An Addendum, Tangent to "35"

I'm not writing this to steal Grant's thunder.  I have just a few things to add to his original post, which was on its own excellent, poetic.  

Thoughts and reflection on the fall of our favorite former shortstop, as well as a speculative theory suggesting that Neifi Perez really is the evil genius behind these bad times.  

Warning: my first post ever, long post, bad jokes within, silly tangents, read if you dare.

Being a Giants fan who also moonlights as a Mariners fan, I've seen the human drama of Rich Aurilia's apparent downfall unfold firsthand, for the most part.  This is a "condensed" version of a lot of things going through my head in the past year.

Neifi Perez has been this site's (and the average Giants fan's) all-purpose whipping boy.  Is all of this criticism and ribbing deserved?  I've had this pet theory stewing in my head for some time that, when it boils down to it, all of this (and much, much more) really IS Neifi's fault.  Maybe I can persuade you.  Or maybe you don't even need that much persuasion.  

But first, a recap.

With the installation of Neifi into the Giants roster mid-2003, multiple years left on his contract, and a then-promising minor leaguer waiting in the wings in Cody Ransom, things did not look good for Rich, who was up for free agency at the end of the season and currently underperforming.  As the season rolled on, Neifi seemed to factor more and more into the Giants equation for the next year, a factor that could not, unfortunately, be cancelled out (math major, couldn't resist the pun).  Negotiations between the Giants and Aurilia had at one point in the offseason ceased, and he was not offered arbitration, so he became a free agent.

In the 2003 offseason, the Mariners were in need of a shortstop.  Not really, though, from what I understand of the situation the M's management just wanted to purge themselves of one Carlos Guillen, he of reportedly poor discipline whom supposedly consorted with (and thus distracted) starting pitcher Freddy Garcia.  They apparently conducted themselves in the sort of behavior general managers don't like.  You know, getting drunk off their asses, pushing old ladies down on the street, general clubhouse laziness, excessive Scrabble bouts into the early hours of day games, sometimes Parcheesi, sometimes Trivial Pursuit.  I don't know the exact details; I wasn't there, but my guesses are educated.

The Mariners feigned interest in Miguel Tejada, mostly to appease their championship-hungry fans and to give at least the impression that they weren't complete cheapskates.

Their fake claims of being big-spenders fooled no one.  Of course the Mariners owners were cheapskates.  And not in a clever Billy Beane/Moneyball way.  They penny-pinched, window shopped, clipped coupons, and stole chocolate muffins from Fresh Choice for after dinner snacks.  Most disturbingly, they stocked up on "proven veterans" last offseason in bulk, who were not even on sale, much like the Giants arguably have this year.

The Mariners sent a flirty e-vite to good old Omar Vizquel instead (ever heard of him?) who, pending a physical, would join the Seattle party for a multi-year deal.  But instead of spiking the punch, Vizquel stopped the music and threw the needle off the record by failing said physical, under mysterious circumstances.  It seemed almost as if the Mariners had thought twice about the deal and reneged on the contract at the last minute.  The M's finally turned to Aurilia instead as something of a consolation, after having added free agents Raul Ibanez, Scott *@(#*$& Spiezio, and Eddie Guardado.

From the Winter of Discontent sprang forth the Summer of Disillusionment for the Mariner loyalists.  The fans generally hated Aurilia from day one.  He wasn't Tejada, whom they wanted; he wasn't Guillen--who conspicuously broke out last year into All-Star form and made Aurilia look bad in comparison--and he wasn't a local boy whom the Seattle media and fans seemed to, like some bubbly teen girl squad, be totally crushin' over.  He was a nice guy, a "proven veteran" with a fiery disposition, but on a team chock-full of wholesome, low-fat veteran goodness (Edgar, John Olerud, Bret Boone, Dan Wilson) Aurilia was nothing outstanding.  He was at best a one-year stopgap.

Much of this fan/organizational apathy came perhaps as result of Opening Day 2004, in which first-day jitters probably helped cause Aurilia to make an ass of himself defensively in the first inning.  He botched up the first double play he should have turned as a Mariner and caused an error.  The play was otherwise fairly routine.  

The rest of the team did not fare much better, however, as the M's lost that game and several thereafter.  It was the most depressing day/week of baseball I've experienced in recent memory (not counting game six/seven of the 2002 WS... but I wasn't there in person).  

It was disheartening to see a guy so liked, almost universally back home, getting booed by everyone in his very first at-bat, and by his own home team fans no less.  Never have I seen so many in the stands in such a state of doubt, disillusioned, even cynical, so early in the season.

Aurilia never really recovered.  He played uncharacteristically bad baseball from then on out, generating virtually no offense, being clumsy on defense--looking woefully like the Neifaritorious P.E.R.E.Z., only without the defensive reputation to back a weak bat.  Aurilia regressed, suddenly and unnaturally, performing worse all around than even the most dismal of projections had predicted.

I'm not sure exactly why it happened.  Maybe it was the league switching, the struggling to learn all the pitchers he'd never faced before.  Maybe it was the general malaise the entire team had suffered collectively, finally sinking in its own veteran dead weight (the Mariners sucked, violently, in 2004).  Maybe it was his disastrous and humiliating first impression for his new team that hung over his head.  

A persuasive theory is that he had to spend the whole game in the general vicinity of that no good, one-hit wonder, faux-grunge-rocker mother-*$#&@% piece of *#&@ 3B Scott "Sandfrog" Spiezio.  If that was case, I wouldn't blame Rich.  I'm not bitter, I swear, but Spiezio's play has yet again screwed over another team I root for.  Though I'm sure he's a nice person.

Meanwhile, seeing Neifi charge into the field as the starting shortstop for the Giants on Opening Day 2004 was surreal, though the pain was real--like salt, butter, and vinegar on an open wound.  Needless to say, Neifi was his usual self (what else were we to expect?) and eventually phased out of the starting lineup, only to reappear again on the Cubs with a bat not made of holes and broken dreams.  

As for Cody Ransom... well, those ellipses I just typed are for him.  I have nothing to say about Cody Ransom.  Enjoy that, big guy.  Had not the mysteriously skilled alter ego of Deivi Cruz floated down from the mystical land of Narnia with his magically productive bat, sporting #35, the Giants could quite possibly have been nowhere near striking distance of the wildcard.

The Mariners tossed Aurilia overboard in early July, and he'd wash ashore a week later in San Diego.  His contribution in one of the games against the Giants last season as a Padre cost the Giants that one win (as Grant mentioned) that might have been very nifty to have at the end of the season considering the wildcard results.

Fast forward to the present; we still have Deivi, and now we have Vizquel!  The man who flunked his physical last year, locked in for three whole years!  What's that you say?  Injury concerns?  What injury concerns?

What perturbs me, and what probably perturbs many others, is that the 2005 Giants are looking eerily like the doomed 2004 Mariners, except more senior, more veteran.  You know, older.  Decrepit.  Some of our "proven veterans"--and this phrase may become as derided as it is in Seattle--can and probably will decline, maybe even all at once.  If the team breaks the wrong way, we all know very well what may happen.  

The Giants seemed destined to make the same mistake that the Mariners front office made last year.  2004 was a long year as a Mariners fan.  2005 may be even longer, and more excruciating, as a Giants fan.

I originally wrote this post out of sheer sentimentality, as an ode and hopefully not a eulogy to one of my favorite players on my favorite team, seeing how he has suddenly faded, getting by on a mere minor league deal with a spring training invite.  For a team as random as the Cincinnati Reds.  Ugh.  

It's hard to watch someone you're a fan of draw the short end of the stick, over and over again, and be the target of such derision, which I believe to be largely undeserved.  And to see Neifi still finding himself safely with a major league job on the bench is just too much for me to take quietly.

In an indirect, admittedly nonsensical way, all of this actually IS Neifi's fault.  Indulge me in my faulty logic and far-fetched supposition:

Had Neifi Perez aspired to be something other than the worst hitter of all creation, following instead his true childhood dream of becoming, say, a space cowboy or potato farmer, he never would have broken into the major leagues and fooled some poor team into signing him, only to become something of a liability.  All of baseball would've been better for it, I'm sure.

And theoretically, had the Giants front office not passed that bong around that one summer day in 2003 and taken on Neifi Perez's contract, convincing themselves that it was a good idea, he would not have been on the roster, this past year or the year before.  

It's then conceivable that Aurilia could've signed on to stay at least one more year, probably at a discounted rate.  He earned not much more as a Mariner than Perez as a Giant, 3.150 million to 2.750.

Aurilia's contribution would have perhaps overcome that one game difference in the standings, since he certainly would not be responsible for at least that one Giant loss as a Padre, and may have been able to make up for Neifi's inability to score with even his own declining bat.  Familiar league, familiar team, familiar circumstances.  Could this have spelled an appearance in the post-season?  Could that really be what I'm insinuating?

Yes, yes it is.

Had Aurilia retained the job at short for one more year instead of the handing the reins to Neifi, he would not have been a free agent in the offseason.  He would also not have been available as an alternative to Vizquel's ill-fated contract to the Mariners; maybe they would've kept Vizquel instead.  

Omar had a good year in 2004, and could've possibly helped to make the Mariners less abysmal to watch with his more stable defense at short.  To top it off, Vizquel's placement in Seattle precludes his ability to sign a bloated, three year, 12.25 million dollar contract in San Fran this year.

Think about the chain of events that caused the undoing of both teams in the past year.  Is it not a good enough reason to study quantum physics, build that telephone-booth-shaped time machine, and use it to change the course of Giants history, not to mention future, for the better?  That is, after unstarting WWI, killing Hitler before his rise to power, un-killing JFK, and changing human history for the better that way.

Those are all some big Ifs.  My whole argument is perhaps moot, meaningless fantasy conjecture.  At least I feel cleansed for getting it off my shoulder.  I hope it was fun for you too.  It's good to have a place to share.  This site is amazing.  Thanks for reading!

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