Former castoffs writing own unique script
Five Giants veterans capture lightning in bottle for special season
ARLINGTON -- Edgar Renteria won his first World Series title back in 1997, as a 19-year-old Marlins rookie. Fourteen years, five teams and six playoff appearances later, in what may be his final season in the big leagues, he has another shot.
Aubrey Huff never even sniffed the playoffs until this year, in his 11th Major League season. Nobody really wanted him this past winter, so Huff inked a one-year deal with the Giants worth $3 million. Pocket change.
They all seem to have their faults, these Giants, if only in reputation. Many baseball people shunned Juan Uribe because he didn't reach base enough. They never really cared for Freddy Sanchez because he didn't hit for power. They snubbed Andres Torres because he didn't do either.
They are a bunch of unwanted veterans, typecast to fail. They're too weak. Too slow. Too old. Too whatever.
Now, they are all Giants. They're winning. And they are, as Huff put it, "a lot of old guys that the people in San Francisco can relate to."
Now, a group that manager Bruce Bochy has jokingly called the "misfits" is one win away from a World Series title.
"I guess that's been the theme to our team this year," first baseman Travis Ishikawa said. "On any given night, it can be anyone."
In Game 4's 4-0 win over the Rangers, it was just about all of them. Renteria rapped out three hits, including a one-out single in the seventh that helped seal the game. Torres doubled twice, driving in one run and scoring another. Sanchez started two critical double plays in the field. And Huff hit the decisive blow, a two-run homer off Tommy Hunter in the third.
Not bad for a guy that nobody wanted.
"I had no offers at all in the offseason," Huff said. "There's so many good names out there on the market, and when the Giants called, you had to jump on it. Certainly being a left-handed hitter didn't sound really appealing hitting in that yard."
|Lou Brock *||87||34||.391|
|Home Run Baker *||91||33||.363|
|Lou Gehrig *||119||43||.361|
|Reggie Jackson *||98||35||.357|
|Earle Combs *||60||21||.350|
|Jimmie Foxx *||64||22||.344|
Huff, of course, wound up hitting balls out of AT&T Park with regularity, slamming 26 homers in total this season. His only real challenger for the team home run lead was Uribe, who finished with 24. Combined, the two of them helped shed the popular image of a Giants club with spectacular pitching and pedestrian hitting.
Then there was Torres, who broke into the big leagues back in 2002, bounced between the Majors and Minors for four seasons and two teams, then went three full years without even sniffing the Major Leagues. Torres resurfaced in a limited role last year, before morphing into an invaluable leadoff man for the playoff-bound Giants.
"I've [spent] more of my career in the Minors, trying to figure out how to hit and things like that," he said. "But being here, being with the Giants and the group of guys has been a blessing, and everything has been amazing."
Sanchez, known chiefly for his defense, hit .292 this year and is a .298 hitter over nine big league seasons. Batting average may not be a trendy statistic these days, but Sanchez has managed to keep his remarkably steady.
"Freddy's unbelievable," Renteria said. "Freddy can do anything, defensively or offensively."
So, apparently, can Renteria, who has struggled mightily at times on both sides of the ball throughout the latter half of his career. But at the age of 34, with retirement perhaps in his near future, Renteria is on the verge of a World Series title to bookend his career.
"I was hurt a lot this year, but I was ready for something big like this to happen," he said. "I was working hard and keeping myself in shape, so I knew when the moment came I was going to be ready."
Bochy calls Renteria a "calming influence," in large part because of his postseason experience. He calls Huff "even better than I thought." Huff calls Torres "one of our team MVPs." Ishikawa notes that Sanchez "has helped solidify the infield." And they've all spent October lauding Uribe.
Good for them. But consider this: those five players are an average of 32 years old, none younger than 31. They make an average of $4.5 million apiece, none of them earning more than $10 million. And despite all that, despite the notion that they shouldn't be doing what they're doing, those five have become an engine for this team.
They may never duplicate this type of success. After the World Series, Renteria may retire. Huff and Uribe may cash in elsewhere.
But they're doing it now. Together. And they're one win away from a World Series title.
"Everybody knows what we're getting pitching-wise," Huff said. "But we've got a lot of old guys that came together and really had career years."