In every way, Buster Posey is most valuable to Giants

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In every way, Buster Posey is most valuable to Giants

SAN FRANCISCO How valuable is Buster Posey?

When he was injured and on crutches last year, Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy personally asked him to join in team meetings, and take thefloor. Even when his cleanup-hitting catcher couldnt walk, Bochy knew thatPosey could make his teammates better.

He wanted to stay involved with the club, and we wanted himto stay involved, Bochy said. Hes just a calming influence on everybody.

And a winning influence. Bochy knows it, his Giantsteammates know it, and voting members of the Baseball Writers Association ofAmerica mustve gotten wise to it when they bestowed 27 of 32 first-place voteson Posey to make him a landslide winner of the NL Most Valuable Player award onThursday.
RELATED: Buster Posey honored with NL MVP award

Just four years ago, Posey won the Johnny Bench Award as thenations top collegiate catcher. Now hes the first backstop since Bench in 1972to receive the NLs most prestigious honor.

Posey, Bench and Thurman Munson are the only catchers inhistory to win an MVP Award, a Rookie of the Year award and a World Seriesring. Posey, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey are the only Giants to accomplishthat trio of feats.

All of which makes Poseys level-headed noggin spin thetiniest bit.

To hear my name mentioned with those guys doesnt even seemreal, the 25-year-old said. Ive always been such a big fan of the game and have suchhuge respect for what hose guys accomplished. To be mentioned alongside themmeans a great deal to me.
RATTO: Posey takes the fun out of NL MVP race

Posey was speaking on a conference call from his boyhoodhome in Leesburg, Ga. Earlier in the day, he attended a fundraiser for theTransitional Learning Center, where his mother, Traci, teaches students whohave not been successful in a regular school setting due to behavior oracademic difficulties. The school serves children in Lee County who were referredby their former schools, tribunals or through the court system.

The schoolsexpectations, according to its Web site, are these three words: think, learn, consider.

Sounds like an apt summary for Poseys approach to the game,right?

He is acing all the exams. Despite playing just one full season and parts of two others, he has accomplished two World Series titles, caught a perfect game, won a SilverSlugger and a Hank Aaron Award, claimed Comeback Player of the Year honors andwon a Rookie of the Year trophy.

And now, the MVP.

He accepted it on live television from what looked like across between a chemistry lab and a polling place, and while wearing a plaidbutton-down shirt and holding onto one of his 15-month-old twins. He had his family, friends and others behind him.

He never thought of ditching the fundraiser for a more polished setting.

When I found out theres a conflict, I figured there was away we could make it work one way or another, he said. It turned out great,having more family and friends around for the announcement.

It made for a perfect backdrop. Posey, the Deans Liststudent at Florida State who treats his major league career with the sameearnest, studious drive, became the youngest NL MVP since Ryne Sandberg in1984.

Hes also the first NL MVP wholly developed by the Giantssince Willie McCovey in 1959.

When we drafted him we knew we were getting a talentedplayer, we knew what a good hitter he was, and we knew he was converting tocatcher, Bochy said. I didnt know he would become the caliber of catcherthat he is today quite so fast. We knew he was a good makeup guy, but hisprofessionalism, his handling of the staff, its amazing how good he is.

We knew we were getting a good player, I dont think anyoneknew how great he would become.

And no, Bochy did not pencil in Posey to lead the majorleagues with a .336 average, post an on-base percentage over .400 or drive in104 runs. Not after Posey couldnt put weight on his left leg for four monthslast year. Not after the heat-seeking hit at home plate on May 25, 2011, thatsnapped his leg and ruined his left ankle to the point where it required twosurgeries to repair the damage.

But team orthopedist Dr. Ken Akizuki restored the ligaments,head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner and his staff partnered with Posey todevelop an intensive rehab program and a spring full of trepidation passed without any setbacks.

Posey wasnt remiss in thanking Groeschnerand the medical staff while accepting news of the award.

Its an accomplishment that is shared with the whole Giantsorganization, and it starts at the top with great ownership and a front officewho is putting these guys on the field, Posey said. Its a great place tocome and play ball every day Weve seen the past couple years how passionateour fans are, so I couldnt be more honored to have my name among the previouswinners.

Would the Giants have three-peated if they had Posey healthy down the stretch last year? It's impossible to say. But Bochy agreed that itsreasonable to believe that they wouldve at least made it into the playoffs.

I certainly think so, Bochy said. Hes the MVP. Hesgetting his due recognition as far as being one of the elite players ever inthe game, and hes in a class with some of the greatest players in the Giantsorganization. I knew he would win and its richly deserved.

It just amazes me what he accomplished coming off thatdevastating injury. It shows you not only how talented he is but how tough heis.

Ballots were due before the playoffs began, so the Giants' six elimination victories on their way to a World Series sweep over the Detroit Tigers wasn't a factor in voting. Still, Posey was named on all 32 ballots while receiving 27first-place votes, four seconds and one third. Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun,who finished a distant second, also was named on all 32 ballots, never lowerthan fourth, and received three first-place votes. Cardinals catcher YadierMolina received the other two first-place votes and finished fourth. ThePirates Andrew McCutchen, who finished third, was the only other player namedby all 32 voters, who each submitted a 10-deep ballot.

Braun told theMilwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he supported Posey winning.

"I think Buster Posey deserved to win," Braun said. "What he was able to accomplish this year as a catcher for a team that eventually went on to win the World Series was incredible. I thought he was the best player; I though he deserved to be the MVP. He certainly is deserving of the award."

The Giants became the fourth team in major league history,and the first since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, to have a player win theregular-season MVP (Posey), All-Star Game MVP (Melky Cabrera) and World SeriesMVP (Pablo Sandoval) in the same season.

One of those MVPs abruptly left the scene on Aug. 15, when Cabrera wassuspended for testing positive for exogenous testosterone. But Posey only got better from there, and more valuable.

One year after he couldnt walk, Posey carried his team.

I do know I definitely have a deeper appreciation for beingable to play baseball, Posey said. Ive seen it can be taken away quick. Ihope I can continue to embrace the game and enjoy it because that was my mindsetcoming into the year: just enjoy each minute that youre out there.

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

SAN FRANCISCO — At his introductory press conference Friday, new Giant Mark Melancon was asked about the fearlessness it takes to be a big league closer. He looked down at the first row of seats, where his wife Mary Catherine was sitting in a brand new No. 41 jersey, smiling. 

“You should probably ask my wife that,” Melancon joked.

When the Melancons got married, Mary Catherine had a calligrapher write up an actual bucket list of things the two could do together and presented it to Mark as a wedding gift. 

“It’s framed and it’s in our bathroom,” Mark said during an interview with CSN Bay Area on Friday. “It’s literally in our bathroom and we look at it all the time and try to plan out what we’re going to get done. Because it is on paper and it’s a goal and all that, we’ve checked off probably 40 or 50 percent of it in six years.”

The check marks include biking down the world’s “most dangerous road” in Bolivia and diving with great white sharks near New Zealand. The Melancons have visited Dubai and gone on a safari and stayed in countless cities off the beaten path. They have gone underwater with manta rays and high in the air in a blimp. Some of the items are simple ones, like attending a Nascar race. 

“There are a few items we’ll have to wait for until after baseball,” Melancon said. “We try to keep it safe of course, but it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a way to kind of bring creativity and allow ourselves to do things you could easily say no to.”

The standard MLB contract prohibits quite a few “dangerous” activities, and with a four-year, $62 million deal that is currently the second-biggest ever for a reliever, Melancon will hold off on certain trips, like skiing the Swiss Alps. “Attend the Kentucky Derby” is on the bucket list, but because the Derby is in May, that one is saved for retirement. In his first year with the Giants, Melancon hopes to put a check mark next to “sit backstage at a concert.”

Melancon said the thrill-seeking has slowed down a bit because the couple now has three young children, two daughters and a son. The Giants are hoping the more relaxed vibe carries over into their ninth innings. Team officials have been told by past Melancon employers that they signed a closer who is “boring” on the mound, in a good way. With a cutter-heavy approach, Melancon tends to get his ninth-inning work done quickly and without drama. That’s a welcome change of pace for an organization that has grown accustomed to “torture” late in games. 

“He was our target and we’ve gotten to know him, and the more we’ve gotten to know him the better we’ve felt about the fact that he was really meant to be a Giant,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said. 

The Giants had Melancon as their top offseason choice — and only big offseason expenditure — all along. Team officials feel even better about that approach after watching Melancon tour the ballpark Friday morning and meet with season-ticket holders and team employees. The fit was an easy one, with one member of the front office saying Melancon is “practically straight out of Giants central casting.”

Melancon’s new teammates feel the same way. He said eight to 10 of them have reached out since the deal was announced Monday. The group includes the types of players who are on any free agent’s bucket list of potential teammates. A ground ball pitcher, Melancon is looking forward to working with a Gold Glove infield. 

“That’s kind of an attractive thing to have a couple of Gold Glovers (up the middle) and then being able to throw to Buster is icing on the cake,” he said. “When you put things together on paper and go ‘who do you want to throw to and back you up,’ this team stands out.”

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler is headed from the World Series champions to their biggest rival.

After helping the Chicago Cubs end their long championship drought, he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Fowler fills the last big hole left in the Cardinals lineup after moves made earlier in the offseason to shore up the bullpen.

"It was an honor just to be considered to be in the Cardinals organization," said Fowler, who will wear No. 25 in honor of his mentor, Barry Bonds, because his usual 24 is retired by the Cardinals.

"You play against the Cardinals, I've been playing against them for eight years now," Fowler said, "and they always come out fighting. Always fighting. And then being with a rival, being the Cubs however many times we play them a year, you see them and - it's always good a winning team wants you."

Fowler was also a free agent a year ago, when he spurned a $33 million, three-year offer from Baltimore, who refused to offer an opt out after one year, and signed a $13 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. He hit .276 with 13 homers and a career-best .393 on-base percentage that landed him in his first All-Star Game, then had a pair of home runs in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

"Playing over there, and playing against the Cardinals, you see them and you saw that they weren't far away," Fowler said. "Obviously they beat up on us, we beat up on them. It was almost even. It was one day or another. I can't put my finger on one thing or another, but we're definitely close."

His new deal calls for a $10 million signing bonus, payable in $1 million installments each July 1 and Oct. 1 for the next five years, and annual salaries of $14.5 million.

He gets a full no-trade provision, $50,000 bonuses for making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove, a $25,000 bonus for a Silver Slugger, $100,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $150,000 for World Series MVP. He would get $250,000 for NL MVP, $150,000 for finishing second in voting and $100,000 for third through fifth. He would get $50,000 for Division Series MVP if the award is created.

One of the goals this offseason for St. Louis was to get more athletic, both defensively and on the base paths. Fowler was identified early in the process as someone who filled that role.

"He was always someone we were hoping to sign," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said, "but after this past week at winter meetings ... we certainly wanted to get this done. And we're excited we got this done."

The lanky 30-year-old from Atlanta is a .268 career hitter over nine seasons with Colorado, Houston and the Cubs. He's expected to slot into the Cardinals' leadoff spot, giving St. Louis a switch-hitter in front of lefty-hitting Matt Carpenter and righties Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina.

"You obviously have great presence at the top of the lineup," manager Mike Matheny said. "The athleticism, the excitement of bringing in a player that has all those physical attributes, I think it's been well-said, this is the guy we were hoping to be sitting up here with."

Fowler said negotiations with the Cardinals were easy with one notable exception.

"We were on a 2-hour time difference, and I guess he wanted to get in touch with me," Fowler said, "but I was in the dentist chair, so he couldn't get in touch."

So, Fowler sent his agent Casey Close a photo of him to pass along to Mozeliak - "That was a first for me, that kind of photo," the GM said - and everything proceeded smoothly after that.

The news of his signing started breaking while Fowler was on a plane to St. Louis, and that also created some problems: namely, with his sleep. People started coming up to him while he was trying to take a nap and asking him whether the news was true.

"I was like, 'Uh, you know, I don't know,'" Fowler said with a grin. "It was definitely funny."

Fowler is eager to help the Cardinals add their 12th World Series championship.

"This is a baseball city," said Fowler. "The fans, every time you come here, you see red everywhere. That's awesome to see. Even going through our parade (in Chicago), you saw Cardinals fans out there. They've won World Series (and) they're poised to be back in the World Series and win again. That was a big part of my decision."

The Cardinals were investigating the trade market for an outfielder during the winter meetings, but decided Fowler was their best option. Because Fowler did not accept Chicago's $17.2 million qualifying offer, St. Louis forfeits its top draft pick next June, No. 18 overall, and the Cubs get an extra selection after the first round as compensation

It was a sacrifice the Cardinals were willing to make to not only improve their lineup, but snag a piece away from their biggest rival in the NL Central.

"There's always the baseball angle in all decisions, but there's also the human element," Mozeliak said. "We think about him as a leader. He wants to have a voice in that clubhouse. When you think back to wanting to change the culture of what we have going on - we like what we have, but now it's even better."