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Underappreciated Giants: Volume Two

After the strike-shortened season of 2002 – in which the Giants had a really good shot at postseason success if the season continued, dang it – Brian Sabean pounced on the free agent market like a big ol’ ocelot. Jeff Kent was unlikely to return, and Bill Mueller was a mediocre player with an injury history and on the wrong side of 30, so the Giants signed:

  • A 28-year-old third baseman with good defense who was usually good for a few MVP votes every year.
  • One of the more consistently productive second basemen in the game with a fantastic record of health.

Wow. Just wow. It was the free agent bonanza Giants fans had waited for. Jeff Kent was going to be 35; there was no sense signing him to a long-term deal. Mueller couldn’t stay healthy, and his offense was already slipping. It wasn’t as if he was ever going to lead the league in batting average and pull home run power out of his rump. So the Giants were able to fill the holes at second and third with a young semi-star and a veteran semi-star. What an offseason! And then they had to ruin it by signing this guy for two years:

  • A 36-year-old center fielder coming off of a fluky good season, his first halfway decent season in six years.

Ugh. Just ugh. Marquis Grissom was one of the most overrated offensive players in baseball in his prime, and he was usually good for an on-base percentage below .300 in his 30s. He was getting older, his defense was declining, and he wasn’t going to hit for enough power or average to make up for his free-swingin’ ways. Terrible, terrible move, and the worst th…

Shows what I know. It turned out to be a fantastic and cheap acquisition. Grissom’s defense was quite good, and he provided 20-homer power from a premium defensive position. He was likable, charming, and a clubhouse favorite. Grissom was a big part of the 2003 team that finished with 100 wins before the playoffs were cancelled, and he was a key component of the last contending Giants team of 2004.

His biggest contribution might be two game-winning hits in this game from 2003. It wasn’t that important of a game, but without Grissom, we would never know the beauty of Jon Miller’s "worst baserunning in the history of the game"-call. We would never know the beauty of a play-by-play account that reads, "Rivera out at Hm/RF-3B-SS-C/Adv on E4 (throw to 3B)." And we would never know the beauty of the worst baserunning of the history of the game (video file).

So hooray for Marquis Grissom, a grizzled piece of found money who gave his best for the Giants. Well, with the exception of 137 miserable at-bats in 2005, but you couldn’t blame Sabean for trying Grissom out one last time.