Gregor Blanco has appeared in more Giants games than Kevin Mitchell, Bill Mueller, or Jesus Alou. More than Candy Maldonado, Royce Clayton, or Nate Schierholtz. More than Matty Alou, Angel Pagan, or Omar Vizquel.
More than Jose Vizcaino, Edgar Renteria, and Freddy Sanchez put together. More than Eugenio Velez, Neifi Perez, and Pat Burrell put together.
And if this post on Instagram is any indication, Blanco and the Giants are moving on:
When he actually signs with another team, there will be time for a proper appreciation post, perhaps a ranking of the very best Blanco moments, up to and including his catch in the perfect game. Until then, I want to share a lifehack with you. It’s very useful in your day-to-day existence as a Giants super-nerd, and it goes something like this:
You can use Gregor Blanco as a litmus test to judge other Giants fans.
Man, I love judging other people. And this is a great way to establish your bonafides and Giants-loving purity when compared to some regular goofball off the street. The first order of business is to accept that Blanco was legitimately awful this season. It’s not a question. Unfathomably bad with the bat, quirky on the basepaths, and not nearly good enough in the field to make up for it. It was a top-25 bad Giants season according to WAR, which probably isn’t meant to be used with that kind of precision, but it fits the narrative, so we’ll include it.
The second order of business is to confront Blanco’s postseason legacy. It’s ... pretty bad. Over 153 postseason plate appearances (!), Blanco hit .183/.287/.290, and he alllllllmost misplayed a ball into a Royals championship. That would have made for a dreadful Giants legacy.
Still, here’s your chance to use Blanco and his actual Giants legacy. If someone’s reaction to Blanco leaving is, "FINALLY, that guy was the worst," you are allowed to quietly smirk and judge that person.
Think of what Blanco was, to start. He was a non-roster minor league free agent, just like Kameron Loe, Scott Proctor, Brad Eldred, and dozens and dozens and dozens of other players you don’t remember. If these players are lucky, they’ll have a couple moments that we weren’t expecting, like Brandon Hicks or Gorkys Hernandez, and you’ll actually remember them.
Blanco played in over 600 games.
More than that, though, he filled in for a starting position player on a championship team not once, but twice. In 2012, Melky Cabrera was suspended in August, too late for the Giants to address the problem with a significant trade. Blanco started down the stretch, posted a .343 OBP with solid left field defense, and was an unmistakeable asset. In 2014, Angel Pagan went down to a season-ending injury, and Blanco hit .284/.354/.517 in his remaining 31 starts, even as some folks were actively begging for Gary Brown.
His final tally: 7.6 wins above replacement over five seasons. If you prorate that for 650 plate appearances, it’s about two wins per season. Which is to say, he played like a reasonable starter whenever he got playing time. So please don’t take this as a missive that Blanco was secretly great, and you’re a baseball nincompoop if you disagree. No, he was fine. Frustrating at times. Extremely prone to slumps. But he filled in much, much better than your typical random fourth or fifth outfielder, and it was easy to take him for granted.
Blanco isn’t the litmus test of true Giants fandom, no. He’s the litmus test for just how spoiled a Giants fan can be. He was a minor league free agent who succeeded in a way that few minor league free agents ever will for the Giants again. He was an extra outfielder who was called on twice as an emergency late-season replacement for a starting outfielder, and the Giants won the World Series both times.
That’s not the kind of player Giants fans are used to. These aren’t the stories we remember from the teams from the ‘70s, ‘80s, or even ‘90s, the random drifter who came in and played for five seasons, helping the Giants win more than they had a right to expect. Other teams got players like this. The Giants never did. Pick a random team.
Thanks, person from the studio audience! Let’s see, that team had Jalal Leach, who got 10 at-bats. It also had Felipe Crespo, who was Blanco-like for exactly one season, but it was the year before.
Jose Castillo was a starter. That sure was something. Scott McClain hit a couple dingers, I guess. It doesn’t matter which team you pick, though. If they got a good, solid season from a minor league free agent, it was a ludicrous streak of good fortune. And those never happened for the the Giants.
Then Blanco came along and had four solid seasons as a quasi-starter, his OPS+ rose in every season, peaking at 115 (.291/.368/.413 in 2015, which is basically Ichiro’s career line, he said, half-serious). Again, he was bad in 2016. Hurt, sure. But mostly bad.
If Giants fans can’t appreciate the unlikely success of the seasons before that, though, I would at least hope they were newer fans. Because that would make sense. On the surface, he’s unremarkable, and he’s not exactly a power bat or .350 hitter. And he would sure do some dumb stuff from time to time! If you haven’t been watching baseball for a while, he would be a player who was easy to poke at.
If you’ve been watching the Giants for years and years, though, you aren’t going to remember too many players like this. He was found money, a raffle ticket that hit. The Giants will sign a dozen minor league free agents or more this winter. If any of them do half as much for the franchise as Blanco did, they’ll have exceeded expectations wildly.
A great Giant? An All-Star? Someone who’s name is worth getting on the back of your jersey? We don’t need to go overboard. Blanco was someone without expectations. Then he had expectations thrust in front of him, sometimes at the cruelest possible moments. Then he exceeded them over and over again.
Along the way, the Giants won two championships. It wasn’t a coincidence, either. It was probably time to part ways, considering the younger outfielders in the system. That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate Blanco for what he was: A random minor league free agent who stuck around for five years and did way, way, way more than we had a right to expect. He’ll be missed.