The going away serenade delivered to Marquis Grissom was nothing. That was "don't let the door hit you on the way out", compared to what most Giants fans feel for Kirk Rueter. Like everything else this season, his departure was ugly. That doesn't mean it wasn't time for him to go, but it was not what most of us had hoped.
We all have our favorite Rueter memories, I'm sure. I'll never forget the mild-mannered player, in his first full year as a Giant, striking out Todd Zeile in a crucial moment and screaming like an eared banshee all the way to the dugout. It was not the Rueter we thought we knew at the time, and rarely the Rueter we saw again, but it was so fitting for that magical 1997 season. Shawn Estes had the hot start, and the impressive curveball, but toward the end of the season it was Rueter you trusted. The New York media seems to think a new player has to "earn" their Yankee pinstripes, and the debate follows whether Alex Rodriguez has earned them. It's a bit of a silly concept but, if it must be applied to every team, the strikeout of Zeile and spittle-chinned reaction that followed gave Rueter his Croix de Candlestick.
Through the years, Rueter was an easy punchline for the uninitiated. For those who didn't follow the Giants, he was the soft-tossing junk master with the big contract. A bad pitcher with a fortunate win-loss record. While the on-screen graphics of Best Won-Loss Percentages for Active Left-Handed Pitchers grew tiresome (Pettitte! Randy Johnson! Aaaaaand...wait for it....Rueter!!!! If you missed it this time, we'll put it up for his next start....), he was not a bad pitcher for his career. He was an average pitcher who stayed healthy. There's value in that. And when the fellow is as likeable as Rueter, with the stories of "The Shed" and all that, it was hard not to defend him. The bile would rise to the back of the throat, and through gritted teeth you'd mutter, "He's not bad, you jerk, he's average."
Over the past two seasons that wasn't possible. Rueter was a bad pitcher, and most Giants fans were fighting the guilt of wishing this day to come. The way it went down was pretty much absurd. Rueter was banished to the bullpen, which is new Giants-speak for "you sit in the corner and think about what you've done". After just a handful of appearances, most of them awful, Rueter wanted to leave for a team that would let him start. Makes sense, but the Giants still sat on him for a while, perhaps in case a Brad Hennessey or Kevin Correia really started to stink.
There are two ways this should have ended. One, the Giants get rid of Jason Christiansen, and try Rueter in a role that should be a natural fit: lefty specialist. Send him out there against the Ryan Kleskos of the league in the seventh-inning, and see how it all works out. Rueter's problems over his steep decline can be tied to problems against right-handed hitting, so it makes sense to pick his spots against lefties.
The best way, though, probably wasn't realistic. Wait until the Giants come home, and announce that a certain game will feature Kirk Rueter as the starting pitcher, and that it will be his last game as a Giant. Then, eight-run loss or seven-inning shutout, he could come off the mound to applause and curtain calls and flowers and blown kisses and a gold watch from the team and...and... oh, I don't know... a splinter of pride? Even bad teams need to do their best to win, but after close to a decade of bleeding orange and black, Rueter deserved something.
It's too much to hope for him to catch on to another team and pitch well, because he is genuinely toast, but it isn't too much to wish him the best. It's hard to imagine him in another uniform.