Just when I was reveling in the fact that the Giants went and spent a ton of money to improve their pitching this off season, they go and surprise us all and spend some more, this time to improve the outfield. I’m extremely late chiming in on this one, but the Giants signed outfielder Denard Span on January 7th to a 3 year, $31 million contract. He played for the Nationals last season, batting .301 with an OBP of .365 and stealing 11 bases, making him a shoe in as the lead-off hitter. He’s also an exceptionally good outfielder, a Gold Glove finalist in both 2013 and 2014. Most people I spoke with had no idea who Denard was, but I sure did. I had chosen him several times as a Beat the Streak pick the last few seasons, meaning the guy can hit, and consistently. So needless to say I was extremely pleased when I heard the news.
There are two potential problems, though – his age (he’ll be 32 when the season starts) and injuries (he only played in 61 games last season because of injuries). Overall though, I think the Giants made an excellent acquisition in Span. And based on his introductory press conference (which you can see here in case you missed it), it sounds like the Giants will have Denard play center and Angel play left. This may have been the motivation for going after Denard in the first place – Angel’s had his share of injuries as well, his fielding abilities are questionable, and it’s his walk year so he may not be coming back next season. Plus how can you not love a guy who says he’s willing to do anything for the team, even back up Buster! And that personality and great sense of humor will fit in perfectly in our clubhouse. Plus he’s got a great smile! Welcome to the fold, Denard! Looking forward to some spectacular catches this season!
While doing some research, I came across this story by Grant Brisbee detailing an interesting fact about Denard: He’s afraid of birds. Specifically birds flying at his head. Someone’s going to have to have a talk with the center-field seagulls at AT&T Park and warn them to keep their distance (Ginny – can you speak with your cousins please?). Or else maybe Denard can go through some seagull exposure therapy to overcome his anxiety. Too funny! Wonder if his teammates will take advantage of this fact and start planting fake seagulls in the clubhouse. Or if seagull hats will take the place of panda hats in the stands.
Two of the Giants from last season have left us and gone elsewhere. Mike Leake was picked up by the Cardinals, and Dan’s boy Juan Perez was signed to a minor league contract by the Cubs. I’ll really miss both of them and hope they do well in their new homes. Juan leaving made it easy for Denard Span to decide on his number as a Giant – he’s wearing his usual #2, Perez’s old number.
Both George Kontos and Brandon Belt have exchanged arbitration numbers with the Giants. Kontos, who had his best season yet in 2015, is asking for $1.35 million and the Giants have offered $850K. The numbers are so close that it is expected they’ll settle for something in between, around $1 million. This is really nice for George who had to battle for a bull pen spot against Jean Machi last season. Belt’s numbers are much further apart: He’s asking for $7.5 million and Giants are offering $5.3 million. It’s much harder to gage Belt’s value as he was injured for a large part of last season due to concussion symptoms. Again, since the Giants haven’t gone to arbitration with a player since doing it with A.J. Pierzynski in 2004, they’ll probably come to some middle ground with Belt as well. Interesting to hear the speculation that they probably won’t be giving Belt a multi-year offer since Buster is getting older and may end up eventually playing at first base. Belt gets caught right in the middle of that one. Oh well, even $5.3 million is a ton of moolah!
Just a quick mention that Giants minor league pitcher Cody Hall was traded to the Diamondbacks. You may ask, “Who the hell is Cody Hall?” Well, I do have a fond memory of him from Spring Training. He’s one of the two guys that printed their name under their signature in my autograph book when they saw that I had done that under previous autographs. Such a good kid! Wishing you well in the heat of Arizona, Cody!
Two Giants were blessed with additions to their families recently. Brandon Crawford’s family welcomed a son (Braxton) and Angel Pagan’s family welcomed a daughter (Larah). Congratulations to the Crawford and Pagan families! Babies are the best!
Can’t leave without mentioning the passing of Giants Hall of Famer Monte Irvin. I have to admit that I knew little about Irvin before his passing, but from the overwhelming response by the baseball community to his death, I knew I had to do some research and school myself on this amazing man. After beginning his career with all-star numbers in the Negro League, Irvin was the 7th African American baseball player to enter the Major Leagues, and the first African American to play for the Giants. He was a member of the 1951 New York Giants team that won the National League pennant. That season, Monte Irvin, Hank Thompson, and Willie Mays (then a 20-year-old rookie) formed the first all-black outfield in Major League Baseball history. Also that season, Irvin hit .312 with 24 home runs and a league-leading 121 RBI and finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting, and all this at age 32. He would go on to win a World Series with the 1954 Giants. Willie Mays called him his mentor and his friend, saying that Irvin took him under his wing and taught him how to survive as a black man in baseball while also teaching him about dealing with life in New York. Everyone who paid him tribute both on the radio and over the internet mentioned what a humble and decent human being he was. Unfortunately for us, he made his home in Texas so he wasn’t around to attend Giants festivities like Willie Mays and Willie McCovey are. However he did get to travel with the team to the White House in 2014 in celebration of the World Series victory. President Obama even had a private meeting with Irvin and Mays, telling them that he would not be in his position if it wasn’t for trailblazers like them. Here’s a link to the tribute video the Giants posted in his honor. Monte died at age 96. Fitting that his tribute comes during the blog I’m writing on Martin Luther King Day.
So baseball is almost back! Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 17th. That’s just 30 days away! And FanFest is on February 13th! Can’t wait! So close I can taste it! Already planning a Spring Training trip again with my brothers. Miss all my boys so much! Until next time, GO GIANTS! SEE YOU SOON!!