Giants reeling with season-ending injury to catcher Buster Posey

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Sure it looked the sun was shining on AT&T Park Thursday. But in truth there was a dark shroud over the ballpark, the San Francisco Giants, their fans and their future.

"It felt like a morgue when you walked in here today," said Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff.

The World Series champions suffered a devastating blow late Wednesday night. In the 12th inning, the Marlins' Scott Cousins made a play trying to give his team the lead and a victory. Cousins saw a hard throw coming into the plate, thought his best option for scoring was to shake the ball lose, lowered his shoulder and ran into catcher San Francisco Buster Posey.

And Posey -- who had dropped the ball -- twisted backward while his foot stayed underneath him. In the force of the collision, his left fibula snapped. His tendons tore. And his season, barring a miraculous recovery, ended.

It wasn't just the Giants who suffered a blow. It was also a blow to the game of baseball -- the loss of an emerging young star, last year's Rookie of the Year, a throwback who captivated baseball last autumn with his cool composure under pressure. Part of Posey's allure was that the baby-faced kid played his sport's most demanding, thankless, dangerous position at the highest level.

And now he's paying for it.

The severity of the injury to such a popular young star prompted an immediate outcry for a rule change to protect vulnerable catchers. Posey's agent, Jeff Berry, raised the idea. So did Posey's manager, former major league catcher Bruce Bochy, who said that baseball should look into changing the rules, requiring players to take a path to the plate if it's available to them. But Bochy wasn't sure how such a rule would look.

It's devastating to watch a star player suffer an injury just as his career is getting started. But most of the talk about rule change was emotional. Cousins hit on Posey wasn't illegal. It wasn't malicious. And while Cousins did appear to have an available path around Posey, he was making the decision in a split second. Cousins was distraught about what happened, leaving two messages for Posey the night after the collision and was barely able to maintain his composure on Thursday.

It's hard to imagine exactly how a rule change could be enacted. No going for a player's head? Fine, but this hit was shoulder to chest. No contact at all? Virtually impossible. Legislate that players must take an available path? How to determine that? With a lengthy video review?

Others, like Angels manager Mike Scioscia, lamented the collision but questioned whether "there's enough there to rewrite the rule book." Even Ray Fosse, the victim of the most famous home plate collision -- when Pete Rose took him out in the 1970 All-Star game -- told the San Francisco Chronicle, "The game has been around more than 100 years and now they're going to start protecting catchers? I can't see anything that can be changed."

Playing catcher in the major leagues is a brutal job. The Giants have been fighting the urge to encase Posey in bubble wrap ever since he was called up a year ago Sunday. The full 12 months of his career have included discussion about moving Posey to first base.

That talk was only getting louder in the weeks before Wednesday's collision. Posey had taken too many foul tips to the head. The Giants have already seen catcher Mike Matheny's career end from foul-tip induced concussions. They were concerned.

They'd be concerned about any player, but Posey is the one they really couldn't afford to lose. He's the glue behind their pitching staff, their cleanup hitter and their foundation for the future. He's their square-jawed Captain America on a goofy cartoon-strip team. Within a year, the Giants had become not only champions but also Posey's team.

But he became the team leader because he was the catcher. It's hard to separate Posey from his position.

Now the Giants don't have him. Their options are limited, with their dramatic loss of leverage. Any trade talk to get a catcher will involve another team demanding a piece of the Giants rotation, and general manager Brian Sabean isn't likely to break up his team's strength. Without Posey, the Giants would be even less likely to part with any promising position players.

For now, they'll scrape by with backup catcher Eli Whiteside and minor league journeyman Chris Stewart. By Thursday night there were reports that the Giants had contacted Washington about Pudge Rodriguez.

Another offbeat possibility is currently unemployed Bengie Molina, who was Posey's predecessor, was voted a Giants World Series share, played in the World Series for the Rangers seven months ago, and knows the pitching staff better than anyone besides Posey. The Giants wouldn't need Molina to hit (he was once miscast as the Giants cleanup hitter), just catch. But there are obvious questions about Molina's baseball shape, and his willingness to return to a team who hurt his feelings by trading him last year. Molina spoke with the San Jose Mercury News on Thursday and said he could be ready to go, if asked.

How the reeling Giants go forward remains to be seen. But they won't be doing it with their young leader Buster Posey.