Thank You, Dave Righetti

by Dr Lefty

There has never been another Giants pitching coach at AT & T Park.

When the players and coaches lined up for the very first game at what was then known as Pacific Bell Park, Dave Righetti was there, having been hired to replace Ron Perranoski (who, ironically, became “special assistant to general manager Brian Sabean”) on October 13, 1999, days after the Giants said their final farewell to Candlestick Park.

When the 2002, 2010, 2012, and 2014 World Series teams lined up for Game 3 at Pac Bell/AT & T, Righetti was there.

When an enigmatic lefty named Jonathan Sanchez pitched the Giants’ first no-hitter in over 30 years on July 10, 2009, Righetti was beaming like a proud papa (second only to Sanchez’s actual papa, who in a moment of great baseball serendipity was watching his son pitch in a major league game for the very first time that night). Righetti, who threw a no-hitter for the Yankees on July 4, 1983, the year before he became a closer, knew something about being a talented but sometimes erratic lefty.

Righetti went on to oversee four more no-hitters–Matt Cain’s perfect game in 2012, Tim Lincecum’s two in 2013 and 2014, and Chris Heston’s in 2015. I will never forget watching Timmy’s first one. As he pushed towards 140 pitches, no one looked more agitated and worried than Bruce Bochy…except for Papa Dave. I also remember Righetti’s quote after Madison Bumgarner completed his historic five-inning save in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series: “I hope we didn’t hurt him.”

Five no-hitters. Four pennant winners. Cy Young winners and All-Stars. Journeymen like Santiago Casilla and Ryan Vogelsong whose careers turned around under the guidance of Righetti and Mark Gardner, his sidekick since 2003. The 2012 season of Barry Zito, who was so bad in spring training that they left him behind in Arizona to keep working on things, but which ended with his season-saving heroics in St. Louis and his win over Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series. The miraculous 10-day fix of Madison Bumgarner in that same 2012 postseason, when in short order he went from out of the rotation to throwing seven shutout innings at a powerful Tigers lineup in Game 2 of the World Series.  We could go on and on.

Why did they do it? On the surface, it doesn’t make much sense.

This article from Fansided, entitled “San Francisco Giants Make Righetti Fall Guy for Team’s Failures,” is pretty typical of what others are saying about the Giants out there.

All of this is to say that a whole lot went wrong for the Giants this year – many things Righetti had nothing to do with. Which makes it look a bit like they’re scapegoating him and that his ouster is perhaps, a move designed to give the appearance of action, without a whole lot of substance behind it – which, isn’t necessarily a good look for the organization.

 

And none of this is to say that change isn’t necessary. Obviously, a team going 64-98 is going to necessitate a little change to get back on the winning path.

 

At the same time though, a man who’s been with an organization as long as Righetti has been with the Giants – and has had the sort of success he’s had with that team – deserves better than what he got here at the end.

There’s what Evans said, about wanting a “new voice” and someone who’s more analytically minded. It also occurs to me that over the last few years, the Giants’ pitching staff, especially their rotation, has gone from being nearly all homegrown for years (Cain, Lincecum, and Bumgarner plus guys like Noah Lowry, Jonathan Sanchez, and Ryan Vogelsong; also World Series closers Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo) to nearly all imported. It was amazing to read that the only two pitchers left from the 2014 championship team are Bumgarner and Strickland. Maybe Righetti works best with young guys up from the system (like Stratton and Crick even this year) and scrap heap guys who need a chance (Casilla or Dyson or Vogelsong) and connects less well with imported veterans like Samardzija, Cueto, Moore, and Melancon who already have their routines established. Maybe Righetti was too sympathetic to the concerns of relievers in 2016 who complained about how Bochy was using them and Bochy felt undermined.

 

I don’t know. I don’t get it.  But I agree with the writer above who said Righetti “deserves better.”  Many here have said that Bochy has earned the right to leave on his own timing and terms. If that’s true for Bochy, I don’t see how it isn’t for Righetti and for Ron Wotus.

 

Thank you, Rags. It’s been a great run, an unforgettable one. It’s hard to imagine how they’re going to find the combination of experience (Righetti was both a starter and then a star closer before his lengthy tenure as pitching coach), heart, empathy, and intelligence that Righetti brought to the job.

 

 Also: Mark Gardner

Gardner became the assistant pitching/bullpen coach in 2003, shortly after he stopped playing. (This is why you shouldn’t rule out someone like Ryan Vogelsong reappearing in that role.) Gardner’s a former Willie Mac Award winner, and reportedly was a whiz at studying and tweaking pitchers’ mechanics; as the story goes, it was a genius combination of Righetti’s and Gardner’s talents that fixed young Bumgarner just in time for the 2012 World Series.  Thanks to you, too, Gardy.

 

And a word for Rags’s first boss, Dusty Baker

Dusty got screwed by the Nats. (And yeah, yeah, I know about the 2002 World Series, the Cubs, and the Reds. I know his teams rarely won elimiination games. Still.) The Nats won 95 and 97 games in Baker’s two years as their manager. They barely got knocked out of the NLDS last week in the wildest Game 5 I have ever seen, even wilder than the one in Cincinnati five years ago when the Giants beat Dusty’s Reds. If the Nats hadn’t lost that game–if Max Scherzer hadn’t unbelievably imploded when trying to protect a lead–it is not inconceivable that the Nats would be playing a Game 7 vs. the Dodgers tonight. Instead, Dusty’s out of a job, even though he took a lowball salary to manage a great roster and was promised an extension this summer.  At 68 and with health problems of his own, this may finally be the end of the line for Dusty. Like Rags, he deserved better.

 

Congrats to the Astros and looking ahead to the World Series

Seeing the Astros win the AL pennant felt like the first moment I’d been happy during this entire baseball season. The Giants obviously were a brutal disappointment. Every team I’ve rooted for in the postseason had lost–until now.  I’m guessing the experts will say they don’t have a chance against the Dodgers, but that would be hasty. The Astros won 101 games this year. They have two aces, including one who hasn’t lost since being traded to Houston in August. They have the likely AL MVP, who’s looked awfully MVPish in this postseason. And don’t underestimate the contributions of guys like Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, who came up huge in a winner-take-all Game 7 last night. Think that will give them some confidence on the big stage?  I do.

A quick congrats to the overachieving Yankees and their Baby Bombers. They knocked out a 100-win team in five games of the ALDS and took another one to seven games. They’re a year or two ahead of schedule in terms of competing. They’ll be back.

It should be an interesting World Series. Neither team has much experience on this stage. I count Beltran (2013 Cardinals), Verlander (2012 Tigers), and Utley (2008-09 Phillies) as the only players on either team that have appeared in the World Series, unless I’m missing some reliever or bench guy whose history I don’t know. But both teams have plenty of recent postseason experience, and the Astros had to go through quite a battle to get here. I think they’ll be ready.

 

So a couple of days with no baseball to process a very eventful week, both for the Giants and in MLB. Have a nice Sunday. Lefty out.