The mood around the ballpark Thursday, just 12 hours removed from Buster Posey‘s ghastly injury at home plate, was one of hushed concern and mourning.
Players milled about quietly in a subdued pregame warm-up. Outside the park, fans could be overheard arguing the merits of the play and cursing their fate. Manager Bruce Bochy was holding court in the dugout, addressing a large throng of media not 30 yards away from where Posey lay the previous night, writhing in pain.
When asked if the team was angry about the Marlins’ Scott Cousins plowing through the Giants’ catcher to win Wednesday’s game, one fully expected Bochy to take a page from “The Book” and sidestep the question. Instead, the skipper stared straight ahead and let it rip: “The guys are not happy.”
It was an interesting admission from Bochy, a baseball lifer who adheres to the game’s unwritten rules as well as anyone. When it comes to anger and retribution, baseball people speak with an errant pitch or a hard slide. Rarely do they come right out and say they’re angry. But Bochy was speaking from the heart, and you could see it in his eyes. Like Posey, I’d guess the manager had not slept very well the previous night. He was conveying the anger and concern of the entire Bay Area.
Later that afternoon, following a listless 1-0 loss to the departing Marlins, Bochy had softened a little bit. No one on the Giants had retaliated on Posey’s behalf, and the manager seemed more concerned about his young catcher’s well-being than anything else. “He’s taken this pretty hard,” Bochy said softly. “As has his wife.”
As the news of Posey’s injuries came out that day, and the city absorbed the reality of its loss, it got me thinking about why this one was different.
Ballplayers get hurt all the time. Many of them much worse than what Posey endured.
But few ballplayers represent to their teams – and their communities – what Buster Posey has meant to San Francisco.
From the lyrical name to the no-nonsense demeanor to the otherworldly calm he demonstrated in leading a ragtag group of veterans to the championship as a rookie, Posey was a revelation last year. He reminded us of Magic Johnson, coming aboard a veteran Lakers team and leading it to the title. Or Mickey Mantle, a remarkable baseball talent whose matinee looks were matched only by his marquee name. Here in the Bay Area, you have to reach back to Joe Montana before you have a local icon who came of age in San Francisco before dominating the national sports stage.
For many, Posey is all of those players wrapped together in one, a prodigious talent forever married to the greatest season in San Francisco Giants history.
Now, let’s hope Posey will not remind us of Joe Charboneau, a one-year wonder for the Cleveland Indians who took the league by storm, winning Rookie of the Year as a hard-hitting outfielder in 1980, only to hurt himself in his sophomore campaign and disappear. Or Mark Fidrych, the Detroit Tigers’ eccentric ace who captivated a nation with one magical campaign in 1976, only to blow out his knee and his shoulder and fade away.
My money’s on Posey’s complete return. As Giants trainer Dave Groeschner said, he has age on his side. And his injury is not to the back, knee or shoulder, physical real estate that no ballplayer can afford to compromise.
Despite the feelings of dread and despair that pervaded the Bay Area’s sports scene this past week, this will not prove to be Posey’s undoing.
It was simply proved that Buster Posey is human, after all.
Michael and Ronnie: Michael Mina is one of the best-known chefs in the Bay Area. If you haven’t been to his place downtown – RN74 – you should check it out. French train station motif. Fabulous wine. Scrumptious food.
One thing you don’t expect to find is Michael Mina himself. But there he was, stopping by our table to ask if everything was OK. We got to talking, and before you know it, the conversation had shifted from wine and cheese to footballs and helmets.