Earlier in the day, I made the claim that Michael Morse was "on a short list of the most popular one-year Giants in history", then suggested that he was a clear #1. This sort of thing demands investigation, even if the Giants are going to sign Max Scherzer and James Shields by the time I'm done. Who are some of the most popular one-year players in Giants history?
Well, there are sure a lot of possibilities. There's A.J. Pierzynski, Steve Finley, Miguel Tejada, Deion Sanders, Orel Hershiser ... fan favorites, all. But there's a catch: My history is limited. I can't tell you about the big hit Del Crandall got in '64 or the orphans he rescued. He might have hit three different umpires in the beans in the same week, which would have made him an Internet legend today. So I'll limit myself to the past 30 years, which is my forte. If you have suggestions from the '60s and '70s, please share.
Note, this has to be one season and one season only, no cups of coffee. The Giants are still giving out Masanori Murakami bobbleheads, and the ridiculous strikeout rate (impressive for today, unheard of back then) suggests an electric arm. But he technically pitched in two different seasons, so out he goes, even if he was already out because of the 30-year limit.
To the best one-year players, in not-really-particular order!
Melky Cabrera, 2012
Not even trolling. By wins above replacement, he's clearly the best one-year player in Giants history, and it isn't especially close. The rest of the list is going to contain solid role players, usually on noteworthy teams. This was the only one who played like a star and vanished, never to be seen again.
If I wanted to troll, I'd put Jose Cruz, Jr. on the list.
Cabrera was a treasure, and then he was a public shame. He was one of the dominoes that led to the Giants winning the World Series, though, so it's hard to be too disgruntled with him. The White Sox got him at bargain prices I wish the Giants would have matched, even if it would have been truly strange to have him back. Or maybe especially because it would have been truly strange to have him back.
Dusty Baker, 1984
The production was strong (.387 on-base percentage) and the trolling was strong (up yours, Dodgers), but it also led to a fruitful relationship after Baker's playing career is over. Oh, I could type in all caps about who gave the game ball in whatever World Series to whom, and I could point out Kenny Lofton playing center field while Tsuyoshi Shinjo was the DH, or I could talk about Mark Gardner hitting for himself, or ... well, you get the idea. But the Giants were successful for Dusty Baker's managerial career, and that's leaving out his contributions as the team's hitting coach, too.
He was traded the next spring to the A's for Ed Pukiunas and Dan Winters, neither of whom made the majors.
F.P. Santangelo, 1999
If you're not a fan of the post-career, on-air personality, fine. But I'll remember that .406 OBP fondly. Santangelo played all three outfield positions, as well as second, third, and an inning at short, but I just liked having a guy of the bench who went up there trying to get hit by the ball and annoy the pitcher. It's a weapon every team should have.
He went to the Dodgers, where his soul crumbled into ash along with his career, and he was almost certainly enjoying better living through chemistry the entire time he was with the Giants. Still, that was a fun guy to have on a bench for a year.
Ryan Theriot, 2012
David Bell, 2002
Say, there's an emerging theme: Players who helped the Giants win a pennant and/or World Series. Get used to it. There's more coming. But it's not only because they were on those teams; those teams were there because of these players. Bell played an outstanding defensive third base back in the days when it was easier to minimize a defender's importance. The Giants probably could have expected that, but he also hit 20 dingers. That didn't mean as much back then, but they still helped the Giants win.
He left for big money from the Phillies, but he sure did better for the Giants than Desi Relaford could have. Oh, Desi. We hardly knew ye.
Kenny Lofton, 2002
He drove in the guy above him for the last pennant-winning walkoff hit against the Cardinals since the last one. He got only 180 at-bats for the Giants, and it's not like he tore the cover off the ball like Joe Carter (who probably should have made this list, but my OBP-bias runs strong), but Lofton was a spark plug in the playoffs, too, bugging the Braves, Cardinals, and Angels alike.
After he left the Giants, he was worth at least a win for seven different teams, but never the same one twice, and he retired after a two-and-a-half-win season split between the Rangers and Indians. He must have chewed with his mouth open.
Reggie Sanders, 2002
Did you know that the 2002 Angels brought everyone back? It's true. That's not an exaggeration. They had the same lineup, rotation, and bullpen in 2003 that they did the previous year. The Giants, on the other hand, wanted to start totally fresh, from the rotation to the manager. They won 100 games the next year, so I guess they knew what they were doing.
Or maybe they had Barry Bonds. I guess that's a discussion for another time.
Sanders suffered from the same halitosis that Lofton did, i guess, signing mostly one-year deals throughout his career, despite being mostly excellent. He was hurt often, sure, but how much do you think a 33-year-old player coming off a 33-homer season would get now? Different times, different league, but Nelson Cruz gives you an idea. Instead, Sanders signed a one-year deal, did what he was supposed to, and moved on. An underrated Sabean move to sign him, a disappointing Sabean move to let him go.
(To the Pirates.) (For a one year, $1 million contract.) (Baseball was weird back then.)
Gary Carter, 1990
Included to break up the string of players who were included in part because of what their teams did, Carter is here because, whoa, the Giants had Gary Carter for a year. The Kid. Our friend groug will be by this offseason to collect the All-Stars and Hall of Famers like Carter, who made brief cameos for the Giants, but Carter sticks out as one of the few who actually did really well in his time here.
Carter gave the pennant-defending Giants a pair of aging catchers who could hit better than the league average, which was a sound bit of roster construction. Terry Kennedy got the at-bats against the right-handers, Carter against the left, and everyone was happy. It's a danged shame the pitching melted the way it did.
Jake Peavy, 2014 (probably)
He looked like he was yelling naughty things at his own players, but then it came out that he was yelling things like "GREAT MICKY-FICKY CATCH, BRANDON. I APPRECIATE YOUR EFFORTS" or "BY GUM, THAT ERROR SURE WAS ILL-TIMED, BUT I'M UPSET AT MYSELF FOR ALLOWING THE HARD CONTACT, TO BE HONEST."
Peavy still might drop off this list, as it's looking like the Giants are going to have to choose between him or Todd Wellemeyer soon, but he was a memorable part of a ridiculous season. He sure didn't do much in the postseason, but I'm not sure if the Giants make the postseason without him.
Michael Morse, 2014
He was a treat to watch. Just a smilin' fool who somehow managed to celebrate the entire time he was running the bases after hitting a home run, without being offensive. He was defensively challenged and Molina-slow, even though he could cover 16 feet in one stride, but he could hit dingers. And he looked damned good while doing it.
If you're curious at the full list of one-year players, here are the pitchers and here are the hitters. Note that the way I conducted the search allowed players who finished their Giants career in 1984 to sneak on the list. That's why Jack Clark, Gary Lavelle, and Duane Kuiper are there. But if you were in the mood for some Ryan Klesko memories, have at it.
And thanks for all that, Michael Morse. Thanks for all that.