Another Offseason Elegy

What should departing players take with them and leave behind?

After a year’s worth of perspective, the 2003 departures make more sense. We had the necessary (Jose “Bobblehands” Cruz), the bad (Joe Nathan, who makes Matt Herges resemble a peanut vendor with a decent arm), and the embittered (Benito “The Jesus” Santiago, who, contrary to popular belief, smoldered into a caricature of himself because of constant self-references in the third-person, not steroids...).

This offseason, the newly departed seem to have been adequately replaced...at least on paper. What might they take with them to vile new places like Los Angeles, Chicago, the world of non-tendered free agency--I’m talking to you, Cody Ransom--and what might they be leaving behind? If only someone could help them pack...

Dustan Mohr
Please leave us the memory of your headfirst dive on the warning track as you make (another) miraculous catch, this time to save an August game against the Cubs. And go ahead and throw in the September wall-banging at Arizona, when, attempting a sojourn to the right-field pool, you were stopped short by the fence, the ball strangely in your glove; the throw back to second base was priceless, especially after a confused Ransom tagged both the runner sliding in from first (already out) and the one returning from third (trying to tag-up). You thought it was a triple play, and jumped giddily. We were giddy, too, because, for a brief moment, it seemed that you were more powerful than the Incredible Hulk, intentional walks, and the ghost of Mark Grace combined.

If you have a wallet--you don’t strike me as the money-clip type, but who knows--it is the one that says “Bad Ass Mamma Jamma” on it. You ran hard after every fly ball. Somehow you had a .394 on-base percentage. On the bench, you sat next to the Little Cat, Yorvit Torrealba, and cheered without recrimination for platoon-member and failed-Griffey-imitator Michael Tucker. You went 1-24 in April and I don’t hate you, which is amazing, since I hate anybody out-hit by pitchers (more on Rickey Ledee later).

Also, please leave behind an early-Nineties rap song, preferably Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day,” that I can play during the more depressing moments of next summer, when Moises Alou asks the ball dude to fetch the latest triple down the line, or when your bobblehead eyes me imploringly, wondering why you have been banished to the airy outfield of Colorado.

Please take along your poor base-running mistakes, like in August against the Expos when you lost track of the outs and were caught off second; Ruben Rivera must have left these misjudgments behind, and no doubt someone new, say Mike Matheny, will pick them up if unattended.

Also carry away the more averse effects of your over-zealousness, especially that catch on the bullpen mound against the Padres during the last week of the season. Miraculous your leg didn’t snap over your shoulder, as it appeared to at the moment. Many argue it was a poor move, and although I threatened to carve a “G” into the forehead of a Dodger fan who said so after the game, they are right. But to a blue hell with them all; the moxie behind the decision--the belief that you could make that catch, pivot, and throw out the Vince Coleman-fast Kerry Robinson at home plate to end the inning--is the reason you swagger like someone meant for the glitz of the NBA, or at least TRL.

I am torn on your new home; though it would be nice to see you start in Colorado, I fear 19 games against the Dustan Mohr figure, especially on those Denver nights, when Armando Benitez’s forkball decides to spoon through the thin air. Enough Giant killers abound, especially with Paulie Lo Duca still in the National League. Please choose to abuse the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, with only the occasional flashes of greatness reserved for us.

Dustin Hermanson
Um, if I were you, I wouldn’t take that goatee of yours to the South Side of Chicago. You know the one I’m talking about. No, not the penultimate-game, I’ve-blown-the-season goatee. Nor the I’m-finally-a-starting-pitcher-again, Fu Manchu. I’m talking about the July goatee that, with its adjacent bald spots hollowed into your chin, looked like something much funnier than a pair of hanging cherries.

Yeah, go ahead and leave that here. Maybe we can give it to one of the new kids, like Merkin Valdez, as a slump breaker.

Everything else, you must take with you. Especially the three blown saves in 17 chances. Not a large number, of course. But two of them were enthralling meltdowns, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the gruesome bases-loaded walks of Jose Mesa in 1998. In both Atlanta and at home against Houston, it was clear after the first batter that, no matter what happened, the Giants would not win the game. Against the Braves, you gave up two runs and four base runners without recording an out. Against the Astros in September--in a game that ended up deciding the Wild Card-- Lance Berkman pine-tarred and feathered you with a brusque bomb to the promenade.

At least we knew what to expect from Matt Herges: a tightrope of occasional success and accustomed failure. But during your time as closer, it was either there or not. For the record, you had it considerably more often, but the worst game of all wasn’t even considered a blown save. Just a loss. A heartbreaking, walk-filled, ice-blue loss on the second-to-last day of the season. A 3-0 ninth-inning lead blown by bloopers, walks, and errors that you sadly catalyzed, unable to repeat your performance of the inning before, when you enticed the double-play ball and made it look like we just might sweep the Dodgers and win the West and...

Sigh. You must also carry along the “what might have been’s.” There is no place for you in the happy-times memory of San Francisco since, like the trolling ghosts of Salomon Torres and Felix Rodriguez, your failure mingled too closely with the possibility of success, and your career here will inevitably be tethered to a single, wrenching moment.

Pierzy
I swear, if you leave those 27 double plays anywhere near China Basin, I will sneak a bulls-eye on every helmet you wear next year. There better not even be a trail: a ground ball to second with the bases loaded, say, left in Bakersfield; a roller to short with runners on the corners turning up in Elko. Wherever you go, use something besides those slow and terrible feet for transportation.

My god, man, you hit into a double play in almost ten percent of your at-bats. More than twice your homerun total. Nearly double your bases-on-balls. And you were a terrible influence on the impressionable, like Pedro Feliz, who grounded into 18 of his own.

What on earth was the deal last season? I know Minneapolis is a beautiful and many-laked city, but did you need to swing like your hands were meant for the toil of ice fishing? You hit nearly 30 points below your career average. You fought with the pitching staff, choosing a game of cards over helping to prepare Brett Tomko, who, as we found out later through gossip, could have used all the non-sports-psychologist reinforcement available.

Inexperience might be an excuse, but then I don’t really believe that you’re 28 years old. No, that chin and hair, those Gumby shoulders, the long and tangled swing...you resemble a veteran angry at the speed and power of youth. Or at least a player dislocated, meant for the idealized Eighties, say the movie Major League, getting hitters out by running your mouth: “Hi Helton. Hell of a situation we got here. Two on, two out, you guys trailing by one. By the way, I saw your wife at the PreLounge last night. Hell of a dancer, you must be proud. That guy she was with, I mean, I’m sure he was close personal friend and all, but tell me one thing...”

And this is a bummer. Because on the Twins, fans from Edina to Minnetonka loved you, an all-star catcher. Please leave behind only your bloop hits, which somehow seemed purposeful--your check swings flitting the ball over the third baseman and down the left-field line.

Maybe your antics offended the baseball gods, and they took away those fifteen or so extra “ground balls with eyes” that might have topped-off your average...but to misquote the good Samuel L.: Ain’t no eyes I ever heard of, could see your lead-footed ass beat one out to first.

Ledee/Ransom Tag Team
So you’re off to L.A., eh Ricky? Might as well take Cody Ransom with you, since he sure seemed to be playing for the Dodgers in that unspeakable game. Your arrival resulted in the necessary departure of Felix Rodriguez, though we actually could have used that sliderless reliever--instead of you--down the bullpen-worked stretch.

Ransom, you weren’t a bad kid. You hit .250, better than expected. You looked good in games started; a late-inning defensive replacement is by far one of the hardest roles to play in the Bigs. And you only made three errors. But every one of them--on a double-play ball in Pittsburg, a slow roller in Atlanta, and unmentionable--turned games. I think I speak for all of us when I say: Please take away all traces of your memory, which, as long as you relocate to the American or International League, will lessen into a glowering hate for Steve Finley. I will help out by never, ever speaking of you again.

Ledee, go ahead and depart with your 6-53 showing in San Francisco, and by all means, don’t hesitate to implement it in your new SoCal surroundings. That amounts to a .113 average. For a bit of perspective: Kirk Rueter went 8-61 last year, smoking you by 18 points while also managing to look like each swing might result in his death. As with Jose Cruz Jr., I’d banish you to the land of ghosts and wind, but when you’re out-hit by Woody the Ears, even the damned refuse harbor.

Platoon as a Dodger. Swing through Scott Eyre’s flat breaking ball. And look at the bright side: at least you won’t have to sit under the terrible reign of the Herpes-King, Jose Lima, who’s hiding out in Missouri.
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These offseason moves expose the deficiencies of last year’s team. But that team won 91 games. Let us hope, above all, that these departures leave behind the overachievement we’ve enjoyed since 1997. Because once that departs, along with a man-god named Bonds, this elegy will turn to eulogy, and no amount of Cruz or Pierzynski bashing will bring back these winning years.



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 denevi@hawaii.edu

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