14 February 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #1: Aubrey Huff, Baddass

I sing the song of Aubrey Huff, the last man in our countdown and the first Giant in our hearts. What can be said about a guy who spent nine years on last or second-to-last place teams only to find his niche and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in San Francisco, wearing a red thong for the Orange and Black? Sitting down and writing this, it seems fitting that Aubrey Huff should be rounding out this trip down Memory Lane. I think back a few years to when I first started hearing his name and the Giants paired in the same sentence. He was on Sabean's radar for a while, and it's not difficult to understand why. His red ass nature fits right in with the mentality of this entire organization. Right down to the very last one of us fans, the Giants are one bitter bunch, but a barrel of laughs nonetheless. So a lanky, goofy, aging country ballplayer makes perfect sense as the team spokesperson/motivational speaker/practical joker/heart and soul.

I didn't know what to think when we finally acquired Huff off the free agent wire. It wasn't a bad signing by our standards. One year, three mil. And it made sense for a guy his age with diminishing numbers. At the worst, he was a stop gap until either the market opened up or talent revealed itself in the farm system. And while Brandon Belt proved he's on the cusp of making an impact in the Show, it says a lot that the front office brought Huff back around for two more years (at least) and gave him a sizable raise in the process. He was the unquestioned Leader of the Misfit Pack, the King of the Red Asses, the Elder of the Tribe. On a team that's grown noticeably younger with every passing year, Aubrey Huff was a steadying fatherly influence, the guy who scraped rock bottom and only wanted to drink from the keg of glory. And he led not only in word but in deed.

Throughout the season, the Giants offense was anchored around Huff in the middle of the lineup. He bounced around a bit at the beginning and end of the season, as Bruce Bochy struggled to find the winning formula, but on this team, there was no one else with the power or consistency to fill that void at the heart of the order. He took a long time getting off the home run schnide, but when he did, it was in spectacular fashion. And when he hit taters, he hit them in bunches. When former U of Miami teammate Pat Burrell joined the Giants in June, you could see the lift that it gave Huff after months of carrying the team. Consequently, his July was one to remember, as the Giants went 19-9 and Huff hit .367 with a 1.115 OPS, 8 HR, 6 2B, and 23 RBI.

But he struggled mightily in August, and with his team on the ropes, the clubhouse clown knew he needed to inject some life into his teammates. So he did it the only way he knew how. By now, we're all well aware of the Giants little good luck charm that inspired a 20-10 record down the stretch that — combined with an epic Padres brain fart that, let's face it, was pretty much a regression to the mean for that bunch — led the San Francisco version of the New York Gothams to a National League West title and an eventual World Series Championship. If for the Rally Thong alone, Aubrey Huff deserves a place in Giants lore alongside Lefty O'Doul and the Crazy Crab. But for his comprehensive contributions to the Season Which Will Live In Infamy, I think he gets a statue. The only question is what he'll be wearing when he sits for the sculptor.

Thanks, Aubrey.

So that's it. 42 players in 28 days. My love letter to the Team of Destiny. Now, it's on to 2011 and the beginning of our title defense. Bring it, Philly...

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