The 2010 Giants were not expected to win the World Series. No, please, sit down. Hear me out. It was a bit of an unexpected run. Everything came together in just the right way, and the baseball monkeys ended up producing the entire works of Shakespeare, mercifully getting Comedy of Errors out of the way first. The Giants won the World Series. Lead turned into gold. Cold fusion was discovered. Atlantis was found*.
When I think of the 2010 World Series, I think of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, Edgar Renteria and Madison Bumgarner. When I think of the 2010 NLCS, I think of Cody Ross and Juan Uribe, with the usual suspects mixed in. When I think of the 2010 NLDS, I think of Ross and Lincecum again, maybe with a little Brooks Conrad mixed in.
When I think about the 2010 season -- from start to finish -- I think about Andres Torres.
He was the unlikeliest Giant ever. He played in the unlikeliest season ever. Andres Torres was 2010. Heck, you don't even have to add "Giant" in back there. He was just about the unlikeliest player ever. A high-school track star, who took up baseball at a scout's suggestion, who kicked around the minor leagues as if he was a track star who never figured out how to play. He came over as a minor-league free agent, and he made the team in 2009. He was 31, and he was a fifth outfielder. He did fifth-outfielder things, and he was pretty good at it.
Torres had a great chance to be our generation's Donell Nixon, giving the Giants a great partial season before a miserable partial season got him booted out the door. It would have been fun. He would have made for a swell remember-that-guy punchline in 15 years, which fifth outfielders often do.
Instead, Torres took over the center field job the following season, wrenching it from the grasp of a guy who was paid $60 million to be the Giants' center fielder. Torres led off, and he got on base. He hit for power. He stole bases. And he played the best center field I think I've ever seen a Giant play, apologies to Darren Lewis, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, and Marvin Benard. When people talk about how good Willie Mays was in the field, I think, "Wow, he must have been even better than Torres!"
And without Andres Torres, the Giants don't win their division. No division, no playoffs. No playoffs, no parade. No parade, and I would have never found out about that delicious Red Bull beverage that certainly does not taste like peacock urine and was advertised on Tim Lincecum's hat. It's a slippery slope.
It's absurd to think about. That's why he's the one who is the personification of such an absurd season, where Cody Ross and Pat Burrell were included as prizes in the organizational Happy Meal, where a 21-year-old regained his velocity and dominated one of the best collections of hitters in baseball, and where a rookie catcher led them all. Torres is the most absurd story of them all.
Think about some comparable quotes from 2014.
"Boy, without Matt Kata hitting leadoff, I'm pretty sure the Cubs wouldn't have won the World Series."
"Remember, it was Jeff Salazar who led the Indians in the regular season. Without him, they don't even make the playoffs, much less the World Series!"
Nonsense. Those quotes are nonsense, but they're roughly equivalent to what Torres did for a long-suffering franchise. Andres Torres doing what he did was complete nonsense. It was a story from W.P. Kinsella channelling Lewis Carroll, and we got to see it.
That's why Torres was beloved as a player, and we haven't even gotten to how he was beloved as a person. Can't remember who had the anecdote about Torres saying hello to everyone several times every day, but it's amazing. Peter Hartlaub recounts a story about his dad and Torres. A lot of players get the kindest/gentlest treatment, Manchurian Candidate-style, but with Torres, I believe it.
This isn't going to make sense to anyone else. If a White Sox fan sat me down and asked if I'd heard the good word about Scott Podsednik, I'd chew my arm off if it gave me a chance to escape. So don't pretend like we can explain this to other people. Loving Torres is something that's uniquely Giants fan.
And when Torres comes back next summer with the Mets, I'm going to give him a standing ovation as if he's Willie Mays carrying Joe Montana on his shoulders after they've returned from the first manned mission to Mars.
Thank you, thank you, thank you Andres Torres. You'll always be one of my favorite Giants of all-time, even if you only stuck around long enough to get 1,000 at-bats or so. You'll be missed.
* It was under the couch the whole time.