By: Don Porcaro
A 4x All-Star, 3x World Series Champion, National League MVP and Rookie of the year, Gold Glove Award winner, 3x Silver Slugger Winner, Hank Aaron Award Winner, National League Comeback Player of the Year, Batting Champion and World Baseball Classic Gold Medalist. These are all of the accomplishments of Buster Posey in his Major League career alone.
Posey is arguably one of the most accomplished players in the Major Leagues and the unquestioned leader of his team. That was, until a fight broke out yesterday between Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland. Posey, stood behind the plate while the rest of the benches cleared and created a huge brawl in the middle of the infield. As the leader of this team, many questioned why Posey stood back and watched his teammate get drilled in the face with a right hook from Harper.
Because of this, many have called out Posey for his lack of leadership. But did Posey really do the wrong thing? Let’s think about previous fights that have happened in the MLB. A majority of them start the same way. The batter gets hit, and runs out to the pitcher, drops his bat and fully swings his fists instead. The catcher usually runs out to try and stop the batter before benches clear and an all out brawl breaks out on the mound. Being one of the first ones in the pile, the catcher usually ends up on the ground and sometimes get taken down pretty hard. Search up any baseball brawl. The catch ends up on the ground, most of the time in an awkward position.
If there is anyone in the Major Leagues who has suffered pretty awkward yet serious injuries, it’s been Buster Posey. In 2011, Posey suffered a broken leg in a collision at home that was so bad, the MLB actually changed the rule of runners colliding at home with the catchers. Known as the “Posey Rule” implemented in 2012, “runners may not run out of a direct line to initiate contact with the catcher or any player covering the plate” Rule 7.08 (b). Posey has also suffered multiple concussions due to hits to the head while batting and catching. He has been one of the few players who has had major success even with a relatively injury riddled career.
Many players and fans might argue that you stand by your teammates no matter what. The chances of Posey getting seriously injured were pretty slim, so why not go out and defend your teammates? Well, most catchers would. In fact, in prior situations, Posey has done just that. In the fight from 2013, Posey steps right in front of Jesus Guzman to prevent him from charging at Madison Bumgarner. Coming off his second world series win, this team was very close-knit. Buster knew he had to protect his ace. This wasn't the only time Posey has done this, as the next year he stepped in front of Yasiel Puig who tried to charge the mound.
So why not this time? Both Guzman and Puig were relative in size to Harper. In all three cases he had time to step in front of the batter before they charged, so what made this so different? Well to start, it was Bumgarner who he was protecting the first two times. The team's ace pitcher, who had earned full respect of the team after his dominating performances in the playoffs. Without Bumgarner, San Francisco doesn't win the World Series. But a good leader protects all of his teammates, right? Well maybe not in all cases. Hunter Strickland had no reason to hit Bryce Harper. In the two times Strickland face Harper, Bryce did exactly what he gets paid millions of dollars to do. He took Strickland deep twice in the 2014 playoffs. Since then it seems Strickland has held a grudge against Harper for three years and he finally got the chance to get back at him. I’m all for the excitement of players charging the mound, but this is such a sore loser thing to do. He beaned Harper for hitting a home run. I don't blame Harper at all for charging.
Put yourself in Posey’s shoes for a minute. The team is 22-31 and 11 games out of first. Your star pitcher went on the disabled list after a dirt biking accident and your other star pitcher has been sub-par to put it nicely. I team once thought of as a powerhouse in the N.L. West has been falling deeper into the basement by the game. Posey is the only healthy star on that team. Only two weeks after coming off the disabled list, why would he put himself at risk because of a butt-hurt reliever that wanted revenge from three years ago. If Posey goes down again, who knows how bad this team could get. This might have been the most veteran thing Posey could have done. Instead of finding himself suspended or on the DL, Posey gets to play tomorrow while Strickland and Harper will be sidelined.
After the game, Posey spoke the reporters and justified his actions. Saying it will “be a little dangerous to get in their sometimes” speaking on the brawl. He used Mike Morse as an example of a big man, 6’ 5” to be exact getting knocked around “like a pinball”. Sure, off the bat it seems a little bit of a coward comment that he was scared of the fight. However, he did have a point. Guys who had nothing to do with the fight were coming in and getting knocked around. Check out some of the guys running out after Harper in the fight. Watch Mike Morse and Jeff Samardzija collide.
This was an example of being a veteran by Posey. This doesn't represent the Giants, nor Posey. This was Strickland, on his own, beaming Harper. Posey did not call the hit by pitch, even though he set up inside. Look at how Posey reacted after the pitch. It was almost as if he was thinking “Cmon man, really?” Obviously he was frustrated by the pitch and did not want it. I do not blame Posey at all for this. it’s amazing how the media was a way of switching things as well. If Posey runs out, gets tackled, and lands awkwardly on his leg this becomes a whole different story. Lead stories would read how Posey was immature and should have stayed back. This was the complete right move on the part of Buster Posey.
Photo: (USA Today)