If the Kansas City Royals lose this World Series, none of the decisions they are about to make will be as crucial as one they made six years ago.
They could have had Buster Posey.
With the third pick of the 2008 draft, the Royals picked first baseman Eric Hosmer. With the fifth pick, the Giants happily grabbed Posey, who has led them to three World Series appearances in five years.
They won in 2010, when Posey was the National League rookie of the year. They won in 2012, when Posey was the NL most valuable player and batting champion.
In their 52 B.P. (Before Posey) years in San Francisco, the Giants never won.
“It is not a coincidence,” said Bobby Evans, the Giants’ assistant general manager.
The standard major league team has a catcher batting low in the order, and any offense is a bonus. In Posey, the Giants have an elite batter staffing the most arduous defensive position.
Posey was the only major league catcher to lead his team in home runs, and he amplified the Giants’ huge competitive advantage at the position by leading his team in batting average and on-base-plus-slugging percentage, too.
“To play the catcher position, put up a .300 average and hit 20 home runs, you should be in the MVP talk every year,” Giants pitcher Tim Hudson said. “I don’t care how your team finishes.”
Posey was a pitcher in high school, a shortstop in his freshman year at Florida State, a catcher in his sophomore year. John Barr, the Dodgers’ top East Coast scout, saw him so often that Posey was surprised when Barr told him the Dodgers would not pick him.
“We’re picking too low,” Barr said.
The Dodgers had the 15th pick of the 2008 draft. But the Giants, who had the fifth pick, hired Barr as scouting director.
With the Giants, Barr had his chance at Posey.
“If he was there when we picked, we were going to take him,” Barr said.
The Tampa Bay Rays, run by new Dodgers baseball boss Andrew Friedman, had the first pick. In one of the all-time draft blunders, they narrowed their choice to Posey and high school infielder Tim Beckham, then chose Beckham.
“How many World Series would the Rays have won with him instead of Beckham?” one American League scout said. “They’re always looking for a catcher.”
The Pittsburgh Pirates had the second pick, and they focused on power-hitting Vanderbilt infielder Pedro Alvarez. The Baltimore Orioles had the fourth pick, but they had selected catcher Matt Wieters the previous year, and ultimately they took University of San Diego left-hander Brian Matusz.
The team Barr had to worry about was the Royals. They had scouted Posey too, but they spent the third pick on Hosmer, and not because they preferred a first baseman over a catcher.
“We were taking the best player available,” General Manager Dayton Moore said. “We liked Buster Posey a lot. The thing we liked about Hos, the thing that separated us, was that we felt he was going to be a plus offensive player and a plus defender. Not that we didn’t think Buster Posey would. He’s a great player.
“But that was one of the things we liked about Hos, the profile we had for players was that they needed to be able to play plus defense. We wanted to build this thing with great defense.”
Hosmer was drafted out of high school, so his development took longer. That was of little consolation to the Royals in 2012, when Hosmer was batting .232 and Posey was the MVP, batting champion and World Series champion.
Moore still believed in Hosmer, but the fans let him know he could have had Posey.
“Oh, yeah,” Moore said. “It’s part of the game.”
The Hosmer pick might yet turn out all right for the Royals. He batted .302 last year. He is batting .448 in the postseason, and he has reached base 20 times in 36 appearances.
If Moore had a draft regret, it was not the selection of Hosmer. In 2010, the Royals liked the left-handed pitching in their system and decided to pick Cal State Fullerton infielder Christian Colon. They passed on the guy who has turned into the best left-hander in the American League.
“We beat ourselves up on Chris Sale a lot,” Moore said.
The other team that could beat itself up on Posey is the Angels.
In 2005, the Angels selected Posey out of high school, in the 50th and final round. Posey said the Angels never made him an offer.
Posey had told major league teams that he planned to attend college. Eddie Bane, then the Angels’ scouting director, had watched Posey throw 93 mph in high school and wanted to reserve his rights if he blossomed as a pitcher that summer.
“It was just a shot in the dark,” Bane said. “We didn’t know what we had.”
The Angels’ first pick in 2005 was pitcher Trevor Bell, who won four major league games.
“I can’t remember who our first pick was that year,” Bane said, jokingly. “But it should have been Buster, and we should have given him whatever he wanted.”