The stupid even-year narrative is dead. Long live the stupid even-year narrative. Even though the Giants ... [checks] ... didn’t win the 2016 World Series, that doesn’t mean a small part of us isn’t looking forward to 2018. It’s an inextricable part of us now, and I’m not going to fight it. Even years have been good to us. Usually.
Ah, but that brings up the corollary, which is that we have to fear the odd years. The truth is that every year is an odd year for 29 teams. There are some franchises that have never had a season that wasn’t an odd year. Been about ... [checks] ... three decades for the Dodgers, you know. But who’s counting? Other than us, with great anticipation and zeal.
An odd year isn’t just about not winning the World Series, though. It’s about failing in the regular season in a spectacular, serio-comic fashion. It’s about failing memorably and thoroughly in a way that makes you wonder how the team was ever successful. It’s about failing in that inexorable, ephemeral odd-year way.
You know the odd years when you see them, in other words.
In celebration of this hideous tradition, it’s time to pick the oddest of odd-year Giants. We have to elect the homecoming king of the odd year, the player who defines just how screwy odd years can get.
The best part about this is that every year has a clear, unambiguous candidate. So you know it’s a worthwhile question. Who is the oddest of odd-year Giants? To the candidates!
2011 — Orlando Cabrera
Think about how innocent we were in 2010. When Buster Posey got hurt, it was fair to wonder if he would ever play at a high level again (he would). It was fair to wonder if the Giants would ever win again (they would). Most importantly, it was fair to wonder if the Giants were actually managed well, or if they just stumbled into their success.
Orlando Cabrera was the best argument in favor of the idea that the Giants got lucky. The same general manager who built the championship team looked at the 2011 version of Cabrera and thought, "Now there’s a baseball player who can help my team win more baseball games." Which meant it was all a sham, all a house of cards, and it was going to come tumbling down and we would have 1000 years of winter.
Turns out that was something of an overreaction! Still don’t understand what the Giants thought they were getting out of Cabrera, though. He had been awful for two-plus seasons, and he was having his very worst season. His range was rubble, so you couldn’t even appeal to the Bocock Defense. What were the Giants thinking trading for him, when he was about to be released?
Dunno. But it made a green Brandon Crawford seem like a plausible option in comparison, and that led to happier things.
2013 — Jeff Francoeur
Do you remember the loss before the Giants signed Francoeur? I do. Like it was yesterday. It was a 16-inning mess that was lost on an error by Brandon Crawford, innings after he made one of the best plays of the season. Brandon Belt was 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. The Giants were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Andres Torres played a single into a triple as a security guard was running around the field. In retrospect, it was all very beautiful and poetic. We need to smell the roses more.
And the very next morning, the Giants signed one of the worst all-around players in baseball.
They did not win the National League West that year.
It’s funny now to read all of the freaking out, as if the signing really made a difference. Francoeur was just 29 at the time, so I was probably overreacting! Decent low-risk move, imo, and they didn’t let the experiment last too long.
Now it’s time to watch this:
2015 — Casey McGehee
The other players were acquired in desperation. McGehee was acquired on purpose. He was a part of the plan. Did you notice that one of the prospects the Giants traded away is one of the best in the Marlins’ system? Good, good.
McGehee was a one-tool player, and that tool was supposed to be hitting for average. He couldn’t run, throw, catch, or hit for power, but as long as he was hitting .290 or .300 with a few walks, he was going to be worthwhile. That was the idea, anyway.
The problem with hoping older average-dependent players continue hitting for average is that, well, sometimes they don’t. McGehee was dreadful, hitting into 15 double plays in 138 plate appearances. That would have been enough double plays to be one of the 10-worst seasons for a player with fewer than 300 plate appearances. He got there in just over 100. Amazing.
This is the only odd-year president who didn’t arrive the year before a championship season. Though if McGehee were just bad instead of abysmal, the Giants probably wouldn’t have given a lot of at-bats to Matt Duffy, which would mean he would still be in the Kelby Zone as far as the team’s plans for him, which would mean no Matt Moore, which would mean Jorge De La Rosa being the team’s #3 starter next year.
So there’s still a chance that McGehee will pan out. Just give him some time.
These are the contenders for the Odd Year mascot or president or emperor or homecoming king or what have you. I’ll be honest, I thought Francoeur was going to be the easy winner, but I’m really into McGehee at the moment. And don’t sleep on Cabrera — he was really a desperate stab for a team that couldn’t score runs.