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Posey catches NL Rookie of the Year honors

Posey catches NL Rookie of the Year honors

SAN FRANCISCO -- Buster Posey, who contributed mightily to ending the Giants' World Series drought, broke another prolonged spell by himself Monday when the catcher was named the National League's Rookie of the Year.

Posey became the first Giant to earn the honor since right-hander John Montefusco received it in 1975. San Francisco's 35-year gap without a rookie award winner was the longest among all NL teams. Posey also was the first Giants position player to secure the honor since left fielder Gary Matthews did so in 1973.

Interestingly, San Francisco's World Series rival, the Texas Rangers, owned the Major Leagues' longest Rookie of the Year drought of 36 years before closer Neftali Feliz won the award in the American League.

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Posey's triumph thus mirrored the success of the Giants, who ended baseball's third-longest hiatus without a championship by capturing the World Series for the first time since 1954.

GO BUSTER
How the Baseball Writers' Association of America voted for the National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Pts
Buster Posey, SF 20 9 2 129
Jason Heyward, ATL 9 20 2 107
Jaime Garcia, STL 1 1 16 24
Gaby Sanchez, FLA 2 1 5 18
Neil Walker, PIT 1 3
Starlin Castro, CHC 3 3
Ike Davis, NYM 2 2
Jose Tabata, PIT 1 1
Jonny Venters, ATL 1 1
"I was just trying to make an impact with the team," said Posey, 23. "It's surreal to have won the award."

Posey, whose emphasis on team achievement never wavered during the stretch drive and the Giants' postseason push, admitted that he contemplated his Rookie of the Year prospects after the Commissioner's Trophy was delivered to San Francisco.

"The focus at the end of the year was definitely on winning," Posey said in a conference call. "But I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't think about [the award] once we finished up."

One of several talented rookies who flourished in the NL this year, Posey cited Atlanta right fielder Jason Heyward, St. Louis left-hander Jaime Garcia and Florida first baseman Gaby Sanchez as other worthy candidates.

"I think I could list a lot more," Posey said.

Ultimately, Posey eclipsed his rivals with a combination of offensive prowess, defensive skill and involvement with a winning club.

"What Buster did handling the pitching staff, handling himself and hitting in the heart of the order shows you what a tremendous kid he is," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It wasn't an easy task we put in front of him. But he's so strong mentally that nothing fazed him."

"For me," said manager Steve Decker of Triple-A Fresno, where Posey opened the season, "I think he's almost an MVP."

In balloting conducted by two members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in each league city, Posey was named first on 20 of the 32 ballots cast, second on nine and third on two. He finished with 129 points, based on the 5-3-1 tabulation system.

"This is an exciting day for Buster and his family, the Giants organization and for our fans everywhere," Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom said in a statement. "Buster's performance and presence played a tremendous role in the success of the Giants in 2010."

Heyward, widely favored to win the award through much of the season, finished second while garnering nine first-place votes, 20 second-place votes and two third-place votes for 107 points. Just five years ago, he and Posey opposed each other in a Georgia state high school championship game.

KING ROOKS
Six Giants players have been named NL Rookie of the Year by the BBWAA.
Player Year
Buster Posey 2010
John Montefusco 1975
Gary Matthews 1973
Willie McCovey 1959
Orlando Cepeda 1958
Willie Mays 1951
"I definitely was following him," Posey said of Heyward, who launched his award candidacy with an electrifying Opening Day home run. Posey called that "a really cool moment."

Posey generated his share of highlights as he compiled a .305 batting average, the best among NL rookies who played at least 100 games and the league's eighth-best overall after his May 29 promotion from Fresno.

Posey garnished that with 18 home runs (tied for fifth among NL rookies), 67 RBIs (fourth), a .505 slugging percentage (second) and a .357 on-base percentage (third). He also batted a team-high .312 with runners in scoring position.

Posey didn't start regularly until July 1, when San Francisco traded catcher Bengie Molina to Texas. Shortly afterward, Posey established his presence with a 21-game hitting streak, one short of tying the Giants' rookie mark set by Willie McCovey in 1959. Posey finished July with a .417 average, seven homers and 24 RBIs, earning him NL Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month honors.

Posey called his hitting streak "a good, confident span. It felt like every time up, I was going to hit the ball hard. I was happy to be able to ride that wave for as long as I did."

al rookie of the year voting
How the Baseball Writers' Association of America voted for the American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Pts
Neftali Feliz, TEX 20 7 1 122
Austin Jackson, DET 8 19 1 98
Danny Valencia, MIN 1 9 12
Wade Davis, TB 11 11
John Jaso, TB 1 3
Brennan Boesch, DET 3 3
Brian Matusz, BAL 3 3
Posey also earned praise for his handling of San Francisco's pitching staff, which led the Major Leagues with a 3.36 ERA. The Giants recorded a 3.18 ERA with Posey behind the plate. He also threw out 37 percent of would-be basestealers.

And though voters were required to consider only regular-season efforts, Posey accented his performance by starting all 15 of San Francisco's postseason games and hitting .288. Becoming the fourth rookie catcher to hit a World Series home run and the first to bat cleanup in a postseason game were among his October accomplishments.

Posey appeared in 108 games -- two-thirds of the regular season, which was the factor most frequently cited by experts believing that others such as Heyward were more deserving of the award. Heyward (.277, 18 homers, 72 RBIs, .393 on-base percentage) played 142 games; Sanchez (.273, 19 homers, 85 RBIs) appeared in 151.

But Posey maximized his time with the Giants. They were 46-29 when he started at catcher and 62-43 including his stints at first base before Molina was traded.

Posey's the sixth rookie in franchise history to receive the BBWAA honor. Preceding Matthews and Montefusco, the first three winners ultimately doubled as Hall of Famers: center fielder Willie Mays (1951), first baseman Orlando Cepeda (1958) and first baseman McCovey.

"It gives me chills to be mentioned with those guys," Posey said. "Those guys were unbelievable, unbelievable players and great ambassadors to the game -- and still are. I'm extremely humbled to be mentioned in the same category with them."

Cepeda, McCovey, Matthews and Montefusco were named the league's top rookies by The Sporting News, as well as five other Giants: right-hander Frank Linzy (1965), catcher Dave Rader (1972), right-hander John D'Acquisto (1974), center fielder Larry Herndon (1976) and second baseman Robby Thompson (1986). But the BBWAA awards traditionally have been considered a more prestigious distinction.

Posey also became the sixth catcher to be celebrated as the NL's top rookie by the BBWAA. His predecessors: Cincinnati's Johnny Bench (1968), Atlanta's Earl Williams (1971), San Diego's Benito Santiago (1987), Los Angeles' Mike Piazza (1993) and Chicago's Geovany Soto (2008).

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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