It's the deep, deep offseason, and the Giants are done making major moves. That means it's time to dig through the crates of baseball pictures in my SB Nation photo tool, just because we can. We've already explored a variety of different topics in this series, ranging from Will Clark about to hit somebody to Will Clark considering hitting somebody. You know, the whole spectrum.
Today, we'll discuss pathos. Pure pathos. It comes in the form of a Getty Images picture from 1998.
That's Orel Hershiser wearing a uniform at Dodger Stadium, and nobody is happy about it. His head is down, shoulders slumped, as he looks down to avoid the angry taunts and furrowed brows. Unless he's just taking a breath to compose himself after finishing his warmup tosses. But we'll pretend it's a picture taken in the context that it appears to be taken in. In 1998, a decade after pulling the rest of his Dodgers team by the nostrils and winning a championship, Orel Hershiser in this still image looks like he regrets everything.
It's impossible to compare Hershiser to a modern Giants nemesis because the parallels just aren't there. Clayton Kershaw has the right team and the general dominance, but he's still struggling with his postseason legacy in an era where the Giants win the World Series every other year. That was exactly the opposite with Hershiser, who was the biggest reason the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988, while the Giants were still in an oh-for-San Francisco drought.
Don't bother looking for a proper analog for what Hershiser meant, symbolically. It doesn't exist, not in today's game. He was proof that the Giants were never going to win, that they would never have anything nice. Today's Giants are proof that the Giants can have nice things, a splendid tautology of warm, fuzzy feelings.
And there Hershiser is, on the mound for the wrong team, making nobody happy.
The right analog is there, but it exists only in negative space, and it's going to make you uncomfortable. Tim Lincecum, in the middle of a career renaissance that was just about to fall back to earth, standing on the AT&T Park mound in Dodger blue, listening to hurt-soaked croaks disguised as typical sports razzing. If it hurts to think about, think about how it would hurt to live through. A picture snapped at the right moment might look a little like the one up there. Lincecum, on the mound for the wrong team, making nobody happy.
Unless that picture is of Hershiser taking a breath to compose himself after finishing his warmup tosses, which it almost certainly is. He won the game, and the Giants avoided the sweep. The Dodgers would finish in third place that year, whereas the Giants would play a 163rd game, at least. Hershiser helped the Giants get there. It wasn't all bad, this unholy alliance.
But the further we get from the pragmatic decision to shore up the rotation with a veteran who just happened to have history with the other guys, big deal, the stranger it seems. "Orel Hershiser was on the Giants? What the hell was that about?", I ask about once every two months while looking up something else.
Now when I'm reminded, I'll think of that picture. Even if it really doesn't mean what it looks like, I'm choosing to believe it does. Everyone was ashamed. Everyone was filled with regrets. Do you want to know what the Orel Hershiser Era was like for the Giants? It was like that picture, right down to the part where he helped the good guys win a little bit. 1998 was a secretly awful year in Giants history.
A bizarre, secretly awful year that made you wonder if nostalgia was something developed by Soviet spies to ruin everything you thought you loved. Within a three-week stretch, Will Clark came to Candlestick for the first time in another uniform, and Hershiser took the mound at Dodger Stadium wearing a Giants uniform as poorly as anyone before him.
It got better. Thank you for indulging me.