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Posey is definition of most valuable

Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 6:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 6:28 p.m.

Buster Posey is Derek Jeter. And that is the highest praise.

Like Jeter, Posey does magic things, makes magic plays, makes magic throws, hits magic home runs — does things you barely can imagine, and he does them exactly when they matter most.

Like Jeter, he is the leader of his team — unquestioned leader. And that does not mean making speeches. It means playing with conviction and boldness, and showing his own team and the whole league what a “real” player is. He exemplifies “San Francisco Giant.”

Like Jeter, he has a pleasant, calm demeanor. He never says anything controversial. He is polite and professional, and he projects gentleman and sportsman, ideals our country admires even though many athletes — most? — no longer aspire to those ideals or even know they exist.

And one other thing: Like Derek Jeter, Buster Posey is one hell of a baseball player.

He got almost all the first-place votes for National League MVP, 27 of 32, and, frankly, he should have won unanimously. What season did the other voters watch?

He is what a Most Valuable Player is supposed to be. When Melky Cabrera got banished for being a cheater, the Giants seemed in dire straits. They had lost the MVP of the All-Star Game and they had no power hitters and their pitchers were — to use a Bruce Bochyism — “scuffling.” And you figured they would slide down the standings and miss the playoffs — although they would have had some good excuses.

Forget that. Posey went on fire and carried the Giants to the postseason. An MVP is a carrier, a man who carries the team, makes it better. Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were carriers. Posey is a carrier.

If you were starting a big-league team from scratch — starting one today — you would begin with Posey, who is only 25 and will play for another decade. There is no better choice.

Miguel Cabrera? Too old. And he took THAT third strike looking.

Albert Pujols? Seems to be declining.

Mike Trout? Green behind the ears. Needs to prove himself over more seasons.

Josh Hamilton? Lots of bad history there, too risky to build a team around.

Posey is young and he’s a catcher. Catchers are usually guys who look like sacks of flour, guys who don’t actually run — they scurry like crabs. Posey can run and he has an athlete’s body. Another thing — most catchers cannot hit. A team wants them for their ability to catch a ball and take the occasional foul tip on the kisser, and run the pitching staff.

Posey does all that and he just happened to win the batting crown last season. That means he is a hitter in a non-hitting position. He is, in fact, the cleanup hitter on a World Series champ. He has thrust himself into the company of Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella and Johnny Bench.

“We are extremely lucky that he’s a part of our organization,” Bruce Bochy said after the National League MVP Award was announced on Thursday.

You think?

If there is a more valuable player in baseball, please tell me his name. Posey is a manager’s dream and a team’s anchor, and he never makes a fuss. Even when Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito didn’t pitch to him — what was up with that? — he never complained. And when things got serious in the postseason, they sure as shooting pitched to him, and the Giants won their final seven postseason games and the pitchers were great.

They got Posey on a conference call late Thursday afternoon. He was at a charity event in Leesburg, Georgia, the town where he grew up — a charity event at the school where his mom teaches. You could hear him talking to his mother during the call, asking how long she’s run the event. He said he never considered not showing up for her just because he would be named MVP.

Asked about the award, he immediately said, “This is an award that can be shared with the entire Giants organization. I’m happy to be able to share this with them. I’ve been fortunate to play with some really good players.”

There’s a message in those words. He’s a team guy. He’s happy with awards, but the team is the thing.

Someone on the call mentioned Mays and McCovey, like him, were Rookies of the Year and MVPs — all together they are the only Giants in that dual category.

“To hear my name mentioned with those guys doesn’t even seem real,” he said.

The thing is he sounded sincere. It’s not like he’s putting on some humble act. That’s the way he really is.

More Posey. On whether he tried to pick up the slack post-Cabrera: “I don’t know if I did. I tried not to change much of what I’d been doing. I felt I was in a good place offensively. I tried not to overdo it.”

On why he insisted on coming back from his injury as a catcher: “It’s a position to start playing it in the first place, you have to love it. There’s something about being behind the plate and working with your staff. I wanted another opportunity to work with those guys.”

On which of his stats means most to him: “For me, I feel like it’s driving in runs, especially with the arms we have.”

And this we can’t overstate. Posey got his leg all busted up and missed most of the 2011 season. Some guys never come back from his injury. He came back with a drive we almost never see and, if anything, he was even better. That means he has a will to win that’s almost superhuman, and that means he is Derek Jeter.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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