When news broke yesterday that Buster Posey was retiring at age 34 I didn’t think I’d get emotional. Then he held a press conference today where he choked back tears talking about all the people who helped him along the way during his 12-year career, and it was hard not to. He started by thanking his wife for being such an excellent mother and calling his four children the great joy of his life. He went on to thank Giants’ team trainers for keeping him on the field five years longer than his body would have allowed without their hard work. He then praised the teammates he recognized as good husbands and good fathers, and acknowledged his former manager Bruce Bochy, who was seated in the room to say goodbye.
All I could think when watching Posey speak was, No. Please don’t go. Not yet.
For the last 12 years Buster Posey has been the best player on the Dodgers arch rival. Yet he’s played the game so masterfully and with such everyman humility that I don’t know a single Dodger fan who hates him. It’s hard to think of a better compliment except maybe this:
If you’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Bay Area then you know you can’t walk a block in San Francisco without meeting a dog named either Buster or Posey. Maybe that’s even higher praise for the man.
Posey’s retirement comes after a season where he posted an OPS of .889—second best in his career. At his press conference, he said that he knew back when the 2021 season started that it would most likely be his last. The conventional wisdom was that he had such a resurgent season because he took last year off during the pandemic, and his body was finally healthy. But Posey was carrying a secret. Because he knew he would likely hang up his cleats when the season ended, he had decided to empty the tank and push himself past the point of exhaustion through the finish line. His end of marathon sprint lifted the Giants to a franchise record 107 wins.
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I remember his rookie year like it was yesterday. That’s probably because as a 23-year-old catcher Posey led the Giants to their first World Series title in 56 years. He also won rookie of the year and finished 11th in MVP voting. Earlier today I texted an all-star pitcher who spent much of his career in the NL West during Posey’s career and asked him for his favorite Posey memory. He said he vividly recalled being on the mound during Posey’s rookie season up at Oracle Park when the Giants blasted the Ghostbusters theme song for his at-bats. The home crowd chanted “Go Buster!” instead of “Ghostbusters” during the chorus, which amused even the most grizzled opposing player. This kid was iconic from the jump.
Posey says he retired because he wants to do more with his family from February to November each year. He also said that “things were not as joyful anymore” because of the physical pain he was in. Ten years ago, Posey was involved in an infamous home plate collision when Scott Cousins ran over him and caused him to sustain a broken fibula and torn ankle ligaments. The play quite literally changed baseball forever, as MLB decided it would no longer allow home plate collisions after one of its brightest young stars had his leg nearly destroyed. Cousins was also a rookie that season, but his career went the opposite direction of Posey’s: he hit two home runs and collected nine RBI at the MLB level in his life, and he is only remembered for the damage he did to Posey.
At his retirement press conference, Posey was asked about whether that collision was the reason his body could no longer handle being a major league catcher. Given the chance to enshrine Cousins in the Black Sheep Hall of Fame and make him feel even worse, Posey declined. He said there was no way to know how that play affected his career longevity, but that he suspected that instead of just one play, it was the accumulation of the 1371 games he’s played, most of them at catcher. It would have been easy for him to blame a player who shattered his leg and caused him to miss a season on his early exit. But Posey seemed to know he would be punching down by blaming Cousins. He refused because he is all class.
I’m not even a Giants fan yet I feel like I’m in mourning. San Francisco is the main nemesis in the Dodgers’ story. They’ll stay that way forever, but without Posey they just aren’t the same. I hope Posey finds joy in his retirement with his family and I hope his body recovers from decades of squatting behind home plate. I don’t know that we’ll ever see another catcher who leads his team to three titles in the first five years of his career, but I doubt it. And I doubt there will ever be another great Giant who Dodger fans respect so much.
Buster Posey, we will all miss you.