In my unpublished dystopian sci-fi novel, Do Utility Infielders Dream of Electric Gritty?, the protagonist, Chet Future, takes a drug that helps him clear his mind. This is so he can solve the big case. And because I'm clever, I named the drug hindsight. This is because everything gets so much clearer with hindsight. Like, say, the Aubrey Huff signing.
But it's worth taking a step back and remembering what Huff used to represent. He was the guy who put his hand down his pants in front of Willie Mays, and the million people who were watching just thought that was the cutest. More importantly, though, he had a great season in 2010. Just great. A reminder of the first basemen to start on Opening Day after J.T. Snow left:
2009 - Travis Ishikawa
2008 - Rich Aurilia
2007 - Rich Aurilia
2006 - Lance Niekro
Then we get to Snow. Then remember that we're reminiscing about what it was like after J.T. Snow left, when J.T. Snow is widely acknowledged to be the J.T. Snow of first basemen. Yearning for the halcyon days of J.T. Snow is no way to go through life, son. But before Snow, it was just as bad, if not worse:
1996 - Mark Carreon
1995 - J.R. Phillips
1994 - Todd Benzinger
The Giants, who since moving to San Francisco have employed two of the 15 best first basemen in the history of the game, had chronic first basemen issues after Will Clark left. Think of McCovey and Clark as Montana/Young, with Snow making a perfectly good Jeff Garcia. Brandon Belt is Alex Smith, and Bruce Bochy is Mike Nolan and Rocky Bernard rolled into one, but watch out for Belt in 2016!
I digress …
Point is, Huff was a refreshing break from the humiliation of watching a poor hitter play a position where every other team had a good-to-great hitter. Then there was the whole World Series thing, which gave him incalculable warm-fuzzy points. The decision to sign him wasn't just that, though, He was fantastic in 2010; a worst-case scenario had him dropping down to average, right? It's not like he was just going to disintegrate like he did in 2009, right?
With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that he was going disintegrate. Even worse, he was a wreck in the outfield. Even worse, he played at the expense of a younger, cheaper, and better player for almost the entire season. As far as contracts go, it one turned out to be one of the worst in recent memory. Except for, you know, all the other wretched ones.
But I didn't mind the contract so much at the time. It's hard to work up too much rage at a two-year deal to a fan favorite who just had a great year. Belt wouldn't be blocked because Huff could play either corner outfield spot. Or so we believed at the time. If the Giants were going to hold their crazy, newfangled "average offense" strategy from the last part of 2010, Huff was a perfectly acceptable re-signing.
Here's what I wish with the benefit of hindsight, though. Here's what I wish the Giants would have said:
We're thinking about re-signing Huff, alright. But if we do, that's it for improving the rest of the offense, both for this year and next. This is it. This is the money we have to spend. This contract will prevent any subsequent acquisitions.
Then my reaction wouldn't have been, "D'awwww, rally thong and dingers and Tommy Hunter whipping around to watch the ball in flight and walks and come here, you lug." My reaction would have been, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Uh, let's not go crazy, here. Huff had a great year, but, really? That's the only upgrade the team can afford for the next two years? Huff is it? Have to pass on that one."
That thought didn't enter into my mind. Maybe it was because I was wearing my $60 World Champions sweatshirt and $30 World Champions hat while drinking out of my $15 World Champions coffee mug and walking on my $130 World Champions area rug when I heard about the news, and I figured the Giants weren't going to be that financially hamstrung.
In short, I don't have a problem with the Giants re-signing Huff. Bad years happen. It was a decent gamble at the time. The Giants just got blindsided with the Aubrey Huff Odd-Year Fitness Plan. What I do have a problem with is the team having a sense of how the 2012 budget was going to look, and thinking Huff was going to be the right move out of all the possible things they could do with that money.
Or maybe Bill Neukom thought the budget was going to look different too, and Brian Sabean is reading this article on his Tandy and thinking, "Mm-hmm. Yep. Yep. Totally agree."
With the benefit of hindsight -- that beautiful, horrible drug of the future's past -- I'm starting to think that the Aubrey Huff contract didn't help the San Francisco Giants win more baseball games in 2011. No, it's true. But that upsets me in a different way than you might expect.