Difference makers are behind the plate for NLCS
By MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency
|Giants catcher Buster Posey hits a grand slam against the Reds during Game 5 of their NLDS in Cincinnati on Oct. 11, 2012. (Jeff Haynes/Reuters)
SAN FRANCISCO - No longer do they refer to a catcher's gear as the 'tools of ignorance.'
That thinking went out with hoop skirts and 25 cents a gallon gas.
These days the catching trade is still a blue collar job but along the way it has been elevated into a celebrated role.
When Sunday's best-of-seven National League Championship Series opens up, the catching positions by the two teams will find themselves occupied by the two best in the National League and perhaps all of baseball -- Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants glamour boy Buster Posey.
Both players are the backbone of their respective clubs and are highly respected in the game.
Of the two, Gerald Dempsey Posey III -- Buster is a childhood nickname -- has had the more meteoric rise.
He was the Giants No. 1 pick in 2008 (fifth overall), a sure thing, a hot prospect from the get-go and since breaking into the big leagues in 2010 he hasn't disappointed.
In his first season he hit .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs and was the landslide Rookie of the Year.
In 2011 his season was cut short when on May 25 in a game against the Marlins, a collision at the plate left him with a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in his right ankle.
Posey, though, has bounced back this season, winning the National League batting title with a .336 average.
He also has carved himself a niche in Giants lore by hitting a grand slam in Game 5 of their just finished NL Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds. It was the cherry on top of one of the greatest team comebacks in history.
Molina, 30, is no slouch and is the youngest of the fabulous Molina catching trio.
He has proven to be the best defensive catcher in the league -- four consecutive Gold Gloves through 2011 -- and this year he had a breakout season at the plate as he hit .315 with 22 homers and 76 RBIs -- all career highs.
Both Poster and Molina, who figure to be neck and neck in the MVP race, are expected to play prominent roles in the series and how they fare could well determine the outcome.
The respective managers, Bruce Bochy of the Giants and Mike Matheny of the Cardinals -- both former catchers, by the way -- are eager to shower the two with praise.
"Well, we saw in 2010 what a difference maker Buster Posey can be for us," Bochy started off Saturday. "And we put a lot on him at that time, at his age, his lack of experience. We put him in the cleanup role and went on to win the World Series because of his bat and how well he caught.
"So it shows us not just the talent that Buster has, but his makeup is off the chart in the way he handled everything thrown at him, to be on stage and carry himself the way he did.
"And, sure, I think you're talking about two of the best catchers in the game when you're looking at Yadi and Buster, two guys who catch well, throw well, handle the bat, hit for power. They have the whole game. And so it's a big reason why these two teams are here, because of the two catchers."
Matheny was equally effusive in his praise.
"I've always been a big fan of Buster Posey," Matheny, who ended his playing career in 2006 with the Giants, said. "I was able to talk to him as he was a young player coming through the minor leagues in the Giants organization. And it didn't take too much foresight to realize that he was going to be special. You could see his makeup, leadership, natural leadership skills he has. And obviously he can swing the bat a little bit.
"But he's done a terrific job, especially as you look at the obstacles he's had with coming back from a tough, tough injury and still being able to get back behind the plate. I admire the fact when many of the conversations were going towards him moving to first base how adamant he was that he was a catcher. And I understand that mentality. But he's done a great job. He's had a fantastic season."
Matheny was on a roll by the time he swung the conversation over to his own guy.
"I will, however, stand behind the fact that Yadier Molina has impressed me more than any catcher I've ever witnessed," he said. "The things that he does that are intangible that you can only see by watching every day, and watching from a very critical eye. But he has everything that you would ask for from a catcher defensively.
"And then there are some things offensively people didn't think he would be able to do, and that was just enough motivation for him to figure out how to do it. And that's the makeup of a Yadier Molina. I know Buster has to have a lot of consideration as the most valuable player, but from where I sit I don't know how Yadier Molina couldn't be in that conversation, as well."
Any way you look at it, they're two of the best.