The saga of Rich Aurilia, who signed a minor-league deal with the Reds, is playing out like the second act of some classic Hollywood movie. Man has it all, man loses it all. The trick is the third act. Is this some froofy foreign film, where the last scene is going to consist of Aurilia eating from a can of dog food, dipping his bare feet into the Ohio River, as a single tear rolls down his cheek? Or is this America, people, where he will get the starting job, the girl, and defenestrate 17 commies on the way to disarming the bomb? The answer seems obvious. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
Aurilia is, has, and barring a pitstop in L.A., always will be one of the more popular Giants of the past decade. He never had a terrible season. Points in his favor. He had one of those incredibly rare years, where everything he touched turned to runs, and where his was an at-bat you weren't going to miss while in the can. More points in his favor. Early in his Giants career he was prone to temper tantrums, often winging his helmet about like an Aerobie. He stopped the tantrums. Fallible hero sees weakness, and overcomes weakness. Even more points in his favor.
The best part about having Aurilia on the team was the confidence which came from having a shortstop in the top tier of National League shortstops for several years. From '99 to '03, you knew what you were getting. Average defense, and a good deal of pop for a shortstop; a combination seeming so easy to find until you actively search. In '01, black was white, up was down, and Rich Aurilia was one of the best shortstops ever to play the game. In '02 he was good enough to help his team to a World Series, but had his worst year since he became a starter. His performance didn't get much better in '03, but he was still a good shortstop to have starting for your team.
The Giants kind of wanted Aurilia back. Aurilia wanted to come back. After he signed with the Mariners, he expressed his anger. He was bitter the Giants didn't even bother to tender a contract. The Giants snapped right back, insinuating they had extended an offer but Aurilia's agent was playing games and got burned. Both Aurilia and the Giants came out and said they love the fans very, very much, and that we should in no way feel responsible for what happened.
It was the winter of '03/'04, and the owners all unanimously and independently decided to spend far less money than almost any offseason before or after. This would be a good place for a montage. Aurilia knocking on doors, hoping for a lucrative deal, and said doors getting slammed in his face over and over again. He signed a one-year deal with the Mariners, and was awful. He was released, and played with the Padres just long enough to beat the Giants once.
Now, Aurilia is carrying Felipe Lopez's golf clubs, working up a good dose of schadenfraude as well. "You know what's fun, Felipe? Rock climbing without harnesses or proper safety gear. You can't buy that kind of adrenaline rush." There aren't too many Giant fans who refuse to root for him. One more good season before the denouement, that's all we're asking.
As for the Giants fans and management, a lesson was learned when Aurilia left. The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. Simple, but so true. In fact, the grass often times is demon grass, wrapping its dark, unholy tendrils around your pure heart, slowly dragging you to the earth where it plans to bury you alive and gnaw on your mortal soul. Then you release the grass, and it signs with the Cubs and hits well for the rest of the year.
Stupid Neifi. I mean, good luck, Richie.