He’s No Poser

November 15

There’s never been any doubt in my mind that the Giants’ Buster Posey was NL Rookie of the Year, but that doesn’t mean I was sure he’d win the award. During the postseason I spoke to a few writers from across the country who presented a strong defense for Jason Heyward of the Braves. They held it against Posey that he didn’t play a full season.

That didn’t bother writers in 1959 when the Giants’ Willie McCovey won despite playing barely over one-third of the season. It’s about the IMPACT a player makes on his team and on the league. On that count and many others, Posey was the clear winner.

About six weeks ago when I blogged about the postseason award winners, I wrote that Heyward might end up having the best career out of all the fine rookies in this year’s crop. In fact, if you asked me which would end up in the Hall of Fame, I would bet on Heyward over anyone — even Posey, who certainly seems destined to have an excellent career. It’s also true that in many other seasons, Heyward is a hands-down winner.

However, Posey was the MVP of the Giants, who became a different team once he became an everyday player. He handled a pitching staff that went on that historic run of excellence in September. He batted cleanup and gave a spark to a struggling offense as the Giants made a tremendous stretch run to the postseason, putting a cherry on top with a home run on the final Sunday to help clinch the NL West.

I can’t remember a bumper crop of rookies like this year’s. Yet Posey stood above them all. He is mature beyond his years, sounding like a 10-year veteran. When he really is a 10-year veteran a decade from now, I’ll be very interested to see where he and the Giants reside in the baseball universe.

The Rangers’ Neftali Feliz was the AL winner, and a Facebook friend asked me today when was the last time a World Series featured ROY’s on opposing teams. A little research led me back to the strike-shortened 1981 season, Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers vs. Dave Righetti of the Yankees. Those guys turned out OK.

It’s interesting to look back at past winners; like the disclaimer in those investment house commercials, the award is not a guarantee of future success. A Dodger won the award for five consecutive years in the 90’s, yet L.A. didn’t do a thing in the poseason with that group. On the other hand, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Walt Weiss won the AL award from 1986-88, and the A’s excelled.

Past winners have included Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Frank Robinson. They have also included Jerome Walton, Butch Metzger, Bobby Crosby, Marty Cordova, Bob Hamelin, and yes, Joe Charbonneau.

The greatest rookie season ? Statistically, you’d have to go with guys like Albert Pujols, Walt Dropo, Frank Robinson, Mark McGwire or Ichiro Suzuki. In reality, it’s a no-brainer who had the greatest rookie season ever — Jackie Robinson in 1947.

Posey may remain the Giants’ most important player as long as he remains a catcher. I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t be the case for the next eight to ten years. That’s a big, wide window of opportunity for a franchise that also possesses some of the best young arms in the game.

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