The Giants have 25 games remaining, which means Hunter Pence has 25 more games with the Giants.
After those 25 games, he’ll press the Dayglo orange button that’s hidden under his high socks, and he’ll slowly lift off the ground, rotating at a speed of 10 RPMs, and gradually rise into his spaceship. He’ll return to whatever home is for his kind, and we’ll sadly never see him again.
Unless, of course, he’s at Spring Training with a camp invite, which is completely realistic.
Pence clearly loves playing baseball, so trying to find a minor league deal isn’t out of the question after this year. More likely, though, it seems as though he’ll retire and make the smooth transition into a life of frequenting coffee shops all year long and opening up a few of his own. Maybe he’ll take some role in the organization. Maybe he’ll dedicate himself to instructional videos that make us all laugh.
But between Austin Slater and Chris Shaw existing, and the Giants neon mediocrity reminding everyone that they need to make an offseason splash, they know Pence has no part in their future plans. He’s hitting .217/.261/.303 on the year, and doesn’t quite look healthy.
Even a team as sentimental and enamored with veterans as the Giants can see that it’s time to move on. I think. Maybe. Don’t quote me on this.
So how do the Giants handle the end of Pence’s tenure?
By playing him, for starters. Pence has appeared in eight of the last nine games, and started three times this week. With Steven Duggar out for the year and Andrew McCutchen cleanly-shaven in the Bronx, the Giants are limited in their outfield options. Technically they have five of them, thanks to Gregor Blanco, but Blanco seems less likely to play, at least on the corners. For all the love fans have for Gregor, he doesn’t carry the same weight as Pence, in large part because the team has already let him move on multiple times.
So Pence will share time with Slater and Shaw, and it seems likely that he’ll platoon with Shaw. He’ll play so Shaw can come along slowly. He’ll play because Bruce Bochy loves veterans. And he’ll play because while he may not have earned some of those May and June starts, he sure as hell earned the September ones.
Now we get to the question of a ceremony. This one comes down to Pence.
In the past years, the Giants have given lovely ceremonies to players approaching the exit doors, but there’s been one condition: the player needs to be retiring.
Jeremy Affeldt got honored before one of his final games, because he announced that he was moving on to non-baseball playing things (such as talking about baseball). Javier Lopez and Tim Lincecum, still considering playing options, did not, even though it was abundantly clear that they’d played their final games in San Francisco.
So if Pence decides in the next few weeks that it’s time to hang up the cleats, he’ll get a ceremony. If not, we wait until some day down the road.
In the meantime, he’ll play, and he’ll play lots, and he’ll hopefully hit a few final home runs.
And we know he’ll do it with a smile on his face, and the most enthusiastic of high-fives for his teammates, especially the youngsters earning roles. The Giants playoff odds may have evaporated, and Pence may not be providing much on-field value, but he is loved and respected in the clubhouse.
He is, after all, Buster Posey’s good friend.