As if the Giants needed any more reminders that a roster and identity makeover is the direction they must travel, the announcement of Matt Cain’s retirement comes along to serve as a big, fat reminder.
Matt Cain’s career as a Giant symbolizes many things: The stoic toughness and leadership of the past decade’s worth of teams, pitching-dominant rosters riding deep into October and, of course, parades down Market Street.
And it’s all changing, right before our eyes.
Oceans rise. Empires fall. And the Giants’ pitching-heavy championship run has drawn to a close.
Just look at some of the names from the 2010 World Series roster of pitchers: Matt Cain. Madison Bumgarner. Tim Lincecum. Brian Wilson. Jeremy Affeldt. Javier Lopez. Santiago Casilla. Sergio Romo.
Of those, only the big lefty who drives the Ford trucks remains.
Just look at some of the names from the 2012 World Series roster of pitchers: Matt Cain. Madison Bumgarner. Tim Lincecum. Ryan Vogelsong. Barry Zito. Jeremy Affeldt. Javier Lopez. Santiago Casilla. Sergio Romo. George Kontos.
Of those, only the big lefty who shoots crossbows in North Carolina remains.
Just look at some of the names from the 2014 World Series roster of pitchers: Madison Bumgarner. Ryan Vogelsong. Tim Lincecum. Jeremy Affeldt. Javier Lopez. Santiago Casilla. Sergio Romo. Hunter Strickland.
Of those, only the 2014 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year remains.
Well, him and Strickland. But that’s sort of beside the point.
Matt Cain’s emotional farewell to the club on Saturday will conjure up many memories and images: His slaying of Cole Hamels and the Phillies in Game 3 of the 2010 NLCS, bathed in autumn sunshine. His perfect game in 2012, glove raised high in tribute for Gregor Blanco’s catch-of-the-century. His take-no-prisoners start in Game 7 of the 2012 NLCS over the Cardinals, in front of an AT&T Park crowd so amped there was no other choice but victory. His clasping of hands with “Batkid” on Opening Day 2014.
All of these are worthy of your Saturday ovations, as we remember what we had and what is departing.
But for general manager Bobby Evans and, further upstairs, for Brian Sabean and CEO Larry Baer, the sight of No. 18 disappearing down the dugout steps one more time must be yet another reminder that the formula that worked so well from 2009-16 — those gold nugget draft picks of the mid-to-late ‘00s, that reliance on the ‘Core Four’ in the ‘pen that allowed an offensively-challenged team to grind past teams in October — has drawn to a close.
No shame in that. Look around. The Chicago Bulls are still searching for titles in the post-Jordan era. The 49ers are still searching for titles post-Joe-and-Steve. One day, the New England Patriots won’t have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and their title run will likely dry up, too.
Matt Cain should be cheered, saluted, feted and remembered — and seen as the drawer of a curtain, in a sense. Only Bumgarner and Buster Posey remain from 2010, and no, I’m not counting Pablo Sandoval. Only those three, plus Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence, remain from 2012. And only those six, plus Strickland and Joe Panik, remain from 2014.
The party is over, Giants brass. Time to clean the house, and figure out how you can go about throwing another one.