San Jose Mercury News
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Buster Posey has a trophy to go along with his World Series ring.
The Giants' young catcher showed the leadership of a veteran as he guided a talented pitching staff all the way to the first championship in the franchise's 53 seasons in San Francisco. His acumen also made him the clear choice as the NL Rookie of the Year, as announced by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Monday.
Posey easily outpointed another kid from Georgia, Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward, drawing 20 of 32 first-place votes to become the Giants' first recipient of the award since pitcher John Montefusco in 1975.
Posey joined an exclusive club of Giants to win the award_a Hall of Fame-studded group that includes Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Gary Matthews.
"It gives me chills to be mentioned with those names and to be one of few Giants to win the award," Posey said on a conference call. "Those guys were unbelievable players and great ambassadors to the game and they still are. I'm extremely humbled to be mentioned in same category as them."
Votes were due before the playoffs began, so the Giants' run to the World Series wasn't a consideration. It was expected to be a close vote between Posey and Heyward, each of whom was named on 31 of 32 ballots.
But Heyward received just nine first-place votes along with 20 second-place votes and two thirds to finish with 107 points. Posey had nine second-place votes and two thirds to finish with 129 points.
"I knew he would win this, with the year he had," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Here's a guy that hit in the heart of our order, handling our pitching staff. We threw a lot at him, but what a great job he did. No question in my mind, I'm very happy for him, and what a storybook season. The kid is an incredible talent as we know, and his tremendous makeup makes him even more of a special player."
Posey, 23, said it was "surreal" to win the award, adding that he didn't think about it until after the season.
"I was just trying to make an impact with the team and get some wins," he said.
Posey's impact was undeniable. The Giants promoted him May 29, after he tore up Triple-A pitching, and he played mostly first base before the club traded catcher Bengie Molina on July 1.
Posey responded by hitting .417 with seven home runs in July to earn NL Player of the Month honors. During the month, he also put together a 21-game hitting streak_the longest by any NL player in 2010 and one short of matching the Giants' rookie mark set by McCovey in 1959.
The Giants were 40-38 at the time of the trade; they went 52-32 after that, and Posey guided a pitching staff that held opponents to three runs or fewer in 23 of their last 26 regular-season games.
"I haven't had a player in his first year make the kind of impact that Buster made on this club," Bochy said. "You look where we were when he joined us. Then you look where we finished up. You've got to credit the guy behind the plate.
"Once he caught a couple games, I could see how comfortable he was, and I was convinced right off the bat that he was ready."
Posey's award also represents a victory for scouting director John Barr, who made Posey the fifth overall pick shortly after the Giants hired him to coordinate the 2008 draft. Barr deflected credit, but acknowledged the organization felt Posey could win this award when they drafted him.
"Definitely, we did," said Barr, reached by phone in the Dominican Republic. "We felt he could be a difference maker because he could help both offensively and be an asset with his work behind the plate. That was the main reason we were so excited about getting him.
"There's a lot of people involved, all the people who helped to bring him in the organization and refine him. But this is all about him. It's about the player and his ability and makeup. My hat's off to him.
"This is just one step in his career and in our organization."
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia was named on 18 ballots, receiving 16 third-place votes, to finish third. Florida Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez received two first-place votes but was named on just eight ballots.
The only voter to omit Posey from his ballot was Los Angeles-based Yasushi Kikuchi of Kyodo News. He listed Sanchez, Heyward and Garcia.
Posey might have cemented the award Sept. 21 at Chicago's Wrigley Field, when he hit a home run, caught four pitchers in a combined two-hitter and threw out an attempted base stealer in a 1-0 victory that kept the Giants in first place.
Posey became the first catcher to win a Rookie of the Year award and a World Series ring in the same season. And he repeated his podium-slapping message from the Giants' victory parade, saying he's readying himself for another title run next season.
He plans to work on strength training and improving flexibility, especially in his hips, when he resumes workouts in another week. For now, he and his wife are vacationing in the Florida Keys.
Posey received a standing ovation in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday when he was recognized on the field during a first-quarter timeout in the Florida State-Clemson football game.
"There's been a lot of stuff going on," he said. "I don't feel I've got the chance to catch up yet."
With Texas Rangers closer Neftali Feliz winning the AL award, it marks just the third time that both prizewinning rookies met in the World Series. Current Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1981, when his Yankees lost to the Dodgers and Fernando Valenzuela. In 1951, Mays and his New York Giants lost to the Yankees and San Francisco native Gil McDougald.
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