A bit dramatic. But even more appropriate considering the mine-shaft-gap logic of the Yankees and Red Sox, both racing to repopulate their teams with the choicest free agents. I wish the Giants were repopulating, too. But Michael Tucker, despite his Griffey-like gait, does not a franchise make.
Maybe this measured depletion will work out fine. But certain players will not—and should not—be replaced. I will dearly miss loving and hating them, and I wish I could let them know…
Richie Santo Aurilia
Every Italian needs a favorite Italian baseball player, and surely, Richie, you were mine. This one hurts. I named my fantasy team Auriliariffic—and not just to piss off the Cubs fans in my league. You were my guy before your startling 2001 season. Remember the diving catches you made at short in '97, confusing my memories of Steve Scarsone with your rising brilliance? You alleviated the goggled play of Jose Vizcaino. You started the '98 playoff game in Chicago and never looked back.
I'll most remember your 2002 postseason. That three-run homer in Game 4 of the division series when we all fretted Livan's whaling presence. The pick you made on Chipper Jones' jumpy grounder in Game 5. Your two homeruns against the Cardinals to silence the Busch crowd. It wasn't enough to have the best goatee in baseball, or to name your son Chaz. You provided spark and surprise and old-timey superstition.
I'll happily forget the injured seasons of the last two years, when elbows and papery eyes held you back. No need to bring up your 2003 postseason defense or the line drives caught by a gloating Juan Encarnacion. In the sum of your Giants experience, you provided many more good moments than bad.
I only wish you would have gotten in some fights, or at least one with the Dodgers. Though that shouting match with Kirk Gibson last year was excellent. I'll always remember your burning glares after brushback pitches and the subsequent line drives of retribution. I hope Seattle serves good gnocchi.
You. I banish you to the land of ghosts and wind. Seriously, dude. Swing the bat like a major leaguer, not some sweeping, shoulder-out, fence-gazer. Even pull-happy Bonds hits outside pitches to center. The other team could have replaced their second baseman with a bucket and you still would have hit a ground-ball-induced .250. At least Reggie Sanders kept hanging sliders fair. I'd say bat only from the right side, but your weakness is already over-exposed.
Which is a shame, because you provided some moderate spectacle. Opening Day and two homeruns (both righty) giddied me up like a school girl. All that gold glove bedazzlement, like the catch you made on Paulie LoDucca the night Bonds stole his 500th. And those constant assists in the outfield, the ball shooting out of your brick surroundings to hose down greedy base runners.
Painful memories indeed. Because they elicit your blank stare of culpability on that extra-inning night in Florida. Along with your two desperate throws home, the second leaving poor Torrealba like a Little Cat in the wake of Pudge's agression.
No, you must go. Not so we can heal, but so we can stay angry, eyeing you over in the American League, in rotten Tampa Bay.
Put the gold glove in a vacation home armoire. Tell your just-drafted little brother that homeruns are insidious. Use a catchy alias—like Droppy McDropster—when you check into an Oakland hotel to play the A's.
Kansas City? No kidding. Well good for you. I'm sure they've seen The Big Lebowski out there. They know as we do: "Nobody [messes] with The Jesus!" Who of course is you, even without the purple suit and lewd bowling ball.
You were the voice of my Giants angst. Bumping Mark Hirschbeck is a lifelong dream, and you accomplished it elegantly in '02. The best was when you were kicked out of a game for refusing to throw a new ball back to the pitcher. The swine of an umpire placed it on home plate. You stayed in your crouch. In the post game interview, you referred to yourself in the third person. Just as The Jesus would. Classic.
Man you handled the pitching staff well. You barked at bad calls, taking heat off the mound. You always waited until the ump's miscue came back to bite, before being kicked out—like the trap call on Grissom's lovely catch that led to all those undeserved runs.
Yes, your skills are diminishing. You resemble a pirate of Spanish Galleons. I'm not sure how you managed above .270. Or hit that 3-0 pitch out to win a summer game in St. Louis two years ago. And your writhing homerun to turn the NLCS—no way an ear-to-ear swing laces that down-and-in pitch to the bleachers.
In Cincinnati and Chicago, before you came to us, you hit about 400 groundballs to short. Funny that Pac Bell helped you rediscover center and right and cut those grounders in half. Maybe.
I'm glad you're off to the A.L. It would've been a tickling awkwardness to see you throw out Pedro Feliz from your knees, like remembering the face but not the name of some benevolent relative. I only wish Brent Mayne were still in K.C. A duo that might have been. They could have intentionally walked him to get to you. And we all know what would happen next, because nobody F---'s with The Jesus.
Thank goodness your death throes have subsided. They were fascinating to watch, I'm loath to admit. A buckling of knees and swing. You still played hard, at the end. Smashing into that wall in Kansas City in the innings before Mike Sweeney's heinous game-winning double.
You took a longshoreman's route to fly balls, but it was exciting. And you merphed it less than Glenn Allen Hill, if that's any consolation.
But your swing was too haphazard for the sliders and changeups of the National League West. Trevor Hoffman manipulated you in important situations. Schilling and Brown were much harsher than KNBR callers. You would have been glorious in a Felipe Crespo role: underpaid, under-appreciated, entering the game in a late double-switch. Winning it, the way you did against the Dodgers on Sunday Night Baseball in 2000, or against the Diamondbacks and BYK in '01.
As another SFDugout writer observed, you doomed yourself with stellar play in '98, especially that series in Philadelphia. Never hope for validation in a big contract, just ask J.T.
Retire bitterly, if it feels right, maybe flashing your keynote Stank Eye. Run clinics to teach the youth how to hustle but not swing like you. Just don't make allegations about Bonds and steroids. I never enjoy humming with my fingers in my ears.
I hope memory doesn't mix you with the Dave Martinezes of the past. Glad to see that Snow is still around. It'll be harder for those talk show hosts to lash him with the downsized contract. Or maybe not.
But the atmosphere of this offseason remains silty and malaised. I can't imagine it clearing for the arrival of pitchers and catchers, but somehow it always does. Our demigod of a Sabean hasn't adequately replaced the departed. But in the New West, nobody's betting season tickets against the Giants front office. Not yet, at least.
Tim Denevi is a raving Giants fan who can't decide if he would rather have Mike Aldrete or Marvin Biz-nard pinch-hitting with the game on the line. E-mail him with your opinion on any issue at email@example.com
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