SAN FRANCISCO – The Willie Mac Award is bestowed on the Giants player who most inspires the clubhouse with his positive attitude, tireless work ethic and performance on the field.
For the Giants this season, maintaining a positive attitude required a halo, or heavy pharmaceuticals. But Nick Hundley managed to inspire with his upbeat personality and professionalism, and the Giants honored their backup catcher with their highest clubhouse award prior to Friday night’s game against the San Diego Padres.
Then several former Willie Mac winners sloughed off their disappointing seasons and right-hander Chris Stratton blanked the Padres through 6 2/3 innings in an 8-0 victory at AT&T Park.
Buster Posey hit three RBI doubles, Brandon Crawford connected for a pair of singles while driving in three and Hunter Pence tripled to back Stratton – an emerging rookie who has the poise to win his own Willie Mac Award someday — as the Giants officially escaped the shame of what nearly became a 100-loss season.
The 1985 Giants will continue to stand alone as the franchise’s only members of the Century Club.
Of course, there is only so much pride these current Giants can take in being 62-97 with two games to play. The only reason to check the standings is to see where they stand in the 2018 draft order.
Their victory combined with Detroit’s loss moved them into a tie with the Tigers for the worst record in the major leagues. If the Giants and Tigers finish with identical records, the Tigers would receive the first overall pick because they finished with a worse record (by just one-half game) in 2016.
The Philadelphia Phillies won and are two games better than the Giants in the standings. Unless the Phillies lose their last two games and the Giants win their last two games, the Giants will end up with no worse than the second overall pick.
That’s right: five years after the Giants and Tigers met in the 2012 World Series, they are now battling it out for the No.1 draft pick.
These are not the stakes that the Giants envisioned when they broke camp in the spring. But if true character emerges in times of struggle, Hundley showed his stripes time and time again this season.
“It’s somebody that inspires everybody else,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s an honor when you look back at who’s won it. How they come to the park, their attitude, how they play the game, the type of teammate they are – it all goes into it.
“The person who wins it every year is very well thought of.”
The Giants arranged for Hundley’s family to be in attendance as McCovey announced his name as 17 former winners, surrounded him on the field.
“It’s pretty overwhelming to be standing here with Giants legends,” Hundley said. “These guys up here I have tremendous respect for. This organization is first class. They flew my family out for this, they’ve taken care of us better than any place I’ve ever been. To be mentioned in this company is incredible.”
Hundley thanked trainers, coaches and the players who voted for him. He didn’t leave out the fans, either.
“We know it hasn’t been the best record wise, but you guys have been standing with us every day,” he said, concluding brief remarks. “So thank you very much.”
In a season that quickly turned into a dumpster fire, with so many of the club’s plans and projections providing the fuel, Hundley has done exactly what Bochy and the front office expected when they signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract in February.
Hundley entered Friday hitting just .246 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs but he also has worked to improve his defense and provided little dropoff in terms of brain power when Buster Posey took a day off. Hundley’s presence allowed Posey to move to first base more often in the last two months of the season, after Brandon Belt sustained a season-ending concussion. And Hundley provided an occasional jolt of right-handed power on a team that had so little of it.
Hundley is a free agent after this season – the only one on the roster, assuming Johnny Cueto does not exercise his opt-out clause – and as much as the Giants need to reconfigure as they attempt to avoid a 100-loss season, they figure to try to re-sign the backup catcher.
There is no reason for the Giants to cast aside the 34-year-old veteran of 10 seasons, considering Trevor Brown’s down year at Triple-A and Aramis Garcia not yet ready.
“I think he knows how much we think about him,” Bochy said. “He’ll have some choices, but … I’ll sit down with him in the next day or two.”
Hundley joins a group of respected current Giants that includes Matt Cain, who received the award in 2009, Posey (2012), Pence (2013), Madison Bumgarner (2014), Crawford and Javier Lopez (who shared last year’s award).
Ryan Vogelsong (2011) and Andres Torres (2010) were among recent winners in attendance. So were emcee Mike Krukow, Jack Clark, Larry Herndon, Dave Dravecky, Mike Fender, replay coach Shawon Dunston, Marvin Benard, Ellis Burks and bullpen coach Mark Gardner.
And Willie McCovey, of course.
“To win this award means you’re in the family,” McCovey said.
Rookie outfielder Austin Slater underwent core muscle repair surgery in Philadelphia and will be sidelined for six to eight weeks, virtually assuring that he will not play winter ball in the Dominican Republic as planned. … Giants third base coach Phil Nevin will be a candidate for the managerial vacancy with the Detroit Tigers, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. … Major League Baseball announced that it would rename the World Series MVP award in honor of Willie Mays, and the Giants’ all-time great thanked the league in a statement: “Baseball has always taken care of me, and for that I am grateful. I think it’s just a wonderful thing to know that at 86 years of age, I can still give something back to the game. I am proud to lend my name to this important award. What a day this has been!!”
This News Credit Goes To >> Source link