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The Ballad of John Bowker

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Here's the problem with a blog that's updated daily by the same guy: After over a half-decade, you're too familiar with his quirks. If you've read this site for longer than a year, you know which players fascinate me. You know that if Jamie Brewington news breaks, McCovey Chronicles will be on the scene. Actual news about a roster move? I don't know. Maybe I'm around to post something. If not, I'll just steal a link from a FanShot. No big whoop.

So here's your post on John Bowker.


Wait! It's not just about Bowker! It's about baseball in general! Come back!

John Bowker was, for a weekend or so, the slugger of the future. Then he struggled so badly that he was removed from the 2008 Giants' lineup. That was … hard to do. After returning to the minors, he put up a fantastic 2009 season in AAA, even by Pacific Coast League standards. He hit for average (.342) and changed his approach at the plate, leading to more walks (.451 OBP). He had 47 extra-base hits in 366 at-bats.

And he couldn't hit a breaking ball if he stood in front of home plate with the lid of a garbage can. But now we're ahead of ourselves.

At the same time he was demolishing Fresno, the Giants' right fielder was having an abysmal season, as was the entire team.

Year Age G HR BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 35 149 2 .262 .318 .353 .671
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 1/11/2012.


That's what the Giants didn't want to replace in August -- with the hitter who was having the best season of any outfielder in AAA -- on a team that wasn't contending. It was insane.

Then the Giants gave the job to Bowker in 2010 based on his spring training performance. That, as is any roster decision based on spring stats, was craaaaaaaaaaaaaazy.

After giving Bowker the job to start the season, he lost it after not hitting in a two-week sample. Completely f'n bonkers.

Then after Bowker was sent down, he lit up the PCL. Again. And he was traded for a lefty specialist who was likely to pitch only 10 or 20 innings between the trade deadline and the rest of the year. Six years of a potential asset for a dozen innings. Hold-your-breath-until-you-pass-out-and-bang-your-head-on-the-coffee-table stupid. Just awful.

And then the Giants won the World Series specifically because of all the above. The trade was brilliant, after all. If Bowker holds that starting job in 2010, maybe there's no Pat Burrell or Cody Ross. Everything had to work out just so. That everything included hosing John Bowker out of a job.

John Bowker is a symbol of everything we think we know and everything we don't know. He is the element of surprise that baseball likes to shiv you with when you're taking a shower. I was right about John Bowker. I was wrong about John Bowker. John Bowker's professional career is dead. Long live John Bowker's professional career.

And his middle name is "Brite." No foolin'.

So when I read the news that the Phillies released John Bowker to let him pursue a career in Japan, I had no choice but to put something up here. It's news to me, dammit. I'll be rooting for him like no other non-Giants player in baseball. I hope he wins the Central League MVP and gets Suntory endorsements for the next three decades. I'm pretty sure he'll do well there.

Bowker is my little obsession. With the ten characters that make up his name, you can reference the Giants' wacky personnel decisions, the veteranophila of Bruce Bochy, the fact that I don't know what I'm talking about, that the Giants won the World Series in 2010, and that baseball is an erratic, twitchy, and unsavory fellow that isn't to be trusted. He's one-man shorthand for the nuttiness of Giants baseball, and why we love and hate it so.

I want to lead John Bowker away from the scene of the crime, grab him by the lapels, and say, "Forget it, Bowk. It's baseball."

Thanks for existing and for hitting and not hitting baseballs exactly when you did or didn't, Mr. Bowker. You were -- and are -- Giants baseball, for better and for worse. Best of luck in Japan.