Mercifully, the 2018 San Francisco Giants season will file its story in just five days. And then, just like that, it will disappear into the thick fog; the coaches will retreat to their beach houses and hunting trips, the players will recuperate from their plethora of touch-up surgeries, and we, at 7:15 p.m. each night, will flip through stations, looking for the cracking of maple on cowhide and the dulcet tones of a fine broadcast duo, wondering where it all went.
Among those dispersing from the depths of AT&T Park, set to begin a fresh new offseason, is Hunter Pence.
Perhaps he’ll briefly return to his home planet. Perhaps he’ll road trip the United States, on a quest to visit 500 coffee shops in 30 days. Perhaps he’ll head to his apartment, so conveniently located near the ballpark he calls home.
The news of a Giants front office shakeup is good. Bobby Evans is out, Brian Sabean is demoted, and the team will start anew, with a sealed-in-plastic President of Baseball Operations, a new-to-town General Manager, and a fresh philosophy to replace the approach that has garnered just 173 wins over the last 400 games.
Part of the philosophy that will (hopefully) be replaced is the sector of the headquarters reserved for any and all former Giants; a veritable nursing home for ballplayers in the elderly stage of careers that once journeyed across the Golden Gate Bridge.
You know the philosophy. It’s the reason Gregor Blanco’s charm is present in the clubhouse today; the reason Mike Morse gallivanted through the city a year ago.
If you’re looking for a trend, it would point to Hunter Pence showing up in Arizona next March, minor league contract in hand, major league contract in mind, and a plethora of cliches. “Best shape of my life” you’ll hear on Monday; “reworked swing” brings Tuesday.
Pence will be a free agent in five days time, and, after two straight years of struggling to provide value, will have to earn his role next year, wherever he ends up.
Had Evans remained in charge, it would surprise no one if San Francisco were that place where Pence tried to earn his role. But with a new, more modern regime in the script, such sentimentality will likely be tossed in a bin, replaced by newfangled ideas such as “logic”.
Which means, in five days, we’ll likely say our final goodbye to Pence.
But he’s going out on a high note. Over the last seven games, Pence has shown glimpses of his old self. He’s hit 8-22 with a double, a Herculean home run, a quartet of runs batted in, and a stolen base. His OPS has been .909, and he’s looked spry, both on the base paths and in the outfield.
These numbers don’t mean anything, analytically. 22 plate appearances is so minute that it doesn’t even register on the small sample size radar.
But it does mean something emotionally. It means that, for Pence’s likely final games in the orange and black, he gets to resemble the player that galloped and stumbled into our hearts. It means that we get to reminisce on just how fun of a player he was - how his dynamic athleticism, paired with a distinct lack of grace, resulted in mesmerizing moments, hilarious highlights, a truly unique kind of baseball player.
And, if nothing else, it’s giving him a little momentum heading into the offseason - enough to remind him how much he loves this game.
And last but certainly not least, every team in Major League Baseball brings in an abundance of formerly-good players to spring training, the Giants are not unique in this and never have been, they’ve just had bad enough rosters and decision-makers that those players played, so don’t be remotely surprised or mad if, even with a new, modern-savvy GM, the Giants invite Pence to Arizona in the spring.