This is for the all-time San Francisco Giants bench. Hold your applause until the very end! First, some ground rules:
- Juan Uribe seems like the perfect fit for a list like this, but he started over 100 games in each of his two seasons with the Giants. He’s a top performer on a list of "Players who weren’t expected to play a lot, but ended up starting and being awesome," right behind Andres Torres.
- Midseason call-ups who started – like Leon Wagner in 1958 – didn’t make the cut. In fact, rookies who came up for a cup of coffee don’t count either. This is a list of benchies, for benchies, and, well, not by benchies but close enough.
- I can ignore those two rules if I feel like it, like I do with Mike Aldrete.
- I’m guaranteed to miss players from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, so tell me about it in the comments section. I know Steve Scarsone, but I don’t know about the Steve Scarsone of the ‘60s.
My criteria for a good backup catcher are this: Hit left-handed, and don’t stink. Tom Lampkin matches that description if you want a true backup, but Mayne was as good of a part-time catcher as we’ll see for a while. He was more of a starter for 1999, but in ’98, he was brought in just in case Brian Johnson wasn’t the late-season dynamo that he was in the previous season. Good move.
OF/1B - Mike Aldrete, 1986
Mike Aldrete was more of a Juan Uribe-type – racking up at-bats and starts at a few different positions. But the list of first basemen with fewer than 250 at-bats is really thin, so in order to avoid writing 50 or so words about Dave Bergman, here’s something about Mike Aldrete.
Aldrete was able to stick around for 10 years as a reserve, which is about eight more than I remember. He was best at first base, but he had the misfortunate to play behind Will Clark. After he was traded for a bag of tools – which was actually a trade that made a lot of baseball sense at the time – Aldrete had nagging injuries, and he never was able to start full-time for anyone. That’s a shame, as I bet he could have had an Adam LaRoche type career.
1B/thump – Andres Galarraga, 2003
Is there a more beloved ex-Giant with fewer than 160 games played? Doubtful. Galarraga came over in a midseason deal in 2001, right as the Giants were starting to get annoyed at J.T. Snow hitting like J.T. Snow, which came as some sort of surprise. Galarraga was a great complement for Snow, but he signed with the Expos in 2002. The Giants ended up using Shawon Dunston and Tsuyoshi Shinjo as designated hitters in the World Series that year. No, they couldn’t have used The Big Cat at all that year.
But the Giants re-signed him for 2003, and he was everything a 42-year-old slugger should be. Also, he hit the longest home run I’ve ever seen a right-hander hit at Mays Field.
INF – Ramon Martinez, 2000
As I’ve mentioned about 5,349 times, I loooooooved that 2000 bench. It had speed, it had power, it was balanced, and it had depth. Oh, and just about every single player was chemically enhanced to the point where they could have each had an origin issue from Marvel.
Martinez was good enough in 2000 that I knew, just knew, that if the Giants handed him the third baseman job in 2001, he’d be a quality player. Whoops. The wretchedness of the third basemen in 2001 is one of the biggest reasons the Giants missed the playoffs despite Bonds and Aurilia going nuts. Still, Martinez was a perfect utility player for one season.
OF – Hank Sauer, 1958
When the Giants signed Eric Davis in 2001, they were hoping for sliver of the old Eric Davis. They got a sliver of the future Neifi Perez. But with Sauer, the Giants had an aging corner outfielder who could mash a pretty good impression of his former self.
Plus, when my friend got this book as a kid, we learned that Sauer lived around the corner from where I grew up. We’d ride our bikes up and down his street once a day, hoping to see him. We never did. But it was still cool, and he gets a coveted spot on this list because where he lived out his retirement years.
OF – Armando Rios, 1999
What do you need when you have an awesome right-handed slugger who plays a fine right field but has knees made out of papier-mâché? Why, a left-handed player who can come in and slug .500 with a .400 on-base percentage. I don’t think we’ll ever see a better pair of complementary players than Ellis Burks and Armando Rios. The Giants should have appealed to MLB to see if they could combine the two players into one roster spot.
Rios could cover center if needed, and he had a fantastic arm. Quality reserve. As good as they come. Not exactly worth a Cy Young-caliber starting pitcher, but, hey, we threw in Ryan Vogelsong too.