In keeping Posey and Cain the Giants are taking a risk, but losing one or both of these potential Hall of Famers just as they may be reaching their best years would also hurt the team. The Giants have won two of the last three World Series after a period of 54 years in which they won exactly six World Series games, and no championships. They have brought a level of excitement about baseball to San Francisco that has never been seen before and are on the cusp of becoming a national, and even international brand, like the Yankees or Red Sox only cooler. Losing Cain would have jeopardized that. Posey, for his part, is one of the very best players on the planet and the face of the franchise. Keeping him is a good baseball move and sends a message to baseball and to Giants fans that the Giants are committed to continuing to field championship calibre teams.
Cabrera’s career, to be sure has been an odd one. Before 2010, he had established himself as a useful, if not quite good, outfielder: a valuable fourth outfielder on a good team or a passable starter on a bad team. In 2010, however, he was terrible, hitting .255/.317/.354 for the Braves. The Kansas City Royals took a chance on Cabrera; and the outfielder had a career year in 2012, hitting .309/.335/.470, numbers he is on track to easily exceed this year.
Last week in a relatively minor move, the New York Yankees resigned veteran outfielder Andruw Jones to a one year contract. This is a good move for the Yankees, who will continue to use Jones as a fourth outfielder and right-handed bat as needed. It is also probably a good move for Jones, who will be slotted into a role for which he is a good fit on a team that has a decent chance of making the playoffs. Jones’ career has had an interesting trajectory. He made his debut as a 19 year old phenom for the the Atlanta Braves in 1996. He capped off that by homering in his first two World Series at bats. By the age of 20, Jones was the starting center fielder on a playoff bound team. For about a decade after that Jones was an elite player, know largely for his outstanding defense in centerfield.
The arguments against Williams are clear. He was not great defensively, was never one of the best hitters in the game, was surrounded by better players and did not play much past his prime. The arguments in favor of Williams candidacy are less obvious, but also very powerful. Williams was a very good hitter who had a very long prime. Between 1995-2002, a period of eight years, he hit .321/.406/.531, good for an OPS+ of 142. He did this while playing a key defensive position decently. Although he retired at age 37, thus truncating the decline phase of his career, he remained a useful player until the end hitting .281/.332/.436 during his last year with the Yankees.
Posey is now out for the rest of the season. It will be a good scenario for Posey and the Giants if he is fully recovered in time for spring training 2012. The Posey injury, because of both how it occurred, due to a collision at home plate, and because it happened to Posey, one of baseball’s best and most marketable young players, has drawn a lot of attention. Two major themes have emerged from this attention: whether or not baseball should change its rules to minimize the chances of collisions at home plate and young players of Posey’s caliber should be moved away from the catcher’s position to allow them to play longer.
Yogi Berra was a baseball black swan because before he began his career there had never been an everyday catcher who was a consistent middle of the order power hitter. Before Berra, the best catchers in baseball had either not hit much, or had hit well with little power, like Mickey Cochrane. Three possible exceptions to this were Bill Dickey, Gabby Hartnett and Ernie Lombardi but none of them hit with Berra’s power while remaining in the lineup consistently.