George Kontos occupied the space between useful and forgettable, which for a baseball reliever actually makes him successful. Most of the time, a relief pitcher is either a Mariano Rivera or the scapegoat for a city’s inability to channel its collective misery into something other than the local sports teams.
We’ll always remember him as that guy who came over from the Yankees for Chris Stewart in 2012, which was great because Chris Stewart was painful to watch while Buster Posey was out in 2011. Most of us are guilty of objectifying his physique, too. So, although he’s not a Mariano Rivera to Giants fans, he’s also not a scapegoat. He’s somewhere... in the middle. Like... a middle reliever. He’s the Core 4’s plus-1? The fifth wheel?
Before 2017, Kontos pitched 258 regular season innings for the Giants and sported an ERA+ of 128. Okay, traditionals, he also had a 2.90 ERA. His postseason numbers were less impressive, and his stuff (a 91-93 mph fastball and a slider) not really flashy, but he got the job done and he managed to do it year after year. As 2017 indicated, lacking dependable relief pitchers is an absolute nightmare.
Except, Kontos was still... eh in 2017 (4.03 FIP, 3rd-best of the primary relievers). He wasn’t the problem in the ‘pen, and yet, the Giants put him on waivers and simply let the Pirates claim him for nothing in return. And Andrew Baggarly suggested in a piece back in March that there was some friction down in the bullpen. He quoted Mark Melancon:
“I’m not sensing there’s an ego or a jealousy [about 2018’s bullpen halfway through Spring Training]. Sometimes there’s a jealousy in ‘pens. That can get in the way, you know, when guys are rooting silently against others.”
Was jealousy or ego an issue that had to be dealt with last season?
“Uh,” said Melancon, managing a weak smile, “I think it probably goes without saying a little bit.”
Given that the entire roster was a canker sore and George Kontos was still deemed to be expendable, I don’t think there’s any way to think Melancon wasn’t referring to Kontos. Does that sour your perception of him? I don’t think it should.
George Kontos was a part of Giants pop culture — our fanatical zeitgeist — for several years. Let’s not take that for granted. Anyway, no one will ever read this, but thanks, George Kontos, for being steady. To me, you’ll always be a solid Giant.