The Barry Zito Era is going to end soon. There have been downs and downs and ups and downs, but it wasn't an unpleasant era. I could watch this on a loop for an hour, for example:
Still, I'm excited to reach the end of the Barry Zito Era. It's like going on a long road trip with someone who's more of an acquaintance than a best friend. Oh, you need a ride to Calgary, guy I just met at this party? Well, I just happen to be driving there. And when you get there, you don't dislike each other. Also, along the way you won the lottery and made love with dozens of underwear models on beaches of pure white sand. So it all worked out. But you know you won't be pen pals in the future.
Zito had his uses, though. If he had his 2013 season in 2010, the Giants wouldn't have won the division. His deserved to be on the team. You rarely thought, "Wait, what is this guy even doing here?"
Which is to say, I'm even more excited for the Jeff Francoeur Era to end. Because while the idea of a right-handed outfielder to help in left made a little sense, every time I watch Francoeur flail at the plate and fumble around in the outfield, the only thing I can think is, "Wait, what is this guy even doing here?" The Giants are out of it, and Juan Perez is someone worth evaluating for next year's bench. He's 15 times the defender, and he can't hit just as not well as Francoeur.
This gave me the idea to look up the What Is This Guy Doing Here? All-Stars since the Giants moved to AT&T Park. This isn't about the least valuable players. For example, Ryan Garko was pretty awful in 2009, and there's a reason he hardly surfaced in the majors again. But he was a competent hitter before coming to the Giants, and the 2009 Giants were completely bereft of competent hitters. It just didn't work out.
Jeff Francoeur, however, makes no sense. He's the What Is This Guy Doing Here? All-Star for 2013. The past winners:
2012 - No one
THIS TEAM WAS PERFECT. EVERYONE HAD A PART TO PLAY. RYAN THERIOT IS THE BEST DH IN GIANTS HISTORY.
2011 - Orlando Cabrera
"Man, this rookie can't hit, but he sure can't field."
"Is there a way to get someone who can't hit, but is worse defensively, too?"
"Huh. Never thought of it like that. Let me see if we can give up a prospect for someone like that."
2010 - No one
THIS TEAM WAS PERFECT. EVERYONE HAD A PART TO PLAY. AND … my sweet Mercury, what could they possibly have seen in Jose Guillen? He couldn't do anything well by then. A legit zero-tool player. But he was a part of the wondrous tapestry that was 2010. He's a wine stain on the tapestry. But a part of it.
2009 - Rich Aurilia
He had a pretty solid year in 2008, so it wasn't nuts to keep him around. But he was on the roster the entire year. He had several at-bats every month, yet at no point did his OPS climb over .575. He was a weird benchie to keep around for an entire season, though I suppose if his name were Rick Orlyah, the organization might have treated him more harshly.
2008 - Jose Castillo
Did you ever take a look at this cat's minor-league stats? There was almost no chance he'd be good. This is the kind of low-risk, low-reward player bad teams mess around with because their farm isn't helping a lick.
2007 - Russ Ortiz
The last time Ortiz had been remotely effective was 2004. He was supposed to be an innings-eater who allowed the Giants to be patient with Tim Lincecum. Every time Ortiz pitched, it was a "What is this guy doing here?" moment, though.
2006 - Jose Vizcaino
Maybe the biggest WITGDH? player on the list. He was 38, and he couldn't field short anymore. Not a problem, said the Giants. You can fill in at first base!
The 2006 Giants were rebuilding, and they were giving Vizcaino time at first base. The people who wanted a regime change weren't the anti-vaccine nutters of the baseball world. They were just people who couldn't believe the team was employing Vizcaino at all, much less in a super-utility role.
2005 - Alex Sanchez
Sanchez was hitting .346/.373/.466 when the Rays told him to take his crap and go away. He was a terrible defender and a malcontent. He was also the first player ever suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, if you're looking for a little trivia. There was no reason for him to be on the Giants, who were his last major-league team, oddly enough.
2004 - Wayne Franklin
Quite possibly the worst pitcher in Giants history, no hyperbole. Okay, maybe a little hyperbole. But he had no business being on a major-league roster, and the Giants actually traded for him, giving up a pretty useful arm. If the Giants replaced Franklin with a replacement-level arm, they probably win the wild card. If they replaced him with an actual bullpen asset, they probably win the division.
More trivia: When the Giants won the World Series in 2010, Franklin was pitching for the Chico Outlaws. He was teammates with Bobby Hill, for all you early-'00s prospect watchers.
2003 - Ruben Rivera
He was the Jeff Francoeur of his time, right down to the former prospect status and earlier brushes with usefulness. But Francoeur never gave us anything like that. Though there's still time ...
2002 - Shawon Dunston
He almost had the World Series-winning home run. Man, that would have been some Zito stuff, right there. This was his third go-round with the Giants, which is just amazing, and he was worth almost negative-two wins in 2002. His OPS+ was 44. What was he doing there?
And he almost won it. He was almost the Theriot of his time. Stupid Angels.
2001 - Wayne Gomes
Terrible. And my favorite bench option, Felipe Crespo, was traded for him. Gomes couldn't find the plate, and he couldn't strike hitters out. I have absolutely no idea how he pitched 368 innings in the big leagues. He's one of the reasons why a team that had a 73-homer player couldn't make the playoffs. What was he even doing on the team?
2000 - Doug Henry
The least egregious player of the list, as the 2000 Giants were remarkably well-constructed. It's like they were created in a laboratory. Which, in retrospect … well, that's not the point. The bench was great, and while the bullpen wasn't, there were at least pitchers who made sense. Henry was Doug Henry powder at this point in his career, but he wasn't supposed to be a late-inning guy in the first place.
There you go. Sorry if it was something of a downer. I didn't mean it to be, but Francoeur's at-bats on Tuesday night put me in a dark place, I guess. Welcome to the club, Jeff Francoeur. Now, what exactly is it that you do here?