Javier Lopez, who spent parts of seven seasons with the Giants, will not move on to another team. According to Ken Rosenthal, Lopez is retiring.
“More than anything, it’s just time,” Lopez said. “It’s a young man’s game. Although I think I can compete, it’s getting harder and harder to get ready for spring.
When the Giants traded for Lopez in 2010, I hated the trade. Hated, hated, hated it. I was convinced that it was impossible for a left-handed reliever, someone who pitched for a third of an inning every other game, to have a measurable impact on a pennant race. This is because I was stupid. But it’s also because I hadn’t seen a lefty specialist do what Lopez did, possible because it had been years since a Giants left-hander had done so as consistently. But also because lefty specialists don’t usually do what Lopez did at all.
In that 2010 season, Lopez appeared in 27 regular season games for the Giants. He allowed a run three times, and the Giants won two of those games. He was a magic reliever, exactly what the team needed. He was a fount of absurd stats, the Barry Bonds of lefty-one-out guys for a while
Lopez was charged with 18 inherited runners in those final months. One of them scored. He appeared in nine games that postseason, and batters hit .059/.111/.118 against him. He came into a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning of NLCS Game 6, and he retired Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Between Game 4 of the 2010 NLCS and Game 4 of the 2016 NLDS, Lopez appeared in 19 consecutive postseason games without allowing a run, facing 37 batters and allowing just three hits.
Like anyone else on the 2010 Giants, Lopez gets credit for all three championships because if he didn’t do his job in that postseason, the butterfly would have devoured the Giants and forced them to make silly roster moves that would have ruined future seasons. Lopez really was a part of those three championships, though. A reliable force of smilin’ nature.
It should be noted at this point, gentle reader, that he could make left-handed All-Stars look like this:
It’s a shame that Lopez’s career ended with one of his most indefensible baseball moments — a free base to a left-handed batter who didn’t represent the tying run — but that almost highlights just how easy it was for us to take him for granted over the years.
If Utley hits a ball 400 feet in that Game 6, do those stupid, hilarious foam-ring hats exist? Everyone remembers Jay Bruce v. Sergio Romo in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS, but if Lopez leaves a ball over the plate to Bruce in Game 3, the Giants get swept, and it would have seemed completely normal. The inning before Randy Choate threw the ball down the line in extra innings in 2014, Lopez quietly got Matt Carpenter swinging. That we don’t instantly remember those moments is almost the point.
Javier Lopez, perhaps more than any other player, represents the unlikely Giants story from the last decade. He was talented, and he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, blurring the lines between great execution and great fortune, just like the whole danged team. It took him 144 appearances in a Giants uniform until he allowed his first home run, and it took him 105 appearances for him to allow his second.
Indeed. The glory of the 2010-2014 Giants is that they elevated so many players, most of them supremely likeable, into the spotlight, and they all shined when they were needed the most. No one represented that kind of player better than Javier Lopez. I’ll miss him and wish him the best of luck, presumably on a broadcast or pre-game show somewhere.