Kawakami: He’s opting out of 2020, but Buster Posey has never been more valuable (2024)

There was only one Giants player in attendance for the very tense news conference last November announcing the hiring of manager Gabe Kapler, but there only needed to be one.

It was Buster Posey, who sat quietly through the barbed questions and long answers, took it all in quite intently and afterward indicated that he liked what Kapler was saying and understood Kapler and Farhan Zaidi’s explanations and apologies for the way they dealt with alleged assaults on women involving Dodgers’ minor-league players when both men were executives with the Dodgers.


It was Buster Posey and, for the purposes of this extremely important moment for the future of the franchise, that meant so much more than just about anything Kapler and Zaidi could say. This wasn’t a public-relations ploy or a player kissing up to a new boss. This was Posey, with all the inherent personal integrity he carries, offering his focused concurrence to the Kapler hiring and the path ahead. So it meant almost everything.

That day, plus thousands of others over the past decade, was the subtext of Friday morning’s Zoom call, when Posey announced that he and his wife Kristen had just adopted newborn twin daughters, both still in neonatal intensive care after premature births, therefore he was opting out of the pandemic-adjusted 2020 season, which is set to start July 23.

A potential Hall of Famer, three-time World Series champion and 2012 MVP winner sitting out the season at 33 years old? That’s huge, of course, and, while there may be other, bigger names following him, for now, Posey is the most famous, most accomplished player on the opt-out list. And for the Giants, of course, it’s even larger.

The Giants will miss Posey dearly in 2020, exactly because he’s the kind of person who can make a mindful, significant decision like this in a moment like this, as plainly and logically and humanely as he did on Friday. He has to care for his family. He has to avoid any risks he can, and that means opting out of a baseball season that is fraught with potential exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite MLB’s protocols. He has to be sensible. He has to be safe. He couldn’t do anything else — the same way he has performed for the Giants and led the Giants since his arrival in 2010, which, of course, coincided with the most successful period in the team’s San Francisco history.


“We wholeheartedly support your decision,” Zaidi said after Posey’s announcement. “Personally, people may not know this, but Buster was incredibly supportive to me in my first year with the Giants organization. Had a lot of conversations with him. Made the transition for me a lot easier. Never had a chance to publicly thank him for that. Want to do that now.”

There had been an increasing amount of drama about Posey’s status leading up to this. The adoption wasn’t public knowledge, so Posey missing several days of training camp at Oracle Park was mysterious, except with the understanding it almost certainly had to do with the pandemic. Then this call was announced and, once it started, there were Zaidi, Kapler, general manager Scott Harris and I’m pretty sure I saw CEO Larry Baer on the call, too.

So you knew this was large. You knew what was about to be said. You knew that a pillar of this franchise would be removed, temporarily.

“I can’t sit here and tell you what the right answer is to this or the wrong answer is to this,” Posey said. “But after weighing it for a long time, talking to doctors, just feel like the current state that we are in right now and these babies being as fragile as they are for the next four months at a minimum, this ultimately wasn’t that difficult a decision for me. From a baseball standpoint, it was a tough decision. From a family standpoint, feeling like I’m making a decision to protect children, our children, I think it was relatively easy.

“I’ve spoken with different guys across the league. To be honest with you, full disclosure, I think if these babies hadn’t been born right now and weren’t premature I probably would be playing. I do think it’s very much an individual decision because we’re all trying to decipher information that’s changing rapidly.”

Posey is valuable for what he does on the field, naturally, though the production has been limited by injury and potential career falloff lately. But Posey is even more valuable to the Giants today than he was as the NL MVP because Posey is the soul of the Giants and he proved it again Friday.

Certainly, other players don’t have the financial security that Posey does, but he’s also walking away from millions this year. Certainly, every player and staffer have their own unique family situations, and now they know the team’s leader is opting out with the organization’s full support. There’s true value in this while Zaidi and Kapler try to rebuild this roster and rekindle whatever’s left of the 2010, 2012 and 2014 championship spirit. And when Posey’s back in 2021, all of this will only make the team stronger.

“When I was hired … there was one player in the opening press conference, that was Buster,” Kapler said. “He just is supportive and thoughtful and caring. And it is an absolute honor to be able to return that support and say that I think Buster is making an incredible and thoughtful decision for him and his family and the one that makes the most sense.”

Later, Kapler made a quick reference to some of the ways Posey would be missed. Kapler and Zaidi said that the team would welcome any involvement from Posey this season but also that the Giants would not in any way want to encroach on Posey’s time with his family in 2020. However much Posey can be involved in this bizarre season, it won’t be the same as having him on the field, interacting with young players like Joey Bart and handling this pitching staff.

“When he speaks,” Kapler said, “the catching drill stops and everybody listens.”

Through the Giants’ title run, Posey wasn’t ever the most vocal or most colorful part of the clubhouse, but he was at the quiet heart of it all. And he always made a point to sit next to pitching coach Dave Righetti when the Giants were at bat, just to analyze everything that was going on in real time.

I thought of that while listening to Posey, Kapler and Zaidi on Friday morning. That kind of presence is impossible to replace and impossible to fake. And I thought of the day in 2012 when Posey accepted his MVP award. It wasn’t in any grand news conference or on any podium. It wasn’t even in San Francisco or the Bay Area, at all. He accepted it on a video link from a fundraising event at the school in Georgia where his mother taught, with all the accompanying sounds and mayhem you might imagine going on in the background. And Posey looked like he was loving every bit of it, talking baseball, celebrating another Giants championship and enjoying his family.


“I think Buster said it perfectly,” Kapler said Friday. “It’s not a difficult (decision). I think a lot of people around baseball will say family first and I think it’s important that we actually put that into action by throwing all of our support in making these decisions even easier for players. So they know they have the support of the leaders in the organization.”

So the Giants will keep on working to start and maybe even complete this season. Posey won’t be there for these 60 games. It will be different. It will feel emptier. But he will be back in 2021, presumably when the world is saner and, hopefully, his family is healthy, happy and ready to watch him play some baseball.

(Photo: Dustin Bradford / Getty Images)

Kawakami: He’s opting out of 2020, but Buster Posey has never been more valuable (1)Kawakami: He’s opting out of 2020, but Buster Posey has never been more valuable (2)

Tim Kawakami is Editor-in-Chief of The Athletic's Bay Area coverage. Previously, he was a columnist with the Mercury News for 17 years, and before that he covered various beats for the Los Angeles Times and the Philadelphia Daily News. Follow Tim on Twitter @timkawakami

Kawakami: He’s opting out of 2020, but Buster Posey has never been more valuable (2024)
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