The Giants announced that Ryan Vogelsong will retire with the San Francisco Giants, and he’ll take the mound for the start of Sunday’s game against the Diamondbacks. He’ll wave to the crowd, get a standing ovation, and walk off the mound wearing the same uniform he wore when he broke into the major leagues.
It’ll also be the same uniform he won while contributing to two different World Series championships, if you’re keeping score at home.
Vogelsong is a beloved figure in San Francisco Giants lore, one of the most unexpected success stories in franchise history. In the season before he signed a minor-league deal with the Giants, he was released by both the Angels and Phillies, putting up a combined 4.81 ERA for both organizations in Triple-A. He walked nearly six batters per nine innings. He was 32. He was done. Absolutely done.
Imagine Matt Cain struggling in Japan next year and Triple-A the year after that, and then predicting that he’ll make the All-Star team and pick up a stray Cy Young vote. That’s what Vogelsong did, except he didn’t have the history of professional success that Cain did earlier in his career, so it made even less sense than a Cain comeback would.
And he did it with his old team at the best possible time. He salvaged a devastating 2011 season and gave hope to a Giants team that didn’t have to bounce right back after the Buster Posey injury. Vogelsong didn’t have to keep helping the Giants as he advanced deeper into his 30s, either. But it all worked out brilliantly, and it’s one of the more unlikely stories the Giants have. It makes sense that they would want to honor him this way.
There is a precedent for the Giants honoring a player by letting him take the field. In September, 2008, J.T. Snow stood at first base in a lost season, giving the fans something to cheer about.
If you will, uh, mute that, you can watch Rich Aurilia short-hopping Snow on purpose during warmups, which is beautiful. And this video (which can’t be embedded, unfortunately) gives us a better idea of what to expect from Vogelsong’s ceremony on Sunday.
There is some red tape to work through when it comes to the 40-man roster, though both Chase Johnson and Michael Morse are both available to be shifted to the 60-day DL, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.
My only suggestion is this: Let the man pitch an inning. I would have loved for Snow to get an at-bat in 2008, just because. Instead, Travis Ishikawa got the at-bats when Snow left, and it’s not like that guy had a future with the team. It wouldn’t have made a difference then, and it wouldn’t make a difference with this team now. Let him give up a dinger or five, I don’t care. Because there would be a chance that he would pitch a 1-2-3 inning, too.
Although if he did give up five dingers, he would do it against the Diamondbacks, which would cheese off the Dodgers and Rockies. Food for thought.
Most likely, though, he’ll be announced as the starter and pulled before he throws a single pitch. He’ll retire as a Giant, the team that drafted him, the team that reclaimed him on his odd, circuitous path to success. And Giants fans will be happy for a few minutes. After this season, we’ll take a few minutes.
It does seem odd that Giants fans seem happy about this, but when Pablo Sandoval gets a month-long chance to retire as a Giant, everyone’s all weird about it. I can’t figure you people out.
If you’re a completionist, here’s the press release from the Giants:
The San Francisco Giants will honor former Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong on Sunday, September 17 at AT&T Park at the start of the Giants vs. Diamondbacks game at 1:05 p.m.
Vogelsong will take the mound for one last time at AT&T Park to retire as a Giant. He will officially end his 12-year Major League career on the same mound where it all began back on September 2, 2000.
“We are so excited to honor Ryan and touched that as one of our home grown players his career will officially end where it all began for him,” said Giants Senior Vice President and General Manager Bobby Evans. “Ryan’s journey in this game has been marked by highs and lows, successes and challenges, but through it all he has always been a person of great integrity, strong character and a fierce competitor. He is a World Series Champion and a forever Giant.”
Vogelsong played 12 seasons in Major League Baseball for the San Francisco Giants (2000-2001; 2011-2015) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2001-2006; 2016) and in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) for the Hanshin Tigers (2007–2008) and Orix Buffaloes (2009). Drafted by the Giants in the fifth round of the 1998 Major League Baseball draft, Vogelsong made his big league debut with the Giants on Sept. 2, 2000. He appeared in 17 games with the Giants before being traded to the Pirates in July 2001 in exchange for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal. He appeared in just two games for the Pirates before he required Tommy John surgery that kept him out of the Majors until the end of the 2003 season. He went 10-19 with a 6.00 ERA in 103 games (33 starts) for Pittsburgh from 2001-06. After a three-year stint in Japan, Vogelsong signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies during the 2009-10 offseason. After appearing in 25 games for triple-A Lehigh Valley he was released and signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 28, 2010. He appeared in eight games for the triple-A Salt Lake Bees and was released after the season ended.
In 2011, Vogelsong signed a minor league contract to return to the San Francisco Giants with an invitation to spring training. His career was revitalized as he established himself as a dominant force in the fifth spot in the Giants' 2011 rotation after Barry Zito was injured. He made the 2011 All-Star team, was named the Giants’ Breakout Player of the Year by MLB.com and was awarded the 2011 Willie Mac Award, given annually to the Giant who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership consistently shown by Willie McCovey throughout McCovey’s long career. In 2012 he won a career-best 14 games while posting a streak of 16 consecutive quality starts, allowing three earned runs or fewer in at least six innings each game. In four starts during the 2012 postseason, he recorded a 3–0 record with a 1.09 ERA, twice helping the Giants avoid elimination en route to their 2012 World Series title. In 2014, Vogelsong made a career-high 32 starts, helping the Giants win another title in the 2014 World Series.