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Stop Bustin' On Buster

Mychael Urban
May 30, 2017 - 5:48 pm
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Having pitched at a fairly high level (NCAA Div. I), covered the game at its absolute zenith (MLB) for roughly 20 years, and authored a book of which three All-Star/World Series champion pitchers (Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito) were the subjects, I feel comfortably qualified to sound off on what appears to be the hottest local sports debate that doesn't include the word "Warriors."

Because he didn't exactly make a beeline in defense of Hunter Strickland as Bryce Harper responded -- quite reasonably, it must be noted -- to Strickland's plunking/punking of Harper on Monday at AT&T Park, the question ripping through everyone's minds and timelines was this: Is Buster Posey a wise and savvy vet, a bad teammate, or, worse, a coward?

We can rule out coward right away. You simply can't be a big-league catcher and a coward at the same time. You're literally risking your faculties, long-term, every time you strap it on. And despite having been given the option, many times, of taking his faculties to the far less physical confines of first base to preserve his body and prolong his career, Buster has steadily and vehemently protested.

If you know anything about Posey's clubhouse cache, you can rule out bad teammate, too. He's virtually universally liked and respected in that room, and the only reason I use "virtually" as a qualifier is because it's all but impossible to be one of 25 to 40 workers forced to spend most of eight months a year in close quarters and be beloved by all. And that's in ANY business. The business of big-league ball makes it even tougher, what with massive egos, subtle sensitivities and the omnipresent specter of failure in the air at all times. But Buster's about as close as one can get to "having the whole room."

So that leaves wise and savvy vet, right? Yes and no.

Given Buster's injury history, wise probably fits. Dude just got off the concussion DL not long ago, he's had his ankle MacGyvered back together after one of the nastiest (but totally legal) collisions at home plate you'll ever see, and he's been advised to stay the hell away from any scrum -- be they celebratory (no-hitters, World Series wins) or sinister (basebrawls and related silliness). Savvy? Eh. Savvy would have been immediately breaking toward the mound in faux pursuit of Harper before sort of peeling off and disappearing into the non-combat zones that are the fringes of such fracii.

(I don't have time to look up the plural of fracas, and "fracii" is fun to type and say. Sue me.) 

So what do we make of it all?

Nothing. 

That's right. Nothing. Leave the guy alone. Making this about Buster is akin to making the NBA Finals about Tyronne Lue and Mike Brown, two more guys who'll be standing around as insanity swirls around them.

This is about Hunter Strickland and Bryce Harper. Nothing more, nothing less.

Looking for a coward? Take Strickland. Please. And take him far, far away. He gave up moon shots to Harper a couple, three years back that would make Elon Musk envious, and apparently Harper took a moment or two to admire them. So NOW Strickland decides to retaliate, with his team trailing by two runs late?

Bad teammate works for Strickland here, too. The Giants are having more trouble scoring of late than a middle-school chess club president at the last dance before summer. Putting Harper on in that situation was just stupid. And highly immature. 

Grow up, Strick. Better yet, MAN up. Instead of putting that 98 into Harper's glutes, how about putting it past him? If you can't beat 'em, drill 'em? That's the kind of approach that gets you labeled as gutless in a hurry across the league.

Yet I'm seeing Posey being tagged as gutless by more folks than is Strickland, and it's almost comically unfair. Unless we know exactly why Buster did or didn't do what he did, we can't possibly begin to judge him. And because Buster is wise and savvy enough to keep quiet rather than offer up anything that might be perceived as an excuse, we'll likely never know his true motivation for standing pat.

We know the motivations of Strickland and Harper, though. Strickland's was weak as weak sauce gets. Harper's, at least in my opinion, was completely justified. Throwing the helmet was a bad look, and it's a worse look if he were actually trying to hit Strick with it, as opposed to a clever diversionary tactic, but charging the bump under those circumstances? Have at it, kid. Wreck shop.

Strickland deserved the haymakers he absorbed. That should be the only story here.

Posey doesn't deserve the scorn.

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