AT&T Park is the defining crown jewel of the San Francisco Giants franchise. It symbolizes the Giants successful efforts to remain in San Francisco and has become one of the go-to attractions in the city over the last 12 seasons.
There have seen magic moments aplenty in the new yard. Almost 1000 regular season games. Five World Series games. When it comes to championships, it's AT&T 1 Candlestick 0.
I have ranked the 12 seasons of AT&T Park according to how much fun they provided the fans along the way. There are zero quantitative factors in the formula; just nostalgic memories.
2008 was the last of four consecutive losing seasons. The hype of 756 was in the rearview mirror and Barry Bonds was replaced in the order with base-clogger Bengie Molina and shiny free agent acquisiton Aaron Rowand. Barry Zito's status as payroll ball & chain was beginning to emerge and Giants fans were realizing that seven years couldn't be counted on one finger.
On the bright side, Tim Lincecum was the whirling strikeout messiah we had hoped for and Pablo Sandoval came out of nowhere to provide a semblance of offense.
All in all, the odds of this team being two seasons away from a World Series title could have made someone a rich man. Moving on...
In my mind, the 2005 Giants are lost to history. If you have a vivid specific memory of the season, please post in the comments. The season was like a weird dream shortly after waking up. Barry Bonds had 42 ABs and some guy named Jason Ellison had 352? Tyler Walker led the team in saves? Whatever.
Soon you will be telling me that Pedro Feliz was the starting left fielder. Oh wait, that happened too.
The 2007 season was full of intrigue for sure. In the ultimate act of cognitive dissonance, Giants fans filled AT&T on a nightly basis for a last place team to watch the aging hero chase baseball's most storied record. Simultaneously, the rest of the league and the media combined to bulldoze the hero's legacy—all but negating the record's significance.
A Giants fan's relationship with Barry Bonds was—and remains—complicated. We remained Barry's most loyal supporter while everyone else in baseball deserted him. 2007 was the culmination of this long, tumultuous relationship and our feelings towards 756 were a microcosm of our feelings towards the player himself: one part adoration, one part betrayal.
Oh, and the team was basically unwatchable. Zito couldn't even get out of year one without showing what a mistake he was. The offense was a big, slow runny mixture of Klesko, Aurilia, Vizquel and Molina. Yuck.
I blow saves. I still get paid. It's all good.
Due to a bad division, the Giants found themselves three games back on Sept. 14, but this turned out to be a mirage. A 3-13 finish landed this team about where they deserved. The Giants finished 13th in team batting average, 12th in team ERA and seemed to be floating in a grey area where over the hill veterans and somewhat promising youngsters couldn't agree on who should play.
The rise of Matt Cain was a light in the darkness, but this team was still several years out from establishing its current identity.
A World Series hangover indeed. The gang of misfits that united to turn 2010 into the most magical of runs turned back into, well, misfits. Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff all showed why the Giants were able to sign them for a sack of beans.
The 2011 Giants were one of the worst offensive squads in team history—unwatchable at times. It felt like a wasted season. How long can the championship window stay open?
2009 was a fun season. The roster combined past-their-expiration-dates swingers like Rowand, Winn, Aurilia and Molina with lineup fillers like Fred Lewis, Eugenio Velez, Ryan Garko and Travis Ishikawa. Yet this scrappy squad found itself in the thick of the Wild Card race well into September.
In reality, this team had no business making the playoffs. But 2009 was the first season where the future looked bright. While Tim Lincecum picked up Cy Young No. 2, the pitching staff was showing signs of settling into its current dominant form. The future was bright, especially in hindsight.
The 2000-2003 Giants were one of the best teams in the Major Leagues. The 2004 Giants had A.J. Pierzynski and Brett Tomko. Those types of acquisitions never bode well for the future. The 1918 Red Sox suffered for 90 years after selling Babe Ruth. The Giants grounded into double plays for seven years after trading Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano for franchise pariah Pierzynski.
I'm glad to be on the other side of this one. However, the 2004 season was fun. 91 wins was good enough to keep the Giants in the race until the last weekend. Then Steve Finley happened. Then the curse of A.J. brought Steve Finley to San Francisco to bat .240.
The Redeem Team of 2003 team was probably the most talented. With the second best pitching staff in the NL and a healthy Barry Bonds firmly anchored in the middle of the order, the Giants cruised to the National League West title. They cruised through Game 1 of the NLDS against the upstart Marlins. In Game 3, with the lead in the ninth inning, Jose Cruz Jr. cruised over to a fly ball and suddenly forgot to use his glove.
In one play, the dream of erasing the pain of 2002 was ended. It would be seven years until the Giants got another chance.
Brand new Pac-Bell Park was the new gem in baseball's crown. Throughout 2001, boats flocked to McCovey Cove in search of a stray home run ball. Only three years after Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa laid waste to Roger Maris' home run record, Barry Bonds put on the greatest power hitting performance in baseball history.
2001 kicked off Bonds' ridiculous four year stretch in which he posted a .559 OBP. The numbers blew up Billy Beane's computer models. Though the Giants were eliminated in Game 160, the same night in which McGwire's record fell, there are few seasons in Giants history that were this much fun.
We didn't see it coming. The 2002 Giants were not supposed to make the World Series. They were also not supposed to complete an all-time choke. The enduring pain (about 1/100 as painful as it used to be) overshadowed the whole of the intriguing 2002 team. As far as I can remember, the season started in October.
Jason Schmidt became the best Giants ace in 20 years. Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds carried the offense despite a public inability to co-exist off the field. Dusty Baker's career reached his career high and his career low in a period of two weeks. And Darren Lewis Baker created one of the enduring moments in Giants playoff history.
Though the 2000 team suffered a devastating defeat to an inferior Mets team in the playoffs, the enduring memory is not Mark Gardner on the mound in Game 4. 2000 was the year of Pac-Bell Park. Splash Hits, Triples Alley, McCovey Cove, Cha Cha Bowls and the four archways were all spanking new and the Giants were unbeatable in their new digs, going 55-26.
2000 was one big celebration as the franchise celebrated the best ballpark in America.
There's nothing much to say about this one. The voting was unanimous. Flags fly forever.