I'm not sure what it means that Salomon Torres might end up having a better career than Shawn Estes. It makes you think the great arbiter in the sky could be wearing a blue and white hat as he bangs his gavel. Yesterday's thread brought back names long forgotten, and it took a while to absorb them all. There was one that really caught my eye, though, and I can't believe I hadn't thought of his name for the original post.
The late-'90s saw the Giants play each year with a top heavy organization of mildly-interesting pitchers. The names would just rotate out. It was like a baseball Menudo. Youngsters create excitement, youngsters outgrow the excitement, youngsters are replaced with carbon copies. High draft pick with early professional success? Jason Grilli begat Kurt Ainsworth, who begat Jesse Foppert. Mid-to-low draft pick shooting through the system? Joe Nathan begat Ryan Vogelsong who begat Erick Threets. In this analogy, Nathan has to be the Ricky Martin, who built a career after Menudo. Sorry, Joe.
Those prospects were all pitchers, though. Every year the Giants would have some live arms, all at varying distances from the majors. Every year a couple would have some type of success, most would not, and the process would begin anew. The hitting prospects of the mid-90s can get lost when remembering the upstream swimming of the pitching prospects. It's easy to forget just how exciting it was for the Giants to have a player like Tony Torcato. He was a local kid who had a solid debut right out of high school, and his swing was something scouts would have left their wives for.
But it isn't Torcato that I'm kicking myself for forgetting. After the cream of an organization, there's always a tendency to search for pet prospects. Prospects who aren't ranked as highly as the obvious candidates, but who catch your fancy for one reason or another. For some reason, my pet prospect was Giuseppe Chiaramonte. I didn't even need to check the spelling on the name. He was ranked as the #5 prospect by Baseball America in 1999, which said more about the farm system than it did Chiaramonte.
He was a catcher who had hit 22 home runs for San Jose. Catcher? Twenty-two homers? That's about all it takes for me to get visions of a decade-long stretch to rival the best years of Mike Piazza. The red flags were right there in the Baseball America write-up, though. He relied on "effort and courage" behind the plate. "Nothing (came) easy" for him. His desire was constantly trumpeted as one of his best tools. The fanboy blinders couldn't see through the haze. Catcher? Twenty-two homers?
With William VanLandingham, the optimism was based on a personal experience. I watched him mow down Padre hitters, and instantly started thinking about the amount of bronze it would take to get that name on a Cooperstown plaque. Chiaramonte was no more than a name on a computer screen to me. Yet he was able to capture my imagination in a similar way. The cool name probably had something to do with it, too.
The moral of the story: The Giants need to produce a real hitter, and need to do it before I have a backlog of these boring stories.