SurfMaui Guest Post: My Highlights and Lowlights of the Decade

 

BY SURFMAUI

As the decade comes to an end, and in the spirit of Dr. Lefty’s excellent Post, SM is offering his favorite and least favorite moments of the 2010’s. Overall, though these teams lacked some of the superstars like Mays, McCovey, Marichal. Bonds etc., we made our own generation of largely homegrown players with a few key outside additions. So no matter what has happened since 2016 (yes, I said 2016 since we were only three outs a from going to game 5 against the Cubs with Cueto on the mound) this was certainly the greatest decade in San Francisco Giant history, and likely the greatest decade in Franchise History. So before anything else–good and painful–thank you to Larry Baer, Brian Sabean, and Bruce Bochy for such a wonderful time. Hopefully we can come close to that in another decade while I’m still alive. Some of my picks will be well remembered, and some lost in the shuffle. I’m sure that each of you will have other candidates, but these are mine. My candidates are from memory, and are in no particular order. Since I am in Maui without reference to my score books and too lazy to look most things up, perhaps there are errors which I’m sure you will all correct. The entries marked with an asterisk are games in which I was in attendance ,and some of the rest I had a special connection:

SM’s Top Memories of the Decade

Michael Morse Game Tying Home Run in the 8th in Game 5 of the 2014 NCS.

I was in New York City recovering from back surgery (what else is new) but I was determined to watch this at Finnerty’s, the Giant’s bar on 14th Street and Second Avenue. The place was packed with no place at all to sit, and barely a place to squeeze in and stand. Once I got my spot, I literally couldn’t move and standing for four hours wasn’t doing the pain in my back any good at all, which was also not being helped by the Giants trailing heading to the eighth and bringing in a nasty side arming right hander to face Michael Morse who had been suffering from a strained oblique. Just before his at bat a young man on crutches, who had scored a rare chair, asked me (not knowing of my back) to hold his seat, and he got back just in time to see the Morse home run. I started to get up to give him his seat back, but he refused, saying ”No you brought the good luck.” The next inning brought the Ishihara home run, and the pennant Finnerty’s went crazy. Without the Morse home run, there was no Ishikawa home run and maybe no pennant. The Giants would have had to return to St. Louis for the next two games on the road. That’s why its special to me. As an honorable mention, let’s remember Michael Morse also had the game winning RBI of game seven of the WS.

Buster’s Grand Slam/Romo four out, 12 pitch last out save versus Jay Bruce in Game 5 Versus the 2012 Reds.

Not only was this the culmination of three straight road elimination games on the road versus the Reds to win the NDS (the Reds had not lost 3 home games in a row all season), but it was especially interesting to SM because of where I was when it happened. Several months earlier I had been invited by a member friend to play golf with another friend at Trump National Golf Course in Westchester, NY. When it became obvious that this was the critical game, had it been only me, SM would have cancelled in a heartbeat to watch the game, but I couldn’t let my friend who was looking forward to the course, down. I was watching the game play by play on my phone, and we were on the thirteenth hole when Buster Posey came to the plate with the bases loaded. I was praying for just a run scoring fly ball, when the screen lit up with a grand slam. I’m sure that my yelling interrupted every putt on the course. I stopped playing and just watched the play by play. We got back to the club house in the ninth inning, and under a Giant portrait of Donald Trump I sweated through every pitch of the Jay Bruce at bat. Who could have known that the Giants would go on to win three more elimination games and win the WS, but that somehow Trump would become President. Ugh!

*2012 World Series: Pablos’s Three Home Runs, Fielder thrown out at the plate, Scutaro series winning RBI, and Romo Striking out Cabrera to end the Series.

SM was at three of the four games including Game 4 in Detroit. The Giants had won six straight elimination games to get to the WS while the Tigers were off for about a week resting. When I went to the 2012 WS reunion program Jeremy Affeldt told us that going into the series with Detroit, the Giants players absolutely knew they would win, because it is not really possible for a team to lay off for a week and retain their playing skills. Obviously that showed when Pablo homered twice off Justin Verlander in game one and Zito pitched to a victory. In game two, Prince Fielder tried to score from first on a Delmon Young double and was thrown out at the plate by a perfect relay and tag changing the complexion of the game. That led to two of my three memorable comments of the World Series expressed at the time: “Fielder was out at the plate by 75 pounds,” and his dash from first to the plate replaced the Kentucky Derby as “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” My next best prediction came in the tenth inning of Game 4 in Detroit. It was freezing cold and drizzling, and Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on Detroit. No one, including Tigers fans wanted to come back the next day for Game 5. Marco Scutero came to the plate with Ryan Theriot on second. I said to my frozen nephew sitting next to me that Scutero was “so hot that I’d rather he be up in that situation than Babe Ruth. Next pitch Scatter delivered, and Room closed out the game against the best hitter in baseball (except Scutero) by freezing him with a fastball after a number of sliders. The Giants fans in attendance all gathered behind the Giants dugout where sudden it became very warm and any time someone came out of the dugout who had anything to do with the Giants a huge chant arose, including for “Pab-lo’s brother.” In all it was one a.m. before we could get back to the hotel, and all flights were cancelled the next day, so we had to drive to Chicago to get home.

*The Last Game of the 2014 Regular Season, Yes, Yes, Yes!

As the season wound down to its last day the Giants postseason was in play. They beat the Padres to qualify for the wild card game on the road with the Pirates. As is their tradition the players took to the field after the game and Hunter Pence spoke to the fans, not a single one of whom had left the stadium. Here’s what he reported on his speech:

“That was the year we lost the division to the Dodgers and were facing a Wild Card game on the road. I remember wanting to build momentum for a dreadful looking path in the playoffs, one in which we weren’t expected to win a single series. I asked you, the fans, if you were ready for a parade and you so willingly obliged with a “YES! YES! YES! Let’s gooooo….” It gets me fired up just thinking about how crazy I was to say such things, how awesome you were to buy into it, and how the magic “COINCIDENTALLY” happened. We brought back a third title in five years. [High five!]” (Hunter Pence Thank You to the Fans)

The fans were psyched, the player were psyched, and SurfMaui was psyched. It was a magical moment which led to the fantastic 2014 post season highlighted by some of the greatest moments in Giants history

Crawford’s Grand Slam Versus the Pirates in the Wildcard and MadBum’s Shutout.

After getting into the wild card game on the last day of the season and Pence’s “Yes, Yes, Yes” pep talk, the Giants traveled to Pittsburgh, where the fans were raucous, right up until Brandon Crawford absolutely silenced them with the first grand slam in post season history by a shortstop. (Even pitchers had hit one.) MadBum pitched a complete game shutout (his first of two) and continued his post season scoreless streak, as the Giants won their seventh straight elimination game.

Pablo’s Double to Tie 2014 NDS Game 2.

The Giants won the first game on the road against the highly favored Nationals and were down 1-0 to a Jordan Zimmerman 8 2/3 inning start when he walked Panik with 2 outs in the ninth. Matt Williams mercifully brought in Drew Storen who gave up a first pitch single to Poesy and Pablo doubled to tie the game with Poesy thrown out the plate in a game which featured Petit’s 6 innings of scoreless relief and Belt’s Home Run to win it in the 18th, and the game ending on a deep fly ball to right off of Hunter Strickland who would go on to set the record for most post season home runs given up by a reliever.

*Gillaspie’s 2016 Wild Card Home Run/Madbum Second Wildcard shutout.

A hurricane sent me to this game at the last minute. SM had just moved to south Florida a month earlier and a hurricane was bearing down on my house, due in several days. It was one p.m. on a Tuesday and a guy was working on drywall in my house to cover a window in order to display one of the larger items of my Giants museum, when he casually asked me if I was prepared for the hurricane. I told him that I had a few bottles of water, and he warned me that we could be without power for several weeks. A quick trip to the store revealed that there was no water, batteries or candles, or food to be had. Thinking quickly I realized that the Giants would be playing the Mets at CitiField in the WC the next day and fortunately I was on a plane at to New York at 5 p.m. and scored tickets on Stub Hub. Bumgarner was again masterful in pitching yet another complete game Wild Card Shutout, and Gillaspie won it with a three run homer off of Mets closer Famillia in the top of the ninth as the Giants ran their elimination game win string to 8. The hurricane hit while I was gone so I proceeded to Chicago to see the Giants lose the first two games of the NDS and then on to San Francisco. See below.

Game 2 NCS Duffy Scores from Second on a Wild Pitch.

https://www.mlb.com/video/duffy-scores-on-wild-pitch/c-36800383

Although the Giants wound up losing this game in extra innings, it still makes my highlight reel. Giants were trailing in the ninth in Game two, and Duffy was running for third when Panik walked on a bouncing pitch from Trevor Rosenthal, which the Cardinals backup catcher (Molina had left the game with an oblique strain in the seventh) could not handle. Duffy just kept going and scored to tie the game. That’s when I knew that this team was special. It was the epitome of Tim Flannery’s RTI (Runs Thrown In).

Pence Game One 2014 World Series Two Run Home Run. This one may be a bit unusual but it sticks in my mind. After the torture seasons and the 2012 comebacks, and now seven straight elimination wins, it calmed my nerves– and like Crawford grand slam in the Pirates wild card game, Pence’s two run homer in the first giving them a three run lead silenced the crowd, much of which was barely in their seats and gave me (and maybe the team) a renewed confidence that we can do this, helped by a seven run offense and Madbum’s one run outing.

Zito 2012 Game 5 Masterpiece and Bunt RBI single. The Giants trailed the series 3-1 sand were desperately trying to get the series back to San Francisco after winning three straight elimination games versus the Reds. After struggling through the first couple of innings, Zito pieced his finest game as a Giant, retiring sixteen of the next 18 batters and topping things off by driving in a run with a bunt single:

“There were two outs, and runners on first and third. And the Cardinals played the infield back — possibly because, according to Baseball-Reference.com, Zito had never laid down a bunt single in his career. But he dropped Lynn’s second pitch down the third-base line, legged it out and let the shockwaves sink in among his worldwide Twitter admirers.

“That was awesome, man,” Affeldt said. “He waited 13 years to pull this one out of his hat.”

*Crawford’s MLB Debut Grand Slam Home Run. This was the first game that the Giants played after Buster Posey’s devastating ankle fracture, and SM was visiting his kids in Chicago. With the knowledge that our season likely ended with Posey gone, I traveled the 70 miles to Milwaukee where the Giants had added Chris Stewart and Crawford to the roster that night. Crawford became the seventh player in baseball history to hit a grand salami in his first game. Bobby Bonds is another. The win that night gave me hope, but alas it was for naught.

Madbum’s 2014 WS Game 5 Shutout. I was sitting in the bleachers when the Giants were on the verge of going down 3-1 in the series when they fell several runs down early in game 4. But thanks to Yusmeiro Petit’s strong relief and an 11 run outburst they tied the series at 2-2 setting up MadBum’s fourth career WS start. He had only let up one run in the WS ever, as solo home run in game 1, in which the Giants had a big lead. It was a 1-0 game till the eighth inning, but sitting in the stands you never had any thought that Bumgarner would ever let up a run–and he didn’t– with another complete game post season shutout, giving the Giants a 3-2 Series lead and setting up his greatest performance ever in Game 7.

“The” Double Play and MadBum’s 5 inning Save in Game 7. This entry was a no brainer. After watching Game 5 in person my nephew and I were toying with the idea of going to Kansas City to see the Giants close it out. We didn’t go and after the Royals blowout in Game 6, and recalling the 2002 debacle, I was thinking that it might have been a good idea to stay home. Boy was I wrong, and I missed one of the greatest– if not the greatest post season pitching performance ever. The game, of course was changed by the fabulous Crawford-Panik double play turn, which but for video replay could well have changed the course of Giants history. Michael Morse also drove in what proved to be the final and winning run, with a single, and I can still visualize him running to first base with his outstretched arms. But of course, the night belonged to MadBum and when he came out of the bullpen you could almost sense that the Royals knew they were done. Few, if any would have thought that he would finish the game with five shutout innings, but in retrospect, there was probably no human being on earth who could have taken the ball out of his hands. It was truly one of the greatest baseball memories that I have, and (see below) why I am so devastated by the Giants failure to make him a lifetime Giant.

Ryan Vogelsong 2012 Post Season. No decade list would be complete without discussion of Ryan Vogelsong. In their fifth straight elimination game, down in the NLCS down three games to two and returning to San Francisco Vogelsong stepped up with a career high nine strikeouts leading the Giants to their magical rain soaked game seven win. Then in Game three of the World Series he pitched 5.2 shut out innings. Vogelsong and Barry Zito Giants starters to go undefeated in the postseason. Vogelsong was 3–0 in the 2012 Post-Season with a 1.09 ERA. He and Christy Mathewson were the only pitchers to start their postseason careers with four consecutive starts of five or more innings giving up one run or fewer. In the 2014 championship run, the Giants won all three of his starts.

The Return of Pablo. As discussed below, one of my least favorite moments of the decade was when Pablo badmouthed the Giants when he left. Pablo, however, being Pablo, with his joie de vivre, managed not only to come back, but to again become a fan favorite and a valuable player until injuries ended his 2019 season and likely his Giants career.

SurfMaui’s Least Favorite Memories of Last Decade

Again not in any order

Pablo Badmouthing the Giants after 2014. (See above) After the 2014 WS Parade emotions and excitement ran high and Giants fans almost universally didn’t want to see Pablo go. We wanted to keep the team together for another run in 2015. As he soaked up the love of the crowds Pablo gave no indication that he was interested in leaving, or that his relation to the team had soured. According to reports the Giants were, or close to matching the Red Sox offer. Although we were disappointed that he left, we savored the memories that he gave us, including the 2012 WS, MVP. It came as a great surprise and disappointment, therefore, when Pablo was asked if he missed the Giants, and he said, that the only people he missed was Hunter Pence and Bruce Bochy. Though, inexcusable, I can only assume that his comment was a the result of immaturity and bad advice. So when Pablo came back in 2018 as a no cost reclamation project, it took a while for SM, and, I’m sure most other Giants fans, to accept Pablo . His game winning hit on the last day of the season cost us the number 1 pick, but it yielded Joey Bart, and to me it was worth it to witness the joy with which he played the game. And, though injured, during the Giants, June-July 2019 he had muliple walkoffs and key hits. So this bad story had a happy ending and here’s hoping that Pablo will make a full recovery and spend the next several years with the Giants.

The Decline of Tim Lincecum. Fan favorite, great athlete, two time Cy Young winner, super starter and reliever in the post season, and then suddenly, somehow it came to an end. He could have signed long term contracts with even greater dollars, but again, as one of a kind, he signed a series of one and two year deals. Even in his rapid descent then he managed to pitch two no hitters, in one of which his pitch count soared into the 140’s. Sad.

The Posey Injury. Nothing more need be said about the injury that led to The Posey Rule. However, it had other consequences in addition to costing the loss of Posey for the rest of the season. Still with a three game lead in the West, the Giants traded Zach Wheeler for a two month Carlos Beltran rental, We not only missed the playoffs, but lost Wheeler too. Beltran got hurt, and the trade might never have been made if Posey hadn’t been injured. In retrospect even if Posey had not been hurt SM would have made the trade and when Posey became the comeback player of the year in 2012, his presence in 2011 might have led to 3 in a row and 4 out of 5.

*2016 Playoff Game 4 Blown Save. As listed above SM wound up going to the entire 2016 NDS to avoid a hurricane (combined with my son’s season Cub tickets). The first game was a heartbreaker 1-0 off a solo home run off of Cueto just into the left field basket over the ivy covered wall. In the second game Samardzija lost the first batter after a 10 plus pitch at bat and the Giants were never in the game. SM was forced to endure the taunts of the obnoxious Cubs fans, hungry for their first WS in more than 100 years. The Giants won their 10th straight elimination game in a 13 inning Game 3 nail-biter when Panik hit one off the wall to score Crawford with the winning run, in one of MadBum’s very few poor post season starts. Reprising his home run in the WC game, Gillaspie tripled off Chapman in the eighth. This excitement only made what would come in Game 4 that much more painful. Matt Moore, who had been obtained earlier that season, had been inconsistent–sometimes great, sometimes not so gratin Game 4 of the NDS, however, the Good Moore showed up and the Giants– now facing their 11th straight elimination game– had a three run lead going to the top of the ninth, with Cueto, who had dominated the Cubs in Game 1 lined up to pitch on full rest two days later. Given the bullpen dominance the night before (the Cubs were only 1-28 from the fourth inning on in game three) things were looking great. In fact after Moore got through the 6th unscathed SM was praying for the bullpen to take over. Indeed many fans to this day believe that Bochy should have let Moore start the ninth, but SM is not among them. As the top of the ninth started the fans were in a festive mood hoping for a torture free inning. It was not to be, of course as one bleeder and then another led to a 4 run Cub ninth, and the Giants ran out of miracles in their half. SM’s nephew’s son, age 8 was crying his eyes out, as was SM (on the inside). This would turn out to be the last Giants playoff game of the 2010’s.

Melancon’s Opening Day 2017 Blown Save. After their sudden elimination because of the bullpen failure in Game 4 of the NDS, as well as the complete loss of confidence is Santiago Casilla (including his “balk-off”) Melancon was supposed to be the missing piece closer to getting back to deep in the post season. On Opening Day in Arizona MadBum pitched well enough to win and hit two home runs. Melancon gave up two runs in the ninth to blow the save and start the 2017 race to the bottom. He was damaged goods, though we didn’t know it at the time.

Bochy Walking the Winning Run Versus the Dodgers in 2017. As is well known in these parts I was (and remain ) a huge Bochy fan. After all he masterfully guided the Giants to the Golden Era of Giants baseball. But that does not mean that SM always agreed with him or his decisions. In this game in LA I was watching in the wee hours of the morning at Greek Naturally house. In the top of the 11th inning Joe Panik drove in the go ahead run. In the bottom of the inning Seager doubled and, to SM’s shouts of disbelief, Bochy intentionally walked Justin Turner. I was yelling over and over “never walk the winning run, never walk the winning run. Bochy did so to face Kyle Farmer who was just called up, and was making his first major league plate appearance. Naturally, he proceeded to double in the walkoff winning run, and my 20 minute drive home was profanity filled.

*Bochy “Retirement” Force Out. Bruce Bochy is plain and simply one of the greatest managers of all time. He was not only a master in game strategist (except for above) but a players manager. His post season bullpen managment (except perhaps see above–which was less mismanagement and more bad luck and poor performance) was almost flawless. He was also smart enough to see what was coming when Farhan was hired, and was graceful enough to step aside. Who really knows if he was ready to retire anyway, but a more competitive team, instead of what is now clear is a full tear down, might have made a difference. SM will miss Bochy and everything that he represented to the Giants and the fans. SM along with Mathew, Dr. Lefty, 123xu, Crawnick and others were present at the last game in which Drod couldn’t get out of the second inning, giving up 5 runs in a game which the Giants were never in it. The only excitement was MadBum’s pinch hitting against Kershaw in what is almost certainly his final appearance as a Giants player. The retirement ceremony was epic with a Lincecum sighting, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium.

Moving in the Fences. SurfMaui is not a big fan of change, and altering the park dimensions is not one of them. I get the need to take the bullpens off the field, but in SM’s opinion the Garden could have gone instead. Besides with Pence gone, there is no longer any need for kale.

The Zaidi Lie. SM was a supporter of Zaidi’s hiring based on his reputation. Indeed he said the right things (paraphrased since I’m too lazy to look it up), i.e. “playing competitive baseball as deep into the season as possible, and improving the team, one smart baseball move at a time.” Instead Zaidi ushered in the Connor Joe Michael Reed, Eric Krantz era. And yes, there were some promising finds such as Yaz, Dickerson, and Dubon. However, it is now clear that we are in the complete rebuild (i.e. tank mode). Bochy, gone. Pillar gone. Madbum gone. Smith gone. Pablo likely gone. It’s too early to say how long or if this plan will ever work. Boot Hill is littered with the corpses of teams in perpetual rebuilds, and prospects, are just prospects, until they are succeed–usually never. But, for now the next few years will be very ugly and it remains to be seen if Zaidi will last out the remaining four years of his contract.

Losing MadBum. This topic has been discussed ad infinitum. SM’s thoughts on the subject are well known and won’t be repeated here. SM grew up in a baseball era where there was no free agency, and although that was grossly unfair to the players, you always knew that your favorite heroes– the Mays, Marichal’s, McCovey’s, Cepeda’s etc. (and yes I know that they were all traded at some point) would always be there. MadBum was disrespected by past and current management, and changes including a complete rebuild were obvious to him as well. Still, Madbum was the only one of the three in five core to not be signed to a long term reward deal, and it makes SM very sad to see him go. It’s my greatest disappointment of the decade–by far.

SM Final Thoughts of the Decade

SM has been a Giants fan for more than 65 years, and that will never change. I’ve seen plenty of good times, and lots of bad times. I like the good times much better, though perhaps all the suffering made the good times that much greater. Though we may disagree, sometime vigorously, we all want the Giants to succeed, and all the TWG posters are my Giants family. Here’s wishing all of you a healthy and happy New Year and a great decade of Giants baseball.