KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Buster Posey seemed almost embarrassed.
With an NL Rookie of the Year award and MVP plaque, with two World Series rings at age 27, and the possibility of earning a third in the next 10 days, the San Francisco Giants catcher is among the candidates to become baseball’s most popular star following the retirement of Derek Jeter.
“It’s obviously flattering to get those comparisons,” he said Monday, a day ahead of the World Series opener against Kansas City. “Derek Jeter is one of a kind. I think for me right now, my focus is on trying to win, trying to win four more games this season.”
He is so boyish looking that when he shaves, he could be mistaken for a high-school student. Giants pitchers maintain he’s been a key component to their success.
“He’s always been an old young guy, even when he first got here,” injured ace Matt Cain said. “He’s a guy that’s always been wise beyond his years. Definitely doesn’t act his age.”
Posey has accomplished so much in such a short time — this is just his fourth full season in the major leagues.
After winning the rookie award in 2010 while helping the Giants to their first Series title since 1954, the next season the Marlins’ Scott Cousins ran into him at the plate in late May.
Posey fractured a bone in his lower left leg and tore three ankle ligaments. Such was the concern about those kind of collisions that a new rule took effect this year designed to limit runner-catcher contact.
Posey’s outlook on baseball changed in a way he couldn’t have anticipated, giving an appreciation for each day he spends as a big leaguer.
“I think the further I get away from the injury, it’s harder to keep that in perspective,” he said. “I think that it’s something that I’m going to continually try to do throughout my career because, you know, just like that” — and then he snaps his fingers — “one play and your season could be over, potentially even worse. So you try to enjoy every minute you have out there.”
Posey came back with a historic season, hitting .336 with 24 homers and 103 RBIs to become the first catcher to win the NL batting title since the Boston Braves’ Ernie Lombardi in 1942. And then the Giants swept Detroit for their second title in three seasons.
“He’s one of the best hitters in the game, so he understands what hitters are trying to do at the plate,” Giants pitcher Tim Hudson said. “He understands what their approaches may be at times throughout at-bats. He understands when guys take swings and they look a certain way on certain pitches, what we probably should do to them after that.”
Posey batted .311 with 22 homers and 89 RBIs this season in a year when offense faded to its lowest level in four decades in some categories. What he does at the plate sometimes overshadows his prowess in other phases of the game.
“If you look at a team that’s had success, I think you should look behind the plate, because those guys play such a critical role in your success,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, a former big league catcher.
“Buster’s got a great way about him. Pitchers love throwing to him,” he said. “When he came up, we had some things to tweak with him to make him a better player, and he gets it. He’s made himself into, I think, an all-around elite player. Not just a hitter, but a catcher.”