Requiem for a Velez

Full disclaimer: this might be the kind of post that only comes after a World Series win.

I’ll miss Eugenio Velez. Kind of. In a weird sort of way. He represented everything that was maddening about the front office, the embodiment of a philosophy that would never allow the Giants to win a World Series. Ahem. Now that the Giants have won the World Series, though, those tales seem like something completely foreign and distant, like a Senator recounting how he duct-taped the buttcheeks of a dorm mate together just for yuks when they were at Yale. Odd, inappropriate, completely unpractical, but danged if it isn’t remembered fondly.

So, Velez.

In the NL West clincher, I distinctly remember thinking, wow, this had better be the last time I see Velez in a Giants uniform. He made it to first after botching a bunt. And then he was almost picked off first base twice. Then he went to second on a fielder’s choice, and he was almost picked off second. At least, that’s how I remember it. And when there was talk that Aaron Rowand might be left off the postseason roster, I had a "Dead Zone" moment, flash-forwarding to the exact moment Velez figured out how to get picked off while in the on-deck circle in the ninth inning of Game Seven.

It feels weird to poke fun now that he’s looking for a job. He seems like a pleasant fellow who was liked by his teammates. And when the Giants won the World Series, Velez was just as jubilant as anyone celebrating on the field. He was a good Giant. Just not, you know, a good Giant. I used to maintain that Velez was a decent choice to be a 25th man on a roster. He’s fast, he can switch-bat, and he can fill in at different infield and outfield positions. I’m not completely against the notion now, but there was a point when I realized that if I was constantly nervous about a guy screwing up on the bases, maybe his speed wasn’t exactly a weapon. The same sentence could be written about his defensive foibles negating his versatility, or his complete inability to hit left-handers negating his switch-batting.

But to not have Velez on the Giants? That’s just weird. He’ll land somewhere on a minor league deal, and he might even break spring training on a team’s bench, but he’s not going to be a Giant anymore. Bizarre. Last year at this time, he was still very much in the team picture. He turned a a hot streak into a ton of second-half at-bats in 2009, and the team seemed committed to a a leadoff platoon of Andres Torres and Velez in left field.

It seems amazing to think about that now. Torres, starting? But he’s a career minor leaguer! Mercifully the Giants went with Mark DeRosa instead, and we didn’t have to find out how bad that would have been. Oh, and Velez then got on the wrong side of small-sample insanity, going one-for-28 at the end of April and losing his bench spot, much less any chance at being the platoon starter he almost was when 2009 ended. Velez was two for his last 38 as a Giant.

Still, it’s just strange. There should always be a spot for Velez on the roster -- he’s one part Swiss army knife (though only equipped with a toothpick, awl, and Betamax rewinder), one part cautionary tale, and one part security blanket. He just seemed like a perfect Giant, for all the right and wrong reasons.

So best of luck, Eugenio. Latch on somewhere. Steal a few bases. Become an unlikely playoff hero for another team. Thanks for the memories, which are almost all positive after a World Series win, of course.

Comment starter: Is there another utility/bench player from the past two decades who deserved a farewell post like this? Mike Benjamin? Kim Batiste? Let’s have it.

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