The year 2011 not only provided San Francisco Giants fans with memorable losses, but also a great deal of wholly forgettable losses.
The 2010 team, however, provided Giants fans with a long sought-after world championship, the first for the franchise since 1954. The 2010 team was known as a band of “cast-offs and misfits.” When many of these players returned in 2011, they either injured themselves or underachieved, often in spectacular fashion.
If 2010 was a band of “cast-offs and misfits,” one might call the 2011 crew a band of “cast-ons and dip…sticks.”
The San Francisco Giants have a long history of “dipsticks,” or, for the purposes of this article, the more-politically-correct “knuckleheads.” Here is a look at the five biggest knuckleheads in Giants history.
Brian Wilson was one of the most marketable players in Major League Baseball last season, owing largely to his 2010 postseason contributions to the San Francisco Giants. He was legendary and nigh unbeatable, sporting an ERA of 0.00 for the entire postseason.
Last season, though, Wilson must have been caught up in Taco Bell chalupa endorsements and the myriad commercials that in some way referenced his beard, as his production slid considerably.
Should Wilson demonstrate his ability as a top-closer in 2012, all will be forgiven, but anybody who wears spandex suits to award shows, references obscure Nicolas Cage movies and sports facial hair that belongs more at an Occupy Wall Street rally than on a baseball diamond will remain a knucklehead.
Knucklehead might not be the most appropriate word to describe Barry Zito. "Space case" might be a bit more accurate. Total waste of money? There we go. That’s it.
One might argue that the San Francisco Giants’ ownership group in favor of ponying up the dough for Barry Zito’s “talents” should receive the knucklehead accolade, but I maintain that while Barry Zito certainly did not seem to be worth the amount of money thrown at him in 2007, nobody could have predicted he would fail so miserably.
He seems like a nice enough guy, and teammates claim he is a wonderful clubhouse member. But hey, I’m a pretty nice guy, and I am occasionally wonderful with people. Odds are that you are, too. And the average freshman pitcher in Division III has as much talent as Zito. So we should all be entitled to a $126M contract, right?
Perhaps if Zito’s image was not one of a beach bum who is just as content playing guitar and doing yoga as he is playing baseball, and was instead one of a determined athlete determined to better himself on the field, he would be a bit more tolerable. Instead, he is not only a knucklehead: He is a pariah.
There are, admittedly, a lot of post-internet age San Francisco Giants on this list. Due to the wide range of modern media, however, past players who might have been just as…controversial…would not have been given the national exposure they are given today, where Marines stationed in Afghanistan can read about Prince Fielder’s contract with the Detroit Tigers immediately after it happens on MLB.com or Bleacher Report.
But Barry Bonds deserves a spot on this list. While Bonds probably did steroids and probably lied to a grand jury and probably perjured himself, he might have actually done steroids without knowing what it was he was taking. But you’d be hard pressed to find somebody (rational) who argues that he never took steroids.
Andy Pettitte took steroids. Forgiven. Ryan Braun took some form of PED. More or less forgiven, and soon to be totally forgiven. Even Alex Rodriguez took steroids. Basically forgiven.
So why not Barry Bonds?
Because Barry Bonds, for lack of a better word, was a “jerk-face” to the media. He did not care for them, and they in turn did not care for him. So when he came off as surly and arrogant, the media harped on it, which made him bitter and mean-spirited as well as surly and arrogant. Barry Bonds was to the baseball world what T.O. was to professional football: A very talented but completely unsympathetic juvenile man with a chip on his shoulder.
Is that who Barry Bonds really was? No clue. Is that what people will remember him as? Yes. And for that reason, he is a "knucklehead."
Juan Marichal is remembered for many San Francisco Giants accomplishments: A 243-142 record, a 2.89 career ERA, a no-hitter, an epic 16-inning complete-game duel with Warren Spahn, which he won 1-0, and his constant “bride’s maid” status in terms of post-season awards. Thanks a lot, Sandy Koufax.
I almost neglected to mention “Hall of Fame,” because it almost never happened.
Because on August 22, 1965, Marichal (at bat) did not take kindly to Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro returning pitcher Sandy Koufax’s pitches so closely to his head. When one throw grazed his ear, Marichal turned around and bludgeoned Roseboro in the head with a baseball bat.
To make matters worse, Roseboro’s head was completely unprotected during the incident, allowing Marichal to whack his head like a pinata until it split.
Which it did. Classier captain Willie Mays escorted Roseboro to the clubhouse. He required 14 stitches. Only a 1983 appeal to the Hall of Fame by Roseboro eventually enabled Marichal to gain entry to Cooperstown.
He might have been the greatest pitcher in Giants history, but he was still a “knucklehead.”
If you don’t know about “Merkle’s Boner” (the actual name for it, believe it or not), allow me to enlighten you.
The year is 1908. The New York Giants host the Chicago Cubs. The game is tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Moose McCormick (a Giant) is on third base. Fred Merkle is on first base. Shortstop Al Bridwell drills a single into center field and Moose McCormick scores!
The New York Giants win the game 2-1! Fans swarmed onto the field. Merkle, caught up in the moment, joined the throngs. But he forgot something. Rule 4.09: "A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made ... by any runner being forced out."
The Chicago Cubs noticed that after Bridwell’s hit, Merkle never advanced to second base. They threw over to second. The umpire called Fred Merkle out.
The play remains extremely controversial, as some people (including Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem) consider the ruling to be a “gross manipulation of the rules.” Tuck Rule, anybody?
Anyway, the game was later resumed with the pennant on the line. The Cubs won the game and the pennant and went on to win the World Series.
Merkle’s boner was so big that it savaged the Giants chance at a World Series appearance, and for that reason Merkle is the biggest knucklehead in Giants history.
But when you think about it, the Boston Red Sox had the infamous Curse of the Bambino. The Chicago Cubs blame their futility on the Curse of the Billy Goat. But they have yet to win a World Series since 1908… so is it possible that perhaps they owe their woes to the Curse of the Boner?