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.