The Giants season is over. That could have been said a few weeks ago, and was, by many people, but today it finally came to a close. It waited this long because there were still a couple things that had to be done before 2008 was through. There were ovations to give, and I have awards to give out.
Kevin Frandsen made his improbable return for the last two games of the season, and grounded out to a rowdy ovation on Sunday. Frandsen was a fan favorite at the end of last year, and went into Spring Training as the main competition for Ray Durham, now with the playoff-bound Brewers. His season was presumably over when he ruptured his Achilles running around the bases in March, and wasn’t supposed to have come back to the field until winter.
It was Peter Magowan’s last hurrah as chief executive. Magowan stepped in, with Harmon Burns, and bought the Giants for about $100 million, preventing a move to the St. Petersburg area that seemed imminent. His work, from signing Barry Bonds to building the magnificent AT&T Park, revitalized the team and the region, keeping the oldest West Coast ballclub in San Francisco, where it belonged.
The team is now valued at around $450 million, and Magowan handed the reins off to Bill Neukom in early August. He received a very gracious ovation after Sunday’s game, receiving a signed jersey and ball from the final out of the game. Rich Aurilia also made a quick speech, and quickly pleaded his case to stay around the Giants organization. When someone commented that his saving of the ball showed sound presence of mind, he replied, “That's why you need guys like me around."
J.T. Snow had to retire as a Giant, taking the field on Saturday, leaving to a lengthy standing ovation, and finally ending a career that had truly blossomed in San Francisco. He had many highlights with the Giants, with his Gold Glove defense, but he also had a couple emotional points as well. Snow was the one who rescued Darren Baker during Game 5 of the 2002 World Series. He also had the game tying homerun off of Armando Benitez in 2000, which sent the game into extra innings in the first year of Pac Bell Park.
He faded into obscurity with the Red Sox, but remains a part of that stellar Giants infield that at one point had Bill Mueller, Rich Aurilia, Jeff Kent, and Snow around the horn. Snow is now in the broadcast booth and playing a role in the Giants front office, which is great to see.
Omar Vizquel also left the field to outstanding applause, playing probably his last game in a Giants uniform. Vizquel is a lock for the Hall of Fame. I can’t see how there is any contention to that. His statistics are phenomenal, even better in a few offensive categories than Ozzie Smith. His impeccable fielding and work ethic and professionalism and ability to mentor was, as Mike Krukow put it, “pure class.”
Krukow went on to say something else that I agree with, “If you’re a fan of the game, you’re a fan of this man right here [Omar Vizquel].” He has stated that he wants to return to the Giants, even in a reduced role, and actually proved his worth in the latter half of the season, hitting .344 over his last 22 games, which had been being split with Emmanuel Burriss. Giants management has stated that Burriss has won the job for next year, and has not commented on what remains for Vizquel.
There is no question that he can still play the field, and his performance late in the season shows that he can still hit a little bit too. In my opinion, the Giants should evaluate the options at short, and if Burriss has truly won the job, and if Vizquel will play for reduced pay and reduced playing time, then keep him. If he decides that this is it, then it is inevitable that either the Giants or Indians will scoop him up in some sort of coaching position. He has refrained from comparing the two cities, but has constantly professed his love for San Francisco and its fans.
And finally, Tim Lincecum needed one more exclamation mark on his stellar season. Fans were skeptical about his dominance after a comparably terrible start last week, but he came back swinging. To assert his dominance, he recorded the first nine outs on strikeouts. He only allowed one run and four hits, and lowered his ERA to 2.62. Lincecum ended the game with 13 strikeouts, bolstering his Major-League lead to 265, and becoming the first Giant to lead the league in that category since 1944 (Bill Voiselle).
He leads the National League in winning percentage, strikeouts, and opponent’s batting average, ending the season with lefties batting .225 and righties hitting a paltry .220. His dominance all season long has lined him up as the favorite for many sportswriters for the Cy Young award. Among those was ESPN’s Jayson Stark, who stated,
“We live in an age in which we ought to be able to use tools more incisive than "wins" to evaluate who has pitched the best. Don't you think? Well, let's use those tools. "Best stuff in baseball," says Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur. And best year in the National League. Which is what Cy Youngs are made of.”
This weekend was the end of the season for the Giants, who finished fourth in the National League West. It was the end of an era for this team, with Peter Magowan stepping down effective October 1st. It was the end of a great career for one of the most popular Giants first basemen, JT Snow. It might be the last time we see Omar Vizquel on the field for this team, and it might also spell the end for other long-time Giants Rich Aurilia and Tyler Walker. But it was not the end of this franchise, and it was not the year that was expected.
This team was projected to lose 100 games and be the worst team in the MAJORS, much less the National League. Instead, this team battled all year long, tying the Cardinals for most one run games in the majors (52). Their pitching staff struck out a ton of batters, Brian Wilson ended up tied for second in the league for saves, Bengie Molina and Aaron Rowand had monster first-halves and stayed consistent down the stretch, and once the youth movement was fully in swing, the young kids showed their stuff. The Giants started over 20 rookies this year, and all of them showed promise. This team was far from the worst team in the league. They will not fire coaches like the Nationals and Pirates already did, and won’t lose millions of fans because of their inability to win. Instead, they have given the fans of San Francisco something to hope for: a bright future.