In an early August game at San Francisco, with his team trailing by two runs with two outs and first base open, Joe Torre, manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, chose to intentionally walk Giants clean up hitter Buster Posey.
Pitching for the Dodgers was Clayton Kershaw -- a 22-year-old phenom who's lone gaffe in seven innings pitched was a two run triple against Edgar Renteria in the sixth inning. Apart from that, Kershaw was exhibiting a mesmerizing curveball and had firm command of his fastball.
Posey, a 23-year-old catcher who has yet to play a full season in the big leagues, was hitless on the night. Up to that point, he had a walloping 252 plate appearances in the majors and was a lifetime .250 hitter against Los Angeles. And Joe Torre intentionally walked him.
Posey is young, inexperienced, and in the middle of a pennant race. He's also incredibly talented.
Getting his first call up to the big leagues nearly 11 months ago, Posey is as celebrated as he is talented. Baseball America ranked him as the seventh best prospect in their Top 100 list last year, and after getting called up again this May, there's no doubt he's here to stay.
To date, the former Golden Spikes winner is batting .329 (which would lead the National League if he'd recorded enough plate appearances) with a .505 slugging percentage and an OPB of .372. All well above the league's average.
He set an all-time National League record for rookies with a monstrous 10 game tear in early July that saw him bat .514 with 19 hits, six home runs, and 13 RBI. He was subsequently named the league's player of the week.
Early in July, in a game against the Washington Nationals, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy showed some real faith in Posey, sending two base runners three straight times while the catcher had two strikes on him. Eventually, Posey knocked a single to right that gave San Francisco the lead for good.
Posey -- along with Jason Heyward (21), Stephen Strasburg (22), Mike Stanton (20), Starlin Castro (20), and a catalog of others -- is a symbolic baseball player. He comes into the league at an especially crucial juncture, with baseball in desperate need of recapturing its classic essence. In a time when national columnists are increasingly frustrated with the games monotony, these fresh faces can serve as critical tools to galvanize fans who have given up on the sport and left it for dead.
The steroid era is beginning to close -- although how can we ever be 100 percent sure -- and those famously associated are aging and rapidly mutating into irrelevance. Those who are actually clean -- Derek Jeter is 36, Chipper Jones is 38 and after tearing his ACL looks to have played his last inning, and Ken Griffey Jr. already retired, at the age of 40, in June -- won't be around with hard hats and shovels to help in the rebuilding process.
Posey comes into the league at a time when you'd have to be clinically insane to stick HGH, or whatever undetectable cosmetic drug is now new on the market, in your body. The top shelf prospects coming up from this year forward won't face the same level of scrutiny as the generation before them. The likes of Joe Mauer and Dustin Pedroia should crawl from the rubble unscathed, but they're in a very small minority. The sport is just beginning to emerge from an incredibly scandalous and damaging decade; players like Posey are exactly what the sport needs -- the talented, young, and undoubtedly clean talents.
In a game that values the statistic, these guys are giving MLB executives all the more reason to market them as the new face of the league. They should be in commercials and made household names as quickly as possible. They're performing on the field, now they need to be in America's living room.
Players like Posey are arriving at just the right time. It's up to baseball to take advantage.