By Michelle Dingley
On Monday, July 25, 2011, President Obama met with the San Francisco Giants at the White House, honoring them for their 2010 World Series win. The President had very kind words to say to the champs, and it was obvious that whoever wrote his speech was a Giants fan. He singled out Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson, referred to Barry Zito’s Strikeouts for Troops nonprofit organization, and mentioned the team’s participation in the It Gets Better campaign. After the speech, Bruce Bochy presented the President with a signed Giants jersey, longest-tenured Giant Matt Cain gave him a signed bat, and Bill Neukom gave him some gloves. It was an enormous privilege for all the players, coaches, broadcasters and staff that were in attendance to receive recognition from the Commander-in-Chief.
Though it was nice to see the 2011 Giants celebrated at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it would have meant more to see the 2010 Giants standing behind the President. Andrew Baggarly reports that the entire current roster was invited, including the long list of players on the DL. They were told to decide on their own if making the trip would adversely affect their rehabilitation. Buster Posey, Freddy Sanchez, Pat Burrell and Jonathan Sanchez were not in attendance. Buster, who just had screws removed from his ankle on Friday, is in no condition to travel. It is a shame that he could not shake the President’s hand, considering what he did for the team last year. He is the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, an award well deserved from what he did with his bat and behind the plate, handling the Giants’ distinguished pitching staff. Likewise, Freddy Sanchez was a major part of the Giants’ 2010 success. He also made history by hitting three doubles in his first three World Series at-bats. Freddy is rehabbing his shoulder and trying to get healthy enough to play in the majors again this season. Pat Burrell and Jonathan Sanchez seem healthy and able to travel. Pat’s absence is a bit of a mystery. Jonathan may feel that he needs to stay in Fresno for appearances. He needs to prove to the front office that his head is in the game, that he is devoted to improving his pitching and earning back his spot in the rotation. Not making the trip may be a way to show his dedication.
Some former Giants also merited a trip to the White House but were left off the list. Travis Ishikawa, who is now a Fresno Grizzly, should have been invited. Bengie Molina, now semi-retired, ended last season opposing the Giants in the World Series. Nonetheless, he will forever be a Giant. He played in San Francisco for three and a half seasons before he was traded to the Rangers. He mentored Posey and the young starting staff. There is no doubt that his guidance was integral to the Giants’ success.
There are plenty of new Giants who had nothing to do with last year’s World Series that got to meet the President. Jeff Keppinger, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Chris Stewart, Ryan Vogelsong, and Miguel Tejada, all freshmen Giants, were at the White House. Keppinger had been a Giant for less than a week and was surprised to hear about the trip. He had to buy a suit for the occasion. These newbies did not help bring the trophy home to San Francisco, but it doesn’t matter. They are on the team, and they should be there. Once you don the orange and black, you are a Giant.
Those who chose to take off the orange and black are not missed on an occasion like this. Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe both deserted the team in the off-season. Renteria sneered at a $1 million contract offer, calling it disrespectful. He was quoted by ESPN Deportes saying, “To play for a million dollars, I’d rather stay with my private business and share more time with my family.” That prompted some of the Giants faithful to wonder what price tag he puts on his family time. The Giants’ offer was low because, even though Renteria was the World Series MVP, he is old and beaten up. He played only 72 games in the 2010 regular season due to injuries, and his salary was quite bloated. He was expected to retire after the 2010 season. He would have been the backup shortstop in 2011, and the offer reflected that fact. After Renteria’s comments, it was very unlikely the Giants would provide him with an improved offer. Renteria signed with the Reds with a salary of about $3 million. At that point, Giants fans barely cared. If Renteria wanted to act like a spoiled brat, then so be it. What Juan Uribe did was much more insulting.
Jose Uribe, referred to as either Juan’s uncle or second cousin, was the Giants’ shortstop from 1985 to 1992. Fans loved him, and they cheered him with the call-and-response, “Ooo-ribe.” The same cheer was used for Juan in 2010, but not anymore. Now a traitor, he is Boo-ribe.
This is my understanding of the contract negotiations: the Giants told the defector to find his market worth by getting some offers from other teams. They would then match it. The rival Dodgers offered him a three year, $21 million contract, and he took it without giving the Giants a chance to counter-offer. In another version of the story, the Giants didn’t want to match such a high offer, and rather than negotiate to stay with the champs, Boo-ribe took the job with the enemy. Of course, ballplayers will generally take the best contract (meaning the one that pays the most) no matter what team it is with. The 2010 Giants, however, thrived on chemistry and camaraderie. The players really rooted for each other and played as a true team. It came as an enormous surprise that someone who was so beloved by the fans, a postseason hero who appeared overjoyed in the victory parade, a man with roots in the Giants organization would spit in the face of every Giants fan by putting on Dodger blue. It’s not just that he left the championship team for another ball club; it’s that he left us for our sworn enemy. And why? For more money.
Had the Giants visited the White House in mid-November, the entire championship team would have been in attendance to receive their well-deserved accolades. At that time, Boo-ribe and Renteria were still heroes, rather than villains. Buster, Freddy and all the rest were healthy. San Francisco and northern California were riding a natural high. The future was in front of us, and it looked to be ours for the taking. We couldn’t have known how different the active roster would look in July. These Giants are finding a way to win games, and because they are Giants, we love them. But they aren’t the championship team. It’s bittersweet for the Giants to be honored by the President when so many individuals vital to the World Series win are not there.
We’ll just have to win it again, then, won’t we?