To illustrate just how important Aubrey Huff was to the 2010 Giants, you have to go back and look at the team in the years 2005-2009. More specifically, you have to look at their atrocious first base situation in span. Starting in 2005, it was almost comical how much difficulty the Giants had at finding a halfway decent hitter to play at first base. No matter who they tried, they simply could not find anyone to man the position competently, which is strange when you figure that first base is supposedly the position easiest to find offensive production at.
Not for the Giants, though. Oh no. After J.T. Snow’s 2004 season, where he was inexplicably possessed by a baseball-battering demon, the team trotted out a collection of first base candidates that would have been outhit by most shortstops. In 2005, Snow stopped hitting and Lance Neikro wasn’t any good. In 2006, Mark Sweeney didn’t produce much and then Shea Hillenbrand brought little more than moodiness after a mid-season trade. Rich Aurilia and Ryan Klesko were poor in 2007, and then in 2008, the team got a couple of weeks’ worth of hot hitting from John Bowker, but that was about it. In 2009, the team gave Travis Ishikawa a shot, but he didn’t do much with it, which necessitated a desperation trade for Ryan Garko in July. Garko didn’t hit at all. By this point, the Giants’ offensive impotence at first base had become a running joke around the league.
When Huff was signed in January of 2010 to fight for the first base job, I was underwhelmed, and I certainly wasn’t the only one. Heck, I even wrote a diatribe about it. Huff was coming off a downright horrible season in ’09 and this just looked like another lame attempt by Brian Sabean to turn manure into gold. To make matters worse, Huff had serious problems fielding his position in Spring Training, and it looked like he was going to be destined for a DFA by May.
We were all horribly wrong, of course. Huff got hot in late April that year and finished with one of the best seasons of his career, hitting .290/.385/.506 with 26 home runs. It was probably the best season by a Giant first baseman since J.T. Snow’s big 1997. Huff’s big year not only propelled the team to an eventual championship, but provided some much-needed stability to the lineup, plugging a hole that had been a constant source of aggravation for the Giants for years. He even selflessly started a few games in the outfield, and did relatively well, when the team played Buster Posey at first base immediately after his May call up that year.
Huff officially announced his retirement today at age 37. He hadn’t played in the majors since he was reduced to a little-used bench player on the 2012 Giants championship team. Huff played 13 seasons in the big leagues and posted a couple of All-Star-caliber years with the team formerly known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He also had a great year with Baltimore in 2008, and then got some down-ballot MVP love in his aforementioned 2010 season.
Huff will always be remembered by Giants fans not only for his key contribution to the 2010 World Champions, but also for the Rally Thong, the semi-creepy undergarment that Huff began wearing during every game down the stretch that season to motivate teammates, fans, and connoisseurs of womens’ lingerie. Huff also blasted a home run in Game Four of the World Series against the Rangers, scored the winning run in the ultra-exciting Game Four of the NLCS versus the Phillies, and knocked in the game-tying run with a single in Game Three of the NLDS against Atlanta.
Aubrey Huff: Slugger. Water Buffalo. Good Giant.
Also announcing his retirement this past week was Ryan Theriot, the little infielder who spent all year with the 2012 Championship team. Theriot was the Giants’ regular second baseman for most of 2012 and performed reasonably well, hitting .270/.316./.321, but his lack of pop and mediocre defense led to the trade for Marco Scutaro. Scutaro came on, hit like gangbusters for the season’s final two months, and Theriot was placed back in a role more suited to his talents, that of the utility infielder.
He’ll forever be famous in Giants fan circles, though, for scoring the go-ahead run in Game Four of the 2012 World Series, the run that would wind up being the series-winner. Theriot started the top of the tenth inning of that game with a bloop single, then came around to score on Scutaro’s two-out single off of Detroit reliever Phil Coke. Theriot steamed across home plate, and the Giants had their second championship in three years. He may have been easily confused with Mike Fontenot, and he might not be the most famous Giant to ever live, but I doubt fans will soon forget the Ryan Theriot war cry.