An Elegy for Armando Benitez

With the closer most likely gone for the rest of the year, let us remember his brief and troubling presence in this strange 2005 season

You were a bear of a man, though, to protect your bear-leg, you probably should have spent more time rummaging through bearish workout routines, like, say, stealing honey from beehives and then sprinting away in fear.

It’s magnanimous that you still managed to step on first base to record the final out and win the game, hamstring having been shorn from your pelvic bone. But it would have been better if you’d collapsed belly-first to record the out, taking the Padres’ Jeff Blum to the disabled list with you.

Or if you’d retired Phil Nevin the inning before to avoid the whole desperate mess in the first place, for that matter.

Maybe it’s a good thing you will be surgered and rehabbing the remainder of the summer. Omar Vizquel is nimble, but I’d hate to see what would happen if Fortune placed him alone in an empty clubhouse with your bear-man appetite and only Edgardo Alfonzo’s Weight Watcher’s ice cream in the fridge.

In Spring Training, I told my crazy cousin that you looked out of shape. He asked me how a guy who’s 6’4’’ 250 and spends the whole day throwing a baseball could look in shape.


Only after your season-demise do I find out you had a nickname, “Mando.” I know it’s a syncopation of your first name, but I sweat that it also means “Honey-thieving relief pitcher” in Portuguese.

Although Jason Ellison botched the last play in the ill-fated save attempt against hated L.A. this season, I would have enjoyed seeing a little more anger on your part. Say a kidney punch to Jeff Kent as he crossed the plate.

Or at least a verbal attack on Milton Bradley so that Bradley might have then charged toward the Giants bench, yelling, “Brag to your friends about my craziness! Jose Lima’s got nothin’ on me!”

In Spring Training, I mentioned to my cousin again that the hibernation season was over, that you should’ve shed that winter belly by now. He said, “It’s not like he’s gotta run the ball to the plate.”

Touche again, but grudgingly.

Rumors have already cropped up about the plans for your workout regimen while you rehabilitate. Felipe Alou suggested you work on your “push backs,” as in: pushing yourself away from tables full of food. Aha ha. Ha. That Felipe. What a card...

But seriously, if I hear that Caesar Izturis has vanished without a trace during the same week your belly grows a shortstop in width, I’m going to be not so much angry as disappointed. Well not too disappointed, as long as Kevin Elster doesn’t return from the grave to replace him.

Your new team has been left in quite the precarious position, due to the inflexibility of your hammy. Now we can ask the age-old question: is Armando Benitez sans slider, splitter, and velocity (the Benitez of the early season) better than former-closer Matt Herges sans all traces of dignity and self-confidence?

And the correct answer is not Jeff Fassero. The correct answer is never, ever Jeff Fassero.

So for the rest of the season you will be watching baseball from your den, listening to Duane Kuiper shriek mournfully as the closer-by-congregation bullpen works desperately to avoid a cultishly group suicide.

Maybe you’ll feel the way I did, last week, when I watched you fail at sprinting thirty feet. On the pitch before, I asked my wife if you looked heavy.

“Not so much heavy,” she said, “as thick. But it’s not like he’s a hitter who has to run to around or anything, right?”

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

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