San Francisco Giants: Joey Bart steps forward

When Buster Posey announced his retirement in November 2021, the stage was set for his successor to usher in a new era of Giants baseball. The man who would follow Posey was always going to tread a difficult path. How do you replace a legend?

I did not envy Joey Bart’s position. Those are some very large and imposing shoes to fill. The Giants don’t necessarily need Bart to be another Posey. That’s asking a lot. The young catcher can enjoy a successful career in San Francisco without being the face of the franchise for over a decade. Nevertheless, when you’re drafted second overall, big things are expected.

As the first half of the 2022 season progressed and Bart continued to struggle against major league pitching, it looked increasingly unlikely he would live up to the lofty projections bestowed upon him. When the Giants hit Bart’s reset button in early June, sending him back to Triple-A Sacramento, the 25-year-old looked completely lost: Bart was the owner of a horrible .156/.296/.300 (BA/OBP/SLG) slashline and the highest strikeout rate in the majors, at 45.4%.

There were some rumblings that his time in the Bay Area could be coming to a premature end, particularly as the trade deadline neared. However, it was another backstop who would eventually depart, as Curt Casali moved on to Seattle, thus giving Bart the keys to the kingdom. The catcher’s mask would be shared no longer.

Since Casali has been out of the picture (previously on the IL and now with the Mariners) Bart has shown significant progress and delighted fans. Over his last 26 games, Bart has hit a much improved .282/.317/.500 with five home runs. He has stayed true to his swing path and looks to do damage when he sees a mistake, and the results are beginning to bear fruit. Each of his home runs have been true no-doubters. He might just be turning a corner after all.

Bart’s improvement at the plate has been the big success story recently but we should not ignore the fact his defensive work has been exceptional all year long. There may be no finer example than his sublime tag of Brandon Drury in Monday night’s 1-0 victory over the star-studded Padres.

The Giants were clinging onto a precarious 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning when San Diego’s shortstop Ha-Seong Kim lined a double into left field. Drury set off from first base and ran hard as he headed for home, whilst Luis González sprinted to the left field wall, praying he could get the ball into the infield quickly. González miraculously dug the ball out and hit his cutoff man perfectly. It’s a luxury when that man is a Gold Glove shortstop like Brandon Crawford.

Crawford’s typically elite defence has suffered this season, as he’s played hurt all year long, but he wasn’t about to let that stop him here. In one graceful motion, he received the ball and fired it towards Bart, just as Drury was preparing to launch himself toward the safety of home plate. The Padres’ man splayed out in the dirt, arms outstretched, as Bart effortlessly collected the ball on one hop and smoothly applied the tag. Bart made it look easy, routine even, but it’s a nearly-impossible pick out of the dirt, a truly incredible piece of skill.

The umpire, probably with dirt in his eyes, somehow thought Drury was safe but Bart instantly turned towards the Giants’ dugout and motioned for his skipper Gabe Kapler to demand a review.

The replay booth soon confirmed what we knew all along: Bart got his man and played the crucial role in one of the finest relays in recent memory. Giants broadcasters Dave Flemming and Javier López were effusive in their praise of the play, calling it the team’s best swipe tag since Posey’s famous 2012 World Series tag on Detroit’s Prince Fielder.

Once again, Bart seemingly cannot escape the mighty shadow of Posey. That will likely be the case throughout most of his career in San Francisco, such was the impact number 28 had with the Giants.

And yet, with the progress Bart has displayed in the recent weeks, he is showing he can carve out his own path.

We are only just beginning to see what Joey Bart can offer, a glimpse of the career he might enjoy in orange and black.

Ash Day is the San Francisco Giants writer for Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29

Photo credit for featured image by Ron Schwane/Getty Images.

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