Top catchers: A Giant among backstops

ESPN Illustration

Buster Posey's parents tell the story about the one attempt their son made to free himself from his nickname. He was very young, in elementary school, and Gerald Dempsey Posey III informed his folks he no longer wanted to be called Buster.

The response was, in summation: Well, that's what we call you. That's your name.

That the boy simply moved on and never raised the issue again was probably some early insight into his tendency to keep everything in perspective, to recognize what he can or can't control and what's actually important. Teammates and scouts talk about his unique equilibrium in everything he does -- his handling of pitchers, his interaction with umpires, and his at-bats. One evaluator summed up Posey's textbook simplicity as a hitter: "He hits fastballs to the opposite field, and he pulls breaking balls."

Posey turns 30 in March and is right in the middle of his career and uniformly regarded as the best catcher in baseball, entering Year 5 of his nine-year deal with the Giants. He's a four-time All-Star, won awards for Rookie of the Year Award and the MVP, shared in three championships. He's probably a good enough hitter that if he wanted to, Posey could tack on three or four more seasons as a first baseman, or a DH.

Given his personality, however, my guess is that he won't defer his life after baseball any longer than necessary. Posey isn't the sort who needs the attention and adulation. He might be the least likely player to position himself for a year-long farewell tour.

What follows is total speculation: I suspect that when Posey's current contract ends, he'll retire, after the 2021 season. I've never asked Posey about when and how his career might end, and anyway, it would be in his nature to wait until the question is actually relevant to form an answer.

But Posey is not the sort who will embrace a late-career drift for the sake of chasing statistical benchmarks. Posey -- who has 1,005 career hits -- isn't going to hang around for No. 2,000 because he thinks it'll polish his Hall of Fame resume.

Rather, I think he'll play until he stops enjoying it, because he knows he'll enjoy what's on the other side of his final game, at home.

Posey continues to be at the center of what the Giants will try to accomplish in 2017.

In our continuing positional rankings, as based on input from evaluators around baseball: the Top 10 catchers.