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Gregor Blanco was all set up to be the random hero of the Even Year

He gave the Giants everything he had and his place in team history will never be forgotten.

San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

STAT LINE: 203 PA (63 games) .217 / .262 / .317, 2 HR, 12 RBI

You know Gregor Blanco, you love Gregor Blanco, but after an uneventful 2018, you probably saw the last of Gregor Blanco in a Giants lineup. And yet, it didn’t have to be this way. If the team had figured out some way of getting into the postseason, it was all set up for him to follow in the line of Ryan Vogelsong, Travis Ishikawa, and Conor Gillaspie, and be the latest Giant-turned-not-Giant-then-turned-back-to-a-Giant-who-has-a-big-game hero, which would’ve meant one more year of him being a major leaguer.

Unfortunately, what we got to see was anything but the solid contributor we’d seen in years past. After a sojourn in Arizona, Blanco came back to San Francisco at the end of January on a minor league deal. He didn’t have a stellar 2017 with the Diamondbacks, but his .337 on base percentage in 90 games would’ve been fifth-best on the 2017 Giants (minimum 100 plate appearances), and given the organization’s familiarity with him and his skill set and clear need for outfield help, there was some utility in bringing him back.

He had a .405 OBP in 33 Spring Training at bats (19 games), so it still made sense for the Giants to keep him in the organization. He agreed to their minor league assignments and even re-signed with the team after they released him in June after slashing .242 / .289 / .350 off the bench through the first two months of the major league season. His season fWAR of -0.7 was the worst of his career since when he was last with the Giants in 2016 (also -0.7 fWAR). He just never got it going. But he was still worth the flyer.

Gregor Blanco is Baseball Joy and players like him are deserving of a long look. We’d seen Blanco scuffle for a month here or a month there in every year he wore the french vanilla, but he always seemed to wind up playing well enough that when a starter went down with a long injury, he became a decent enough full-timer, so it just made sense to see if he had anything left in the tank.

He did not.

I’m still going to imagine him lacing a double down the line to clinch the Wild Card Game, because that’s just what he was setup to do. If not then, then in the NLDS, taking Jeremy Jeffress deep. Maybe a bases loaded walk against Clayton Kershaw. Or against Nathan Eovaldi, swinging and missing at a high fastball for strike three but making it to first base after Sandy Leon missed the ball. Something like that could’ve happened.

The Giants’ Even Year Magic had come to embody the thing that keeps fueling the fight between “Old School” folks and “the analytics” community: sometimes, baseball defies the odds. Sometimes, the “cooked” can become the “cook”. The old guys sometimes have one last trick up their sleeve, and when something miraculous like that happens, it’s a surprise that makes watching every game worth it, it’s the cherry on top of the sundae, and it’s the reason they play the game.

Blanco is one of only seven players left from the 2012 squad. We’ll always have Blanco dives — AND HE MAKES THE CATCH! We’ll always have the memory of his smiling face and never what could’ve been because so much already was. But dammit, what could’ve been.

Role on the 2018 team

Bench help for a beleaguered outfield that began as Hunter Pence, Austin Jackson, and Andrew McCutchen before morphing into Mac Williamson, Gregor Blanco, and Andrew McCutchen, which then sort of morphed into Hunter Pence, Gorkys Hernandez, and Andrew McCutchen before ending on Blanco, Gorkys, and Pence. So, he did sort of become a starter again at the very end, just as he’d done ever year as a Giant, but it just wasn’t the same.

He looked overwhelmed at the plate and his speed (his above average 28.5 ft/sec sprint speed was tied for 102nd-best in major league baseball) and defense (-4.2 Defensive Runs Below Average) just couldn’t make up the difference. He was supposed to be veteran depth who could spell overwhelmed rooks or injured starters, and while he did serve that role in paper, he couldn’t deliver in performance.

Still, he loved being a Giant and let that shine through every single day. He also gave this magnanimous interview to Doug back in August.

Role on the 2019 team

Alex Pavlovic noted in his season review that Blanco might come back as a Spring Training instructor if he can’t catch on with another team. That role is practically a lock, especially since Bruce Bochy has been bullish on Blanco’s coaching future.

Bochy noted that Blanco is passionate, positive, knows many different parts of the game, and has already helped others - most notably Brandon Crawford - make swing adjustments. “He would make an outstanding coach,” Bochy said.

That would be a fantastic idea. We don’t know a lot about what makes a great baseball coach, but it should be noted that Blanco did help Brandon Crawford fix his swing; and, as Doug noted in his interview:

When it comes to that mentor role, “I’ve always loved the challenge,” and he thinks conquering that challenge not only helps his teammate, but also helps him become a better player.

Final Grade: D+

Gregor Blanco was one of the best found money position players the Giants have had in the past six years and his contributions to team lore in addition to his two World Series rings means that he’ll never be forgotten by faithful fans, but his final season with the team as a player was certainly one to forget.

Okay, now that that sadness is out of the way, let’s play the hits one last time:

blanco dapper suit
blanco fin

Thanks, White Shark.