Matt Cain is retiring, and I wasn’t prepared for this news, even if I should have been. The 13-year Giant was one of the greatest pitchers in franchise history, regardless if you use metrics or feels, and he will be missed.
Cain made the emotional announcement before Wednesday’s game, and it appears as if he has no interest in the spring-training-invite path back to success. I figured he would resurface with the Cardinals and have three excellent seasons, just because, but that unlikely possibility doesn’t entertain him enough. Cain has pitched in 13 season for the Giants, making three All-Star teams and pitching on three championship teams, and that’s going to be the sum of his career. It’s a hearty sum.
Over the last five seasons, it has been more than a little painful to watch Cain struggle (19-40 record, 4.86 ERA, 77 ERA+, way below replacement), but it never took away from the seasons that preceded it. Matt Cain came up in 2005, when the Giants stumbled for the first time in years, and he continued to be one of the brightest lights on a team that had precious few. That was, coincidentally, when this site started up, so there has never been a McCovey Chronicles without him, and it’s going to be weird.
There will be a more formal appreciation (several of them, really) in the coming days, but they’ll all be based around a basic theme.
- When the Giants were awful, they brought up a 20-year-old pitching prospect
- He was excellent right away
- He made the All-Star team
- He won a World Series
- He made another All-Star team
- He made another All-Star team, and he was the National League starter
- He threw a perfect game
- He won another World Series
- He won another World Series, even if he wasn’t actively around this time.
- He was Matt Cain
When a team makes their first-round pick of the draft, this isn’t a reasonable thing to hope for. Even with the first-overall pick, it’s completely unlikely that a team will get anything close to half of what Matt Cain has provided.
Or, to put it another way:
My favorite part of Moneyball is the part with Matt Cain. pic.twitter.com/CwVe9MOioS— Grant Brisbee (@mccoveychron) August 10, 2016
The Giants were the ones that actually held the winning Lotto ticket, even if the last few years were more like grabby relatives squabbling over the wealth. Cain was a gift, and he helped the San Francisco Giants to more than anyone could have possibly dreamed.
He could have tried to reinvent himself as a reliever or tried to stick with another team after a strong spring training, but he probably won’t. All we’ll be left with is Matt Cain, career Giant. And there will be no way to remember him as anything other than one of the very best.