Aubrey Lewis Huff is on the postseason roster of your 2012 San Francisco Giants. In a year where his body broke down, his emotions overwhelmed him, and his pride took a Bane-esque beating, he managed to come back at the end of it and put up good numbers in a pinch-hitting role (6 hits including a double, 4 walks in 21 PA), and presumably, serve as a clubhouse elder.
After a 2011 that could only be described as… inert… this season started off as a continuation of that lifeless stat line. And then it got weird. In a hurry. There was that fateful day at Ponzi Park, an early morning getaway to escape his team to return home; and then, an admission that he suffered a panic attack, and that for the first time in his life he sought out assistance for his mental health.
One of the most tightly wound guys in the Giants’ clubhouse appeared on the field to be their loosest. His inside-the-park home run against the Pirates was his first as a Giant and endeared him immediately to the Giants’ fans for a couple of reasons: (1) it was clear from the call that Kruk & Kuip were fond of the guy, probably because he was a veteran, and their enthusiasm jumped through the TV to the fans watching, taking their cue from the trusted duo, and (2) he looked goofy as hell running the bases. I mean, come on. Watch that video. Lolz
Scamp. Water buffalo. Outline. Walks.
He was the Giants’ third choice at best to play first base in 2010. Nick Johnson turned them down (which put him on the DL). Adam LaRoche rejected them because the contract was too complicated, apparently. So then there was Aubrey, just sitting there, coming off practically the worst performance of any full-time major league ballplayer in 2009. His career wasn’t winding down, most suspected, it was just plain over. But whatever alchemy helped the Giants win the World Series recalled to life Aubrey Huff. As he came to life, so did the Giants, a team that hadn’t been known for fun or insouciance or quality offensive production from a full-time player in many, many years.
The last Giants first baseman to post an OPS above .800 was JT Snow in 2004 (.958!). Aubrey posted an .891 in 2010 and drew 83 walks, the most since Barry Bonds drew 132 in 2007. In the non-Bonds division, Huff’s 83 walks were the most by a player since Jose Cruz Jr. had 102 all the way back in 2003. His 26 home runs were the most since Bonds’ 28 in 2007. Non-Bonds: Ray Durham had 26 in 2006. Aubrey Huff saved the Giants’ offense, whether we want to believe that or not. 2009 showed the world that the Giants had some talent, if only they could hit the ball a little. Aubrey Huff became the de facto slugger and brought certainty to the core of the lineup. Andres Torres took off, Juan Uribe amazed, Pat Burrell pledged the frat, and Bengie Molina was finally towed away to make room for Buster Posey. They flanked Aubrey more than anything else, and together the Giants became a potent force.
This will be Aubrey Huff’s last year with the Giants. It could very well be his last year in Major League Baseball. The end of an athlete’s career should always be bittersweet. We should always remember their best moments when we see them at the end, because we should appreciate them for what they really are: human beings. Here’s a man who performed for our entertainment. He put his health and his ego out there for all the world to see (for a great deal of money, of course) and sometimes he’d run off the field feeling like it was totally worth it, and sometimes he wanted to crawl into a hole. Sometimes we cheered, sometimes we booed, but our reaction was never about the person, it was about his actions. So the final few appearances of an athlete’s career are a big giant arrow pointing at what we really should be reacting to: the man inside the uniform.
Aubrey Huff reached into his jeans, groped his genitalia, and before Willie Mays, God, and Buster Posey pulled out a red thong for our amusement. On the biggest day of his professional career he did what came naturally: he performed. On one of the worst days of his personal life, he sought help. He has never given up. A kid who loses his father in tragedy could stay mad at the world for the rest of his life. But he didn’t do that. He never gave up. He made something of himself. He could’ve quit after 2011. He could’ve quit after his panic attack this year. Or after his string of injuries. Or coming back with the mobility of Jose Guillen. He stuck it out. He still has value.
Yeah, that’s right. Aubrey Huff has value. We know, empirically, anecdotally that Aubrey Huff isn’t the same player as he was two years ago. It’s these 21 plate appearances in September. Yeah, that’s right. I went there. I am using a ridiculous, stupid-small sample size to tell you all that Aubrey Huff is worth the Giants’ valuable time and roster space. Is he the next Matt Stairs or Jason Giambi? Probably not. But he’s the one guy left in the organization not in the starting lineup that could come off the bench and change a game in one at bat.
I buried Huff more times than I can recall (it was in the 650-range), but even I think it would’ve been an insult to leave him off the playoff roster. So, this isn’t a thank you. He doesn’t need our thanks. This is an appreciation. I appreciate you, Aubrey Huff. The fans appreciate you. You've provided us with many great memories. I'm glad you have the chance to give us at least one more.