Man, I’m Gonna Miss That Guy
Buster Posey announced his retirement this week. Posey was coming off his best season in at least seven years. He won the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award, after sitting out the short 2020 season to protect his newborn twins from COVID-19. Posey had been the mainstay of this Giants era – the Posey Era. He was the rock, ever present. He caught three World Series winning games. He caught no-hitters and a perfect game. He won the 2010 Rookie of the Year and the 2012 MVP. If I had to guess, he sold more jerseys in the Bay Area than any player, ever. His jerseys were everywhere, for a decade.
When I read the news he was retiring. I was at my desk and said aloud, “What the fuck.” It was shocking. It really was. Buster Posey…retiring? How is that possible? For a baseball player, his career was short – just ten full seasons. But that is life for a catcher.
As a kid, Buster Posey retiring would have been devastating to me, because I’d miss seeing him behind the plate. But as you get older your reaction to the world around you changes. Instead of being devastated, Posey’s retirement is just the latest event that makes me realize, “Wow, I am actually getting old.” When he was a rookie, I was 28, and I loved Posey. Then I got married, had kids…and now my kids love Posey. And now he’s retired.
Mostly, I am happy for him. Playing catcher is brutal on a body, and Posey’s body has been through a lot, including a shattered leg in 2011 and numerous hip surgeries. I can’t imagine how much pain he must go through to get ready for each season, or even each game. So I am happy that he made his choice and that he is going out on top. We won’t have to sadly watch him roll over grounder after grounder to second base and barely jog down the line to first. Instead, I got to see him go out like this, in person.
Still. I’m not ready. I’m just not. As Grant Brisbee put it:
You weren’t ready for the idea of a graying Posey ambling out to throw out a first pitch, or the idea of him as a gum-chewing manager in another uniform. You weren’t ready for a Giants team without him, and neither was anybody else. But the shock will fade, the sadness will dull and the memories will push through. One second, there was a baseball player in Tallahassee, and another second the Giants were the envy of baseball for close to a decade.
I am going to miss the way Posey would look up at the batter before calling his signs. I will miss Twitter exploding with the Ain’t Havin It gif every time he threw out a runner.
I will miss him walking off the field on a called strike three before the umpire even makes the call.
I will miss him driving an outside pitch to the right-center gap. And damn, I will miss the Buster Hugs.
The Giants will have a new catcher in 2022. We don’t know now who that is. But we do know that there will only be one Buster Posey. Man. I am really gonna miss that guy. -TOB
Source: “Buster Posey’s Career Was Like No Other in Giants History,” Grant Brisbee, The Athletic (11/03/2021)
PAL: Two thoughts. The first: I was shocked when I first heard the news. He hit .300 this year! He’s just 34! And then I came to my senses. He’s won three titles. A M.V.P., a Gold Glove, a batting title. He made $160M in baseball, not counting endorsements and investment (including an early investment in Body Armor, which Coke just paid $6B to acquire).
Above all, he and his wife have two sets of twins. If he’s accomplished all he wants to playing baseball, and has more money than he could spend, and the body is starting to bark, why the hell hang on! For whom? For what? As awesome as it sounds, being a professional baseball player and traveling for 6 months out of the year has to be hard on a family, especially with young kiddos.
Thought two: Buster was everything Joe Mauer was not, even when their career stats are pretty similar (especially when you take away Mauer’s years as at first base). Growing up in Minnesota, Mauer was a local legend not long after he became a teenager. He gets drafted by his hometown team, wins three (!) batting titles, Gold Gloves, and M.V.P. An absolutely incredibly talented catcher. Loved by all. Hell, he probably is a not-so-small reason the Twins get Target Field built…and yet his career feels insignificant because of his playoff story. He had exactly one extra-base hit in 10 playoff games, all of which were Twins’ losses. He never had a moment that I’d just come to expect from Posey in his playoff runs. Moments like this:
Or this playoff granny against the Reds:
Buster is a legend. One of the best right-handed swings. Great catcher, framer, thrower, and clutch hitter. All-time great team runs like the Giants had from 2010-2014 can only happen with someone like Posey at the center of it all. – PAL
TOB: A few more Buster thoughts. The HOF Discourse is already in full force. And the two camps seem to be: Yes, he’s obvious Hall of Famer and No, his numbers aren’t there. If you are in the first group you are smart and handsome and obviously right. If you are in the second group you never saw Buster play, you’re ignorant, your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.
Because if Buster Posey is not a Hall of Famer, no catcher can be. It’s a brutal position that saps years off a player’s career. As noted above, Posey lost two full seasons and had many more diminished due to injury and general wear and tear. But look at how good Posey was, throughout his entire career, when he was on the field.
Yes, the second most valuable position player over that time, behind Mike Trout. And if you look on a per at bat basis, while the gap between Trout and Posey is big, the gap between Posey and Votto at #3 is almost as large. Counting stats do not tell the story of Buster Posey. Not even close.
Posey did more than hit, though. As Phil said, he did everything a catcher has to do, and he did it great. Grant Brisbee had another article this week that I really enjoyed, highlighting a few less memorable moments where Posey did something incredible. Read the article, and also check this throw behind Justin Turner. Incredible.
Also, I just wanted to drop this in, because it will make me laugh every time forever:
Nice Guy Finishes First – Excellent Freddie Freeman Story
I’ll never have love for the Braves. My fan apex – the 1991 World Series – pitted my Twins against the Atlanta Braves. Blame Mark Lemke, or Terry Pendelton and his stupid double-flap batting helmet. Blame Steve Avery or Ron Gant; blame them all. Even with the Twins winning it, the sports hate that was forged during that 7-game series just can’t be undone.
With that qualifier, the Braves Freddie Freeman sure seems like a good dude. This story from Tyler Kepner details where Freeman’s sterling reputation as a leader, MVP, and all-around quality person came from: his mom, Rosemary.
Rosemary died of melanoma in 2000. Freddie was 10. After the Braves won the World Series earlier this week, it was a time to reflect.
He felt like, to honor his mom, he had to be a great kid,” his father, Fred Freeman, said on the Minute Maid Park infield late Tuesday night, after Atlanta finished off the Houston Astros, 7-0, in Game 6. “That was it. When he was 10, that’s what he decided he was going to be. He always said, ‘I know mom’s watching.’”
And while that’s an incredibly sweet, if not sentimental idea, it’s also a pretty heavy burden to carry from the age of 10. Living up to something like seems like it could zap some of the joy from a guy, but that doesn’t feel like the case with Freeman.
“Believe me, I wish I was able to hug my mom on that field,” Freeman said. “But I know she’s up with my grandma right now, jumping up and down.”
When asked how Rosemary wouldn’ve reacted after Freddie and the Braves turned a sub-.500 team at the All-Star break into a championship, Freeman’s brother said this:
“She’d be the first one on that field, running out to bearhug him right now,” Andrew said. “She did everything for us. She didn’t know baseball, so she bought ‘Baseball for Dummies’ to know how to do this thing. She would always wear our buttons — she was the ‘Button Mom’ in Little League — and to think that if she was here today, oh my gosh. It would be absolutely amazing.”
As I grow older, I am given more and more reasons to remember that – hey – we don’t know these dudes playing a game on our TVs. People that seem like good guys can be terrible people, and gruff athletes can turn out to be golden, and most are a mixture of both. Having said that, it’s still fun to read about good people winning. – PAL
Source: ”The Heart and Soul of a Franchise Shines Through,” Tyler Kepner, The New York Times (11/04/21)
Loving an Addict
As you might remember, former Hawaii football star Colt Brennan died earlier this year of a drug overdose. Usually when someone famous dies that way, the family tries to keep the details under wraps. But the Brennan family lived with and loved an addict for many years, and they are making their son’s struggles, and their struggles, an open book. In this article in Sports Illustrated, the family talks about Colt and his demons. Here’s the lede:
Colt Brennan’s parents were in Mexico for a wedding on a Saturday in early May when they started worrying about him again. A friend who fed their pets while they were away had been surprised to find a backpack in their foyer and heard music coming from somewhere inside the house. Colt’s parents called and texted him. He didn’t answer.
That Sunday, Colt’s last day alive, Betsy and Terry Brennan flew back to their home in the hills above Orange County, where a sign by the door announces ALOHA! Inside, they heard noise coming from the kitchen and found their 37-year-old son sprawled across a small sofa. Drunk and high, watching TV, he was surrounded by two bottles of vodka, some beer cans and several nitrous oxide containers.
Betsy groaned. Not again.
Colt, one of college football’s all-time great quarterbacks—and one of the game’s truly beloved figures—had struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. He tried everything to get sober, and then, recently, seemed to get there. To those close to him, in the few months before his parents returned, he appeared as healthy as he’d been in a decade.
Back in Irvine, though, Terry guided Colt to his SUV and drove off. Father and son didn’t speak. The silence felt like a scream. Overwhelmed with emotion, Terry wanted to cry, to “kick his ass,” to hold his son—to do whatever he could to stop the thing that kept driving Colt back to this. The sun was setting. Terry didn’t know where to go or what to do. He wondered, as so many addicts’ parents and families and friends have at some point, maybe many times over: Is this ever going to end?
As a parent, it’s truly heartbreaking – reading about Colt’s addictions, rehabs, relapses, and everything he went through and his family went through alongside him. I highly recommend it.
Source: “They Did Everything, But Nothing Could Ever Save Him,” Brandon Sneed, Sports Illustrated (11/01/2021)
Teams That Try to Win Do Win and Winning is Good
The Atlanta Braves won the World Series this week. I was kinda rooting for Dusty to finally get one, but there are also lots of former Giants on the Braves’ roster (Pablo [sorta], Will Smith, Adam Duvall, Steven Vogt, Adrianza) plus lots of other dudes I love (Albies, Freeman, and, although injured, Acuna), so this was a fine result. Plus, ya know, it wasn’t the Dodgers. The Braves won with a starting outfield acquired, entirely, at the trade deadline: Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, and Jorge Soler. They acquired reliever Richard Rodriguez and Vogt in July, too. At the deadline, they were 52-54. But they went for it. They closed 36-19 and then beat the Brewers, Dodgers, and Astros and never faced an elimination game while doing it. Not bad. As Zach Kram wrote, “Atlanta wasn’t the majors’ best team from April to September; it wasn’t all that close. It merely tried to win, and then it did. That’s a reason for a trophy, and for the other 29 clubs to take note.”
Similarly, but in another sport, the Los Angeles Rams are trying to win. The Rams are tied for the best record in the NFC, with Green Bay and Arizona, at 7-1. And they just traded a 2022 draft pick in order to get Von Miller, a good but not great pass rusher. The Rams first pick in the 2022 draft won’t be until the fifth round. But to give up those picks, they got guys like Jalen Ramsey and Matt Stafford and now Von Miller.
Of course, the Rams haven’t won the Super Bowl. But the Rams, like the Braves, have realized that so many teams are tanking, or “building for the future” that it’s not that hard to win right now these days, if you just try. As Kevin Clark writes regarding the Rams:
Through the years, I’ve come to learn how few teams are trying to win a championship each season. A few years ago, a smart NFL person estimated that only 10 or so teams were actively trying to win the Super Bowl in any given season. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said on the Flying Coach podcast the number is about five, and that the other teams are trying to survive. In his new book on the Patriots dynasty, It’s Better to Be Feared, Seth Wickersham writes that Jimmy Johnson told Bill Belichick that if you just get out of the way, 20 teams will remove themselves from competition. Job preservation, saving some money, and not doing anything too weird that’ll get you noticed are guiding principles in many front offices. This trade might be the new normal for the 12 or so teams that haven’t removed themselves from competition. This is what trying to win looks like in 2021, and it applies not just to the Rams, but to every team trying to have a Super Bowl roster.
It’s an interesting point – so many front offices have decided to take the longview that you can differentiate yourself by trying to take a short view: pay less to win now, worry about later, well, later. It’s a Moneyball tact, and as a fan, I like it. -TOB
Source: “Atlanta Used One Simple Trick to Win a Shocking World Series Championship,” Zach Kram, The Ringer (11/03/2021); “The Rams Keep Carving Their Own Path in the NFL Roster Arms Race,” Kevin Clark, The Ringer (11/04/2021)
PAL: Great combo summary, TOB. “Very few teams are trying to win a championship each season.” That’s insane and feels about right. How about this stat from the Kram story:
In the playoffs, the outfield quartet combined for a .270/.339/.505 batting line. In other words, against the higher-caliber pitching of the postseason, Atlanta’s four new outfielders were collectively as productive at the plate as Manny Machado or Nelson Cruz were in the regular season.
Less we forget, anything really can happen, especially in the playoffs. You never know, so why not go for it, like the Braves did, when you even have a small chance at winning.
More articulately put:
Try at the deadline, reach the postseason, and it’s possible to upset three superior rosters in a row, as Atlanta did against the Brewers, Dodgers, and Astros. In a short series, Freeman can homer off Josh Hader, and Tyler Matzek can transform into Mariano Rivera circa 1996, and the lineups’ performance with runners in scoring position can both shift in one team’s favor.
The more we see tanking across major sports, the more I think it’s as much about front office job preservation as anything else. More than anything, I think just wants a team to try to win. That’s not to say a team should always leverage a future for the present, but the tanking is too much and too often bears out too little.
Sometimes I Am Reminded that Most Sports Punditry is Very Bad, A Rant
The Braves won the World Series in Game 6, by a score of 7-0. It was a snoozefest, as they jumped out to an early lead on a gigantic home run from Jorge Soler.
It left the freakin building. It reminded everyone of Pujols’ huge home run against Brad Lidge back in 2005. After the home run, the Astros went down quietly. But the media narrative after the game was that Soler’s 3-run homer, in the third inning, took the wind out of the Astros’ sails. That it killed their spirit. That there was no turning back. I heard or read this multiple times, including by KNBR’s Tom Tolbert, who I really like.
But I am here to tell you that this narrative is b.s. It’s not true. And you only have to look back one single game to prove it. Because this is how Game 5 began, in the first inning:
That is a Grand Slam, people. The Astros, facing elimination, were in a 4-0 hole in the first inning. Did they go down quietly? Uh, no.
Over the next 8 innings, the Astros outscored the Braves 8-1, and staved off elimination in a 9-5 win. So why, one game later, do people think a 3-run homer in the third inning crushed the Astros’ spirits? They’re just wrong, trying to write a narrative where there was none. The real story is that Soler’s homer was huge, as any 3-run homer in the playoffs is, and the Braves pitching staff pitched their tails off. That’s it. -TOB
TOB With a Statement About Aaron Rodgers
Yes, I am aware of rumors and stories about Aaron Rodgers and COVID-19. No, I am not going to defend him (yet). I am “doing my own research.” This is a personal decision and I ask that you respect that as I come to my own conclusions. I will take no questions at this time. Thank you. -TOB
PAL: Readers! I found tape of TOB practicing his closing arguments for Cal’s own Aaron Rodgers:
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Mr. Parkinson would be appalled if he knew how Mr. Fox was behaving.Larry David