On The Receiving End

Benito Santiago returns to the lineup after being on the 15-day DL, only to continue what he left. Nothing's damaged behind the plate, and everything's certainly fine in the batter's box. With his contract expiring after the season, what does this mean for "the ancient one"?

"He's got skills for a seasoned player and is certainly a valuable part of the Giants, but I don't see why my girlfriend thinks he's hot."

My friend, like many others of the male gender, gets jealous when their girlfriends swoon over the nicely chiseled body of Benito Santiago. Besides providing that cool, Greek God-like look for the ladies, Santiago has no doubt been a very valuable part of this Giants team, and his presence in the clubhouse helps give the team it's veteran quality. His glove has been on the receiving end of Jason Schmidt fastballs, of wild Damian Moss change-ups, and of pitches where he ends up throwing from his knees to get base runners out who were attempting to steal.

He takes beatings from behind the plate, where baseball after baseball ricochets off his mask, shoulder guard, and shin guard... And sometimes the ball even misses those places and hits him in unprotected areas. Ouch. But there Benito is, time after time, taking a little walk around the plate, getting back in his crouch again, pounds in his glove, and gets ready to give the next sign for the next pitch.

BAM! Benito goes on the 15-day DL. Actually he went rather quietly, playing through his painful injured pinky finger, yes, the man hurt his pinky finger, and then realizing his 38-year-old self is no longer able to play through the pain. What should the Giants do? Panic? Santiago has not only been an offensive weapon, protecting behind Barry Bonds, but he has been a guide for the young arms that come into the game.

Yorvit Torrealba became the receiver. Not much is lost defensively, and pitchers will just have to learn to throw to someone else rather than Santiago. Offensively? Well, Torrealba can sit at the bottom of the batting order and the Giants will just have to lose a power hitter. Who's the back up catcher? Well, let's just bring up that Alberto Castillo? Yes, he'll just have to do...

Torrealba became one of the leading RBI men for the Giants during their first homestand against the Colorado Rockies in the second half of the season. He handled the pitchers well and proved to be able to hit with runners on base and in scoring position. Let's not jump all over him, now... He only hit a homerun on his birthday and played in left field for the first time in his young career.

What about that... Castillo guy? Let's just give him a start to give Torrealba a break. His first career grand slam looks mediocre to how he handled Jesse Foppert. Yes, pitchers need to be handled. Foppert just returned from his short venture in Fresno, coming back to the majors in hopes of recovering from his awful outings before his departure. No one but Santiago should have been able to handle the rookie, no one should have been able to handle Foppert.

In comes Castillo, a lost player who's made his way through the minors and majors and then into an independent Mexican league. Castillo wasn't afraid to get into Foppert's face when Foppert wasn't focused. He wasn't afraid to swing his bat either.

So now, with the talks of contracts being up at the end of the season (I really, really don't want to talk about free agents now, forgive me) the question that remains is: Do the Giants need Santiago as much as they thought they needed him? Since his return, he's gone hitless... maybe it's from a little rust, or maybe it's because he's playing against Dusty Baker, whom he, and a few other Giants, still have some sort of emotional attachment to.

Not only is there a solid and dependable replacement for Santiago, but his age doesn't help him much either. Santiago has mentioned wanting to end his career as a Giant, but you know as well as I that Santiago can be very unpredictable. If he doesn't like what he's getting in a Giants' uniform, then he'll go somewhere else. There are a bunch of teams who are looking for a veteran catcher like Santiago who's tough and still has some pop in his bat. If it looks right, and it floats Santiago's boat, then he'll wave good-bye to San Francisco and jump on it.

Yes the Giants would want Santiago back, but they will take into consideration the blooming career of Torrealba and the occasional help from Castillo. There's no need to jump on the bandwagon yet, Santiago is still here and is still one of the favorites, and he will play out the rest of his time with the Giants. It's just a matter of realizing what the team needs or not need down the stretch.

One thing's for certain: Santiago won't be spending his golden years as a ball player at a place where he's not happy. So if Sabean and the Giants want this "tough cookie" back in their line up next season, they better "make him an offer he can't refuse."

Sara Kwan was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. She currently writes game recaps, other articles, and is the Giant Prophet for SFDugout.com. Any comments or questions about the article, baseball, or the meaning of life can be sent to Sara at kwanchino@alpha-q.net

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