San Francisco Giants Buster Posey: What His Injury Means for Defending Champs

Nadia MishkinContributor IIIMay 27, 2011

Buster Posey being helped off the field May 25, 2011
Buster Posey being helped off the field May 25, 2011

The San Francisco Giants took a blow that hit the hearts of all 41,000-plus fans in AT&T park Wednesday night and millions more that were watching and listening. The blow also did irreparable damage to the heart of the Giants order. The heart of every witness to replays of the gruesome injury fell to the pit of their stomachs as one of baseballs best young talents writhed in the dirt in pain. 

Awaited reports surfaced Thursday morning that last season's Rookie of the Year and the San Francisco Giants star catcher suffered a broken bone in his lower left leg and torn ligaments in his left ankle. The injury occurred in a 12th inning home plate collision Wednesday night as the Giants fought the Marlins for the extra innings victory. 

In a controversial play that was deemed a clean move by members of the Giants clubhouse, Buster Posey did what any great catcher would do with the game on the line.

It was a 6-6 ball game in the top of the 12th inning, well-fought for and not surprising to Giants fans. Posey sacrificed his body for the sake of preventing the go-ahead run from scoring. Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins came in equally aggressively, leading to what could possibly be a season ending injury for one of the team's most prized possessions. 

But the game must go on.

The devastating injury to Posey brings up a multitude of immediate and looming questions. Has any hope of the defending world champs to repeat the feat been slashed? How will the team keep the ship afloat to stay in contention? 

Eli Whiteside was the immediate replacement for Posey Wednesday night. However, it is safe to say that even pitchers Ryan Vogelsong and Jonathon Sanchez are both more effective offensively than the replacement catcher. Brandon Belt, catcher Chris Stewart and shortstop Brandon Crawford were all called up from the minors Thursday morning. They will help to fill the void left by Posey, as well as fill in for other players such as Mike Fontenot and Darren Ford, who join Buster on the DL but should return in a couple weeks. 

Giants manager Bruce Bochy indicated that the players were brought up with a sense of urgency and that the team will need them all in order to remain a threat. It is a great opportunity for three young guys to come to the rescue of a great team that fell victim to some bad luck. 

The return of Giants' phenomenal prospect Brandon Belt was expected sooner of later. He is likely to replace Posey in the Giants batting order for the time being. He has the potential to be a big left-handed threat. He struggled in his first 17 games in the big leagues hitting only .192, but returned to triple A Fresno to dominate and had a .337 batting average before being called up. Hopefully he has made the adjustments necessary to be successful at the big league level.  

Buster Posey, who was hitting .284 with a .368 OBP and 21 RBI, and was a team leader even at such a young age will be impossible to fully replace.

Meanwhile, Pablo Sandoval is rehabbing his broken hand but should be returning to the team in a few weeks. He was having tremendous success before the injury, batting .313 with five home runs and 14 RBI this season. The Giants hope that he will return to form when he rejoins the team, despite coming back from his injury only to fill the void of another loss to the Giants' lineup.

Note: The Giants were 13-14 in 2011 when Sandoval was injured. They were third in the NL West and 4.5 games back of the Colorado Rockies. They had since then turned around and gone on a hot streak in which they lengthened their home winning streak to nine games and took a 3.5-game lead atop the NL West. The Giants lead has been diminished to 1.5 games, but the 2011 season has been anything but predictable so far.

The loss of Posey will undoubtedly hurt the 2011 defending champs. However if they can fight out another division title they might still be able to make another unlikely run to win it all. They presumably will be a much healthier team come October.

However, if Posey doesn't make his return this season, don't be surprised to see Giants GM Brian Sabean make moves for a new replacement catcher. It is rumored that the organization has already inquired into Pudge Rodriguez's availability and they very well might just see what it would take to get Bengie Molina back behind the plate. After all, they did give him a World Series ring. 

Buster Posey's injury brings up these immediate problems that the Giants' organization is forced to solve. However, they just might have some other tough decisions to make down the road. It had already been speculated upon whether a position change might be imminent to protect the young superstar.

Although it looks as if within due time Posey will be able to make a full recovery to catch again, the team may want to reconsider that. Former (and perhaps future) Giants catcher Bengie Molina mentioned that they would be smart to permanently move Posey to first or third base because he is so valuable. He also acknowledged that it wouldn't be easy, considering how much value Posey has behind the plate as well. 

Tough decisions and uncertainty riddle the Giants organization after such a big loss. Only time will tell how much damage the injury will really do.