I'm not entirely sure what prompted it, but recently my father and I started talking about the best Giants players since the disastrous and tragic Bay Area Series.
From this, I started thinking of the best players the Giants have had at each position...and the following is the fruit of that endeavor.
Obviously, some of you readers will disagree with me on my picks, and that's OK—feel free to debate these choices, and make your own suggestions.
Just remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but mine is better than yours.
**N.B.—This is limited solely to the players who wore a Giants uniform between 1990 & now, and evaluated solely on their performance with the Giants. However, this will still count stats accumulated while in a Giants uniform prior to 1990. Also, there will be no middle relievers on this team (apologies to Mike Jackson).**
So without further ado, I present to you the post-1989 All-Giants Team. Enjoy.
C: Bengie Molina (2007-Pres.)—We really haven't had a solid, all-around catcher in this particular time span. Yes, yes, Kirt Manwaring was an outstanding fielder, but he had absolutely nothing going for him in the batter's box, so that invalidates him. Bengie has been fairly solid and consistent, both behind the dish and at the plate. Therefore, he gets the nod, despite his complete and utter lack of plate discipline.
Mike Matheny—A sublime defensive catcher (best of our generation, maybe?), and did a passable job with the stick...It's really too bad about the concussions.
Benito Santiago—Bennie was a big part of that 2002 National League Pennant-winning team, but he benefited greatly from having Bonds and Kent in the lineup with him—not to mention, his three Giant seasons came in the twilight of his excellent career.
1B: Will Clark (1986-1993)—I don't think this one even needs to be argued. The Thrill was blasting from his first MLB at-bat (he hit a HR off The Ryan Express on the second pitch of his career). It's a crying shame that we couldn't keep him, Bonds, and Williams in San Francisco.
J.T. Snow—Decent hitter, but a great glove at first—but his most important 'catch' was at home plate, and it didn't involve a baseball. All in all, you really can't dislike this guy. It's actually physically impossible.
2B: Jeff Kent (1997-2002)—Despite the fact that he was a massive jerk, he is nevertheless one of the best slugging 2nd basemen to play the game—and his best years came with the Giants. His offensive tour-de-force on the way to an NL MVP Award in 2000 was (and still is) astonishing.
Robby Thompson—there is no other legitimate candidate at 2nd base (sorry Ray-Ray). He really was a pretty good player up until the '94 season...unfortunate (both for him and the Giants, because of his contract) that he never recovered to pre-strike/injury form.
3B: Matt Williams (1987-1996)—I'm not sure if there has ever been a more strongly disliked trade (at the time of the deal) in SF Giants history than the one in which Matt Williams was the dreaded "player to be named later"...I remember almost crying. The guy was my hero and favorite baseball player...but we did get Jeff Kent out of the deal, so all's well that end's well, right?
In any event, Matt was just plain dominant at the dish, especially in his '94 (his 43 HR's led MLB, on pace to break Maris' record until the strike shortened his season to 112 games) and '95 (23 HRs, .647 SLUG in only 76 games); obviously, these weren't full seasons...Only the Lord knows what he could have accomplished if they were.
Pablo Sandoval—This was a tough call between Pablo and Bill Mueller. Obviously, Kung Fu Panda hasn't been playing very long, I am willing to discount this fact somewhat in light of his season thus far.
Billy was decent but didn't find his "pop" until he landed in Boston; still, he was a solid player with the Giants. It's really a toss-up here, only because of a (very) limited sample for the Panda—but Sandoval's stellar performance this season earns him my nod.
SS: Rich Aurilia (1995-2003, 2007-Pres.)—It's really unfortunate that Sabean's senility led to Richie's return, thereby ruining most people's perception of him (Aurilia)...he really was outstanding before, I promise! His 2001 campaign still stands as, arguably, the best in Giants SS history (37 HRs?!?! 206 Hits?!?!). Rich was a member of that 2001 All-Star team that featured 3 Giants as starters, back when the fans knew how to vote for the correct players.
I just wish he could leave S.F. with dignity, but that seems less possible after each game he plays.
Omar Vizquel—The Wizard Pt. 2 gets this spot by default. This is mainly due to the fact that, well, he's Omar, and Royce Clayton is definitely not worthy of the spot. Possibly the best defensive SS of his generation (solid fielding has become a hallmark of these Honorable Mentions, apparently).
**Attn.—I'm going to take a bit of liberty with the specific positions in the outfield...and the Honorable Mention category is wide open here.**
OF 1: Barry Bonds (1993-2007)—I'm just gonna throw a few stats out there, other than that whole most-HRs-ever thing (762 if you have been living in a cave). Here's one that's utterly mind-blowing: FOUR CONSECUTIVE YEARS WITH AN OBP OVER .500 (including a jaw-dropping .609 in 2004).
Baseball, as I have mentioned before, is a game which is always measured by the amount of failures (shameless plug for my article here) someone makes...Barry is the only player to succeed MORE times than he failed when he went to the plate over the course of FOUR STRAIGHT SEASONS. Truly amazing. Also, take a gander at this one: 2558 career walks, for a guy who a) is 6'1" and b) doesn't crouch at the plate. I don't see how people still insist that he doesn't belong in Cooperstown, regardless of PED use (by the way, Bonds never cheated because it wasn't against the rules when he allegedly used HGH, so stop saying he cheated).
(end of rant)
OF 2: Ellis Burks (1998-2000)—After being picked up from Colorado at the trade deadline(!) in '98, Ellis Burks provided an awfully good 2 1/2-ish seasons, given his health problems. In 1999 and 2000, Burks posted an OPS of .964 and 1.025, respectively, all while playing with knees that were clearly a few decades older than the rest of his body past.
Burks is not really known for being a Giant, but he posted his best averages wearing the orange and black (yes, even better than he did in Colorado per AB—and this was pre-humidor Colorado). Obviously, this is a pretty arguable pick...so feel free to critique this one.
OF 3: Kevin Mitchell (1987-1991)—Kevin Mitchell was a bit goofy (bare-handed catch, anyone?), but he could definitely hit a ball hard & far. I'm from Cincinnati, so Mitchell stands out a little bit extra in my memory, but it isn't as if he isn't deserving of this spot.
His '89 MVP season—47 HRs, 125 RBIS, 192 OPS+ (OPS above league average)—warrants a place on team, at least in my opinion (and I have already explained the thing about my opinions). Again, this is a potentially arguable choice, but I think he's a bit more solid than Burks.
Honorable Mentions: (In the interest of your time, I'm not writing full blurbs [oxymoronic?] for all of these guys)
Randy Winn—Winn has been consistently putting up solid numbers with the Giants, but this has gone relatively unnoticed by most. Winn would be my #4 pick in the OF, close behind Burks.
Darren Lewis—Only reason I will throw his name up here is because of his glove. But oh, what a glove (even made a S.I. Cover for it).
Willie McGee—I personally did not even think about McGee, but good old baseball-reference.com reminded me of him, and he definitely had some solid years in the early to mid 90s (he was a member of that fantastic '93 team).
Brett Butler—Yes, he is most remembered as a Dodger; however, the 'Human Bunt' did post some good numbers over his three years as a Giant.
Also, I was named after him.
Starting Rotation (Pitchers in no particular order)
Jason Schmidt (2001-2006)—Yet another Giant star that is now wearing Dodger blue...however, we did rob the Pirates to acquire him in the first place. For about a three year period earlier this decade, "Schmidtty" was certainly one of the best pitchers in baseball. He undoubtedly was robbed of a Cy Young, as his career year in 2003 unfortunately coincided with Eric Gagne's spectacular (though fluky) season.
After joining the Giants, Schmidt truly became the definition of power pitcher, posting a S.F. Giant record for strikeouts in a season, with 251 in 2004 (which has since been broken by another member of this team). To add to his impressive resume, Jason hurled one of the best games by a Giant pitcher in recent memory (2006, June 6th, against the Marlins, 16 Ks, you remember it).
John Burkett (1987, 1990-1994)—I bet most of you forgot about this guy! (Or was I the only one; I sincerely didn't even remember Burkett until my dad mentioned him). John was a rare Giant pitcher that never endured what could be called a "bad" season at any point in his Giant career, but outside of that league-leading 22 wins in '93 (that team was so good, too bad there was no wild card then), he never was particularly a standout.
Regardless, Burkett knew how to throw strikes and keep the runners off the basepaths, and that's what made him successful. Ergo, he deserves a place on this team.
Kirk Rueter (1996-2005)—I don't think there is really argument about Woody's place on this team. For a while, he was in possession of the second highest winning percentage amongst active lefties, second only to one Mr. Randy Johnson. Oh, and he's had the most wins in a Giant uniform since the '89 Series, with 105. All arguments of the validity of the "win" stat notwithstanding, 105 wins is still nothing to pooh-pooh.
The worst thing is, Woody is a virtual unknown outside of the Bay Area, considering he started his career in Montreal, and never posted gaudy numbers in one particular season...something of a shame he never made an All-Star team (a travesty of justice, for sure).
Russ Ortiz (1998-2002, 2007)—Ok, I'm definitely going to catch some flak for this pick, but I'm sticking by my guns. During his years as a Giant, Russ was probably the second most successful Giant starter (on a regular basis), behind the aforementioned Woody.
He ultimately ended up having his best season(s) of his career immediately after leaving the Giants, but before leaving for Atlanta, he managed to compile a 69-47 record as a Giant. In light of his recent performances, it might be tough to actually believe that he was good at one time.
Tim Lincecum (2007-Pres.)—I simply cannot leave Timmy off of this list. Winning an NL Cy Young award in his first full season, The Freak has kept his foot on the gas and definitely isn't showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. Obviously, he's still very, very young, and it's my fervent hope that Bochy doesn't work his arm into the ground, but no other SF Giant pitcher has ever been more dominant at a young age. I love how people want to compare him to Dwight Gooden, even though Lincecum is far and away better than Doc. As the ace of the present and the ace of the future, Tim deserves this spot, possibly (maybe a year or two down the line) even a mention amongst the top Giants pitchers EVER.
Matt Cain—Prior to this season, he was the possessor of the worst luck amongst all active MLB pitchers, and now the Giants have finally started giving the big guy some run support. In a few years, I would expect him to easily usurp Ortiz' spot on this team.
Livan Hernandez—El Duque's little brother was the prototypical workhorse. Sadly though, that's about all he amounted to for the Giants, all told. He was influential in getting them through the playoffs to the '02 Series, but that, in and of itself, does not get him in the door.
Shawn Estes—Went from good, to...well...not-so-good. If there ever were a flake amongst the post '89 pitchers, Estes would be the one. Inconsistency plagued him throughout his time as a Giant, and that is what is chiefly keeping him from replacing Ortiz' spot in the rotation.
Bill Swift—Swift definitely had the most successful short stint of any Giant pitcher in the 90s (21-8 in '93, 39-13 over his Giant career). Out of all the pitchers, this is probably my biggest oversight. Personally, I didn't think that three years is enough to put him in over others, which is kinda hypocritical seeing as how I put Lincecum in. Regardless, Swift will be left as an honorable mention.
Noah Lowry—Throwing him here for posterity. I truly feel bad for the guy.
Closers; A Short Section
(Again, no middle relievers here)
(Tie): Rod Beck (1991-1997) & Robb Nen (1998-2002)—I am choosing to group these two masters of the ninth together because, essentially, they were both extremely good (and fairly similar in abilities). Beck was scary, Nen was scary. Both threw smoke, and both were nasty.
Sadly, the Giants haven't been able to keep up the quality of closers since then (Brian Wilson has yet to be consistent), which is why there will be no Honorable Mentions in this category. Beck and Nen actually did their job, unlike their eventual successors (this finger is pointed at you, Armando Benitez).
P.S.—Rest in peace, Rod.
With that, I will conclude my exhaustive All-Giants Team, from 1990 to Present Day.
Hopefully, you enjoyed this, and again, feel free to make comments about my picks, point out the people I missed, or whatever you feel compelled to write in the box.
(Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com for most of the statistics)