The Miami Marlins are empirically distasteful and everything that is wrong with America. This has been your Marlins series preview.
But there's always room to look back at an old friend. And this one even has Marlins ties. The tendrils root deep in this parasitic Marlins/Giants relationship. And before Armando Benitez was a Giant, he was a Marlin. He wasn't just some shlub in the Marlins' bullpen, either. He was an All-Star with a 1.29 ERA who got an MVP vote with the Marlins. The rest is ignominious history.
For a site that kinda sorta clings to the old-school Internet belief that closers are overrated, I sure spent a lot of time worrying about Benitez. Tons of time. I joke about the Jose Castillo Era, but Benitez was really the organizational metaphor. The only thing standing between the 2004 Giants and the promised land was a competent bullpen. The Giants spent too much on Benitez, and he came over a year too late. Everything fell apart. Bonds went on the DL. There were dark times. You could see the smoke from space.
And in a way, I honestly feel like he was the most important player in the development of this site. He was so frustrating that he was the inspiration for me to get Photoshop, teach myself some rudimentary things, and do things like this and this. He inspired a proto-LOLcat that could have made me millions if I had just thought to misspell the caption. He sent me on a quest to learn more about .gifs, which is still paying off today.
And, of course, he inspired Natto to create the greatest piece of art the Internet has ever seen:
He's also a reminder of just how ******* irrational we can all be. How many wins did he cost the Giants when he was here? Two or three a year, if you're being wildly optimistic about the value of a good closer? On a list of problems facing the Giants in 2005 through 2007, he was about #10 to #15. Possibly lower. But it felt good to rip him. It was mean-spirited. It was often distasteful. But it was the one thing everyone could rally around. He was such a lightning rod for criticism, he helped build this community around him. I'll always believe that.
This comes up now because …
The Long Island Ducks have, in fact, signed Armando Benitez.— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) May 24, 2012
I use the go-back-in-time trope too much in my writing, but that's because I'm fascinated with the power of hindsight. I just want to go back to the end of 2006, sit down with 2006 Grant, buy him a bourbon, and let him know the following:
a. Armando Benitez will go away and make his comeback for a team whose website quacks at you
b. Ryan Garko leads that same team in batting average
c. That will mean something to you someday
d. The Giants win the World Series in 2010
e. Don't take this stupid game so seriously
It's been a long time since we've had an Armando to kick around. I'm not sure if we'll have a scapegoat like that again. There's been too much perspective, too many good times since then. That was a team going through its first rough stretch in a decade, and the Benitez rage was just a bunch of dumb fans lashing out at an easy target.
So, sorry, Armando. You were awful as a Giant. But you certainly didn't deserve all that. And thanks. Thanks for being there and giving us something to smile about. Several years later. We can smile about it several years later. Because it sure as hell wasn't funny back then. But now? I just might go get me a Benitez jersey.