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Ten Years Ago: The New-Look Giants

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Part 1 of a 10 part series looking back at a pivotal year in 21st century Giants history. Or, at least, for the sake of this series, it was a pivotal year. Your opinion may differ.

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
Oh man. That facial hair actually happened.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

2007 was the year I started getting back into baseball. The last time I had been into it was just a few years earlier, 2004, but that season ended with Steve Finley hitting a walk-off grand slam against the Giants. Oh sure, I paid some attention in 2005 and 2006, but knowing that the Giants were just a ragtag bunch of Dudes Surrounding Barry Bonds and arms filling innings around Jason Schmidt, there just seemed to be the feeling of “Who cares?”

Also, I was 24 and 25 respectively, and wanting to have fun and focus on a burgeoning career in the entertainment industry, so it never occurred to me that I should commit ~486 hours over six months to watching a bad team. They were 151-172 combined in those two seasons I opted out of so I think you’d agree that I saved a lot of time.

But I guess my thinking changed when the Giants moved on from Felipe Alou and gave into Scott Boras’ demands to sign Barry Zito. The Giants were suddenly interesting again. Now, I didn’t think for a moment that signing a pitcher to a 7-year deal — especially a pitcher who was already in obvious decline — was a smart move, nor did I think importing the ancient manager of the meaningless San Diego Padres — who would field a lineup of eight 38-year old Vinny Castillas if he could — was an inspiring move that signaled a bold new direction for an adrift/possibly dying franchise, but again, these were at least interesting moves that made me curious enough to see how everything would coalesce.

And that’s how I wound up buying a copy of the Giants’ media guide. I was living in LA, feeling disconnected from my favorite team, and yet interested in jumping back in after being away for two years. The media guide will be the source for our journey into the past. It’s not dog-eared or anything; I didn’t pore over it after buying it, but there was some comfort in having it. And then once 2007 and 2008 played out, it became sort of a joke book on the shelf. We can only hope it’s even funnier today than it was then. After all, every team media guide talks about its team as though it were the greatest team ever destined to compete and be at the top of the standings in any given season.

Looking back now, 2007 wound up holding some significance in terms of creating our present circumstances. The Giants wouldn’t have won three World Championships without the multiple setups and payoffs of this season.

So, let’s get started with the guide book’s cover:

Yup. Those were the new guys. Have you ever seen such a pair? How many teams have put on the cover of their media guys their newly acquired manager along with their big ticket free agent signing?

I gotta tell ya, it feels like a mistake not putting Barry Bonds on here. Sure, the man was under heavy public scrutiny for the BALCO scandal, but the savvy move would’ve put him right in the middle of these guys, his arms folded, not smiling. Or, better yet, have him awkwardly standing in the center of the book with these guys in this pose but smaller and off to the side. The point I’m trying to make is, when Barry Bonds isn’t on the screen, the other players should be asking, “Where’s Barry Bonds?”

But this certainly sets the Giants’ desired tone for the season. These media guides are held and read by every other team and press member covering them and what they wanted to do here was highlight the newness, the future. Bonds represented not just the past (and a recent track record of losing baseball), but also ate into the franchise’s credibility due to the PED reporting. The Giants were so desperate to change the story that they put Bruce Bochy on the cover of their media guide. This was a big deal at the time.

And how quickly did I forget that the whole selling point of 2007 was the All-Star Game?

Willie Mays threw out the first pitch, the American League won 5-4, Ichiro was the game’s MVP, and the Home Run Derby was one of the most bittersweet events to ever take place at AT&T Park: Barry Bonds did not participate and instead Giants fans got to watch WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN with eventual winner Vladimir Guerrero launching baseballs all over the stadium.

In retrospect, this feels less bittersweet and more infuriatingly awful. Bonds had never participated in a derby before, of course, and he [as DiaDeLosSlapsy points out, Bonds won it in 1996] felt that a 42-year old shouldn’t compete in such a contest, but perhaps most importantly, he was co-hosting a party with Jay Z that night. Barry Bonds didn’t owe the fans anything, but not participating in the Home Run Derby set in the stadium built just for you feels like a cosmic joke.

Giants fans getting to see Vladimir Guerrero, the guy they’ve wanted to pair with Bonds for years, do the things they imagined him doing alongside Barry Bonds was just another cosmic baseball indignity. Everything surrounding the Giants involved some really cool stuff and very high highs but also confounding and painful sports lows.

What did the media guide have to say about the All-Star Game?

One thing to keep in mind about these media guides is that they are written generically and with very little in the way of hyperbole or even casual language. In other words, there’s not a lot to hook into for comedy’s sake, but there will still be some ironies to pop up over the course of this series simply because we know a lot more today than we knew ten years ago. So,

The Giants franchise sits firmly implanted in the Midsummer Classic lore, from Willie Mays’ 24 appearances to Carl Hubbell striking out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession in the first and second innings of the 1934 game at the Polo Grounds. Giants players have captured five Most Valuable Player awards at the Midsummer Classic, matching the Orioles, Reds and Dodgers for the most ever. All told, 80 different players have represented the franchise at an All-Star Game.

I am definitely not a fan of the lack of the oxford comma.

One subject in this article that setup 2010, 2012, and 2014 (and maybe even 2017!):

Duh.

Opening up to a random page:

161 - Steve Kline

Nobody expects Steve Kline! What a random face to see after flipping open to a random page. You can even see in this picture his slightly askew cap.

His section is actually 5 pages long. One of those pages has a section, ML Apperance Leaders 1998-2006, upon which Kline sits at the top with 682. #2 on this list? Mike Stanton with 638. Only 26 of those came with the Giants in 2006, but if you do a text search of this very site for the phrase “the Giants could’ve used the Mike Stanton pick to draft Mike [né Giancarlo] Stanton” then you will see that Grant has written that approximately 9,000 times. The Giants could’ve drafted Giancarlo Stanton. This might’ve been a bigger disappointment in 2007 than Barry Bonds skipping the Home Run Derby. Anyway, what’s your strongest memory of Steve Kline?

And for that matter, what’s your clearest memory of the 2007 season?