Buster Posey had a charming little habit as a hitter when he questioned an umpire’s call. Posey, who retired last fall after a dozen sterling seasons for the San Francisco Giants, was too polite to turn and mouth off. He telegraphed his opinion with a slow, subtle movement of his head and, perhaps, a pained smile. An umpire attuned to subtext would get the message.
Posey gave respect and got it in return, traits that should help in his new post-career role in the Giants’ ownership group. The team will announce Wednesday that Posey, 35, has bought into the team and will serve on its board of directors.
“I want to be viewed as, like, pro-baseball,” Posey said this week by phone from his home in Georgia. “I’m not pro-player, I’m not pro-owner, I just love the game of baseball, and this is another opportunity for me to learn more about the game, more about the business and really commit my time to an organization in a city that I’ve grown to love.”
Posey joins a group of 30 partners with stakes in the Giants. The team did not reveal Posey’s share, but Posey’s slice is almost certainly very small. He earned most of his money with an eight-year, $159 million contract to close his career, and Forbes recently valued the Giants at $3.5 billion, the fifth highest club valuation in Major League Baseball.
“He’s putting his real money in at that high value,” said Greg Johnson, the Giants’ chairman, “which I think shows his commitment to the organization and his belief in baseball in general.”
Johnson spoke by phone from Luxembourg; he is also chairman of Franklin Resources, Inc., the investment management company. Johnson scaled back his role there when he became the Giants’ control person in November 2019, and learned early on about Posey’s brand of nice-guy honesty.
“We had a very long conversation, and I discussed some of the bigger issues that were coming up before collective bargaining, to get an understanding of his perspective versus my perspective,” Johnson said. “And we had a very good and thoughtful discussion, and at the end of it, he kind of turned to me and said, ‘You know, we just don’t trust you guys.’
“And that was such a telling thing for me, just showing the trust gap that exists because of the structure in baseball. So I think having somebody there that’s respected by the players and part of our ownership group helps close that gap.”
Posey is not the only former player to buy into his old team; the Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. has a stake in the Seattle Mariners. Stars from other sports also hold stakes in various franchises — Giannis Antetokounmpo with his Milwaukee Bucks, LeBron James with the Boston Red Sox, Patrick Mahomes with the Kansas City Royals.
And while Posey brings a former player’s viewpoint to large-scale ownership issues, the Giants highly value his local insight, too.
“There’s also the element of the Giants organization,” said Larry Baer, the team’s president and chief executive. “We had a magical year in his last season, and we’ve fallen off this year. He can contribute as a thought leader for the Giants.”
Posey opted out of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season after he and his wife, Kristen, adopted newborn twin girls who were born prematurely. The year away from baseball refreshed Posey’s body for his career capper: his seventh All-Star season, his fifth Silver Slugger award, and a National League West championship with a club-record 107 victories.
The Giants’ business model is thriving, with a 33 percent stake in NBC Sports Bay Area (the local TV home of the Golden State Warriors) and 50 percent ownership of a residential and retail development opening next year on the site of an old parking lot across McCovey Cove. On the field, the Giants had slipped to 70-77 through Monday; among other problems, they have not found a way to replace Posey’s production.
Posey, who also has a set of 11-year-old twins, approached his agents with the idea to buy into the Giants after retirement. He wanted something more substantial than the typical ex-player roles — glad-handing sponsors, helping in spring training, calling a few games on television — and ownership appealed as a tangible connection without a defined structure.
“This will be a fun role for me to be in,” Posey said. “But by no means do I want this to be misconstrued that I’m taking on any type of front office role. I think there’s a natural tendency for fans to maybe think that I’ll have this prominent role, and that’s not going to be the case. It’s more going to be like, ‘Hey, let me know where I can help and I’ll help there.’”
Posey can be a powerful recruiting voice for potential free agents, and said he considers Johnson a friend; they trade ideas about issues facing the franchise, and the new arrangement will amplify Posey’s influence.
“All of the board of directors were comfortable bringing him on to the board and taking a really active role in every aspect of the team,” Johnson said. “That’s really what he wanted. He said, ‘I don’t want this to look good in a press release and then nobody hears from Buster again.’”
Posey’s view could still have been from behind the plate. He made more than 100 starts at catcher in his final season, and clearly had the skills to add to his career totals of 1,500 hits and 158 home runs, which helped him finish with a .302 average and .831 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Writers may soon wrestle with Posey’s Hall of Fame case for Cooperstown: he won multiple championships and a Most Valuable Player Award, but so did the former Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, who had similar statistics but never came close to election.
Whatever happens, Posey has never regretted his decision. He has transitioned from player to partial owner but will always be a full-time father, with or without a plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“Obviously it will be a lifetime honor to be recognized that way,” he said, “but it’s also going to be pretty cool, if I don’t get in, to tell my kids, ‘Hey look, guys, I had a pretty good shot to get in here, but you and your mom are more important than any accolade I could ever receive.’ And that’ll be equally as important to me, if not more.”