A Farewell Ode to Merkin "Manny Mateo" Valdez

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A Farewell Ode to Merkin
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Dear Mr. Valdez,

We hardly knew ye. But believe us, as Giants fans, there was hope for you when you first arrived.

There was hope for you when you appeared to be the key cog in the Russ Ortiz trade with the Atlanta Braves in December of 2002 (at the time, many Giants fans were flummoxed by Brian Sabean's decision because Ortiz was such a valuable pitcher on the Giants' NL Pennant-winning squad).

There was hope for you when you were selected to play for the World Team in the MLB All-Star Futures Game three straight years from 2003-2005.

There was hope for you when you were named "USA Today's Organizational Player of the Year" for the San Francisco organization in 2003.

There was hope for you when you were an available player on MVP Baseball 2005 for the Sony Playstation 2.

There was hope for you despite you actually being nine months older than you originally claimed when you were drafted by the Braves in 1999.

Despite all that, however, it just didn't work out in San Francisco for you.

Why did it not work out Merkin? Who knows, really. The list is as long as Samuel L. Jackson's filmography on IMDB.com.

Perhaps it was the injuries.

You missed the entire 2005 and 2007 seasons, and maybe that just doomed your potential from the beginning, even though in this day and age of "super medical advancements," we thought you would overcome them. Sure, there was always the consensus from a lot of experts that your arm mechanics were suspects. However, the experts said the same things about Tim Lincecum as well, so we cut you some slack.

Perhaps the pressure and expectations were too great.

Giants fans originally wanted you to be a starter then scrapped that idea after your arm problems and envisioned you as the Giants closer of the future. Sabean seemed to have the plan so nicely formed after the Matt Herges fiasco in 2004: Armando Benitez for at least a few years as our closer (after all, he was the National League Saves Champion in 2004 along with Jason Isringhausen), and then the torch would have been passed to you by 2008 or 2009. At the very least, you proved to be a more likable guy than Benitez in your tenure here in San Francisco.

Perhaps you just weren't all that great a pitcher.

In 2009, you threw you're fastball 80.3 percent of the time. But I guess you had to. With a 5.66 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP, you really couldn't afford to take chances with your below-average pitches—such as your slider and split, which you threw 13.4 percent and 6.2 percent of the time, respectively.

Hey, your fastball was in the mid-to-high-90s, which got you some positive—in a pessimistic kind of way—marks. It didn't count in strikeouts (6.93 strikeout rate), but I'm sure it counted in something (walks, I guess, as evidenced by your 5.11 walk rate, but I won't dwell on that).

I could go on and on, Merkin, formerly Manny Mateo, Valdez. But I won't. You deserve better than that. You were an intimidating figure physically, you were Jonathan Sanchez's best buddy—I'm sure you said something that inspired him to throw that no-hitter on July 10—and like I said before, Giants fans certainly liked you a hell of a lot more than Armando Benitez (not hard to do, but still an accomplishment nonetheless).

There could be a chance you could pass through waivers. There is a chance you could still be a Giant. That being said, I know a GM will be awed by your fastball. We Giants fans certainly were in your tenure in this organization.

Thus, you will most likely be in another uniform in 2010 that won't say "Giants" or "San Francisco" or "Gigantes" across the front. Granted, we've had worse partings. Will Clark, Matt Williams, Dave Roberts (no...just kidding), Barry Bonds. There was some kind of disappointment when they all left. You're not in the same ballpark of course, but there is some disappointment with you leaving (though a different kind of disappointment in comparison to Williams, Clark and Bonds, but disappointment nonetheless), and your departure will be remembered (the over/under is currently at 14.5 days).

What could have been, Merkin. What could have been.

God speed and the best of luck with whatever Major (or Minor) League team you play for in 2010.

Sincerely,

Remember '51.

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