. For now, though, appreciation is in order for the conclusion of a once-in-a-generation player reaching the end of the road.
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