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Where did Buster Posey go wrong in Monday’s Giants vs. Nationals brawl?

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On Monday, San Francisco Giants’ catcher, and former National League MVP Buster Posey, became a big story after his involvement in a huge brawl in San Francisco,

Actually, he was not involved.

To put it mildly, that is the very reason he became a big story on Tuesday. It all began when Posey’s teammate, Hunter Strickland, hit another former National League MVP, Bryce Harper, with a 98-mph fastball late in Monday’s game between the Giants and Harper’s Washington Nationals.

Harper charged the mound, threw his helmet at Strickland, then the two exchanged a few punches. As videos of the encounter repeated incessantly, the focus turned to Posey when video showed the former Florida State player standing still while events unfolded.

Perhaps he was stunned because catchers are usually in the loop when an opponent is about to get drilled. To borrow from politics, we must ask “what did Posey know and when did he know it?”

Visual evidence points to Posey not knowing Strickland was sizing up the best place to nail the Nationals’ superstar. As Strickland was in his wind-up to deliver the first pitch to Harper, Posey was in his crouch giving his pitcher a target at the bottom end of the strike zone, apparently expecting him to throw it there.

When Strickland instead drilled Harper in the right hip, the Battle by the Bay was on. As bullpens and dugouts emptied, Posey looked like a statue, standing guard over the catcher’s box behind the plate. He eventually moved to the periphery of the scrum, wisely still wearing his catcher’s mask.

Social media exploded beginning early Monday evening. One of the best was a Facebook post by a friend and Tallahassee political consultant David Johnson, who lamented “the statue of Hank Aaron in Atlanta got there before Buster.”

So, what is Posey’s side of this?

“Well, I mean after it happened, I kind of saw Harper point,” Posey told the media in the Giants’ clubhouse. “Next thing you know, he’s going out after him. Those are some big guys tumbling around on the ground. So, it was a little dangerous to get in there sometimes.”

He has a point there. What is to be gained by taking wild swings, or pushing or shoving, or even engaging in the fundamental sports brawl activity of saying things about an opponent’s mother?

However, another FSU alum, ESPN commentator Eduardo Perez, who was calling the game, perfectly analyzed where Posey went wrong. He summed up what should have happened about 42 seconds into the ESPN video linked above.

“That’s where you, as a catcher, you’d better go and stop Harper,” Perez said while five Giants were physically removing Strickland from the field.

Exactly. His teammates should expect him to block Harper’s path (not start a fight) to the pitcher while the umpire does the same with the pitcher. While Strickland was going rogue, there is still this thing among players about protecting teammates even if they might not agree with what that player did.

Posey may need to better explain himself, if not apologize, to some of his teammates over the coming days. A safe prediction is that if anything like this happens again, Posey will know what to do.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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