Just for fun, I went back and took a peek at the box score of Matt Cain’s first major league game on Aug. 29, 2005. The Horse was just a frisky colt then, a raw-boned, 20-year-old out of Tennessee, surrounded by bunch of worn-out veteran strangers gasping their way to the finish line of a 75-87 season.
Moises Alou in left. Randy Winn in center. Todd Linden in right. Mike Matheny, currently the St. Louis Cardinals manager, behind the plate. J.T Snow at first. Ray Durham at second. Omar Vizquel at short. Pedro Feliz at third.
And Felipe Alou in the dugout, managing. Yikes. That’s how long ago it was. Cain even pre-dated Bruce Bochy, which is like pre-dating Moses. It’s perfectly OK to retire if you’ve been around that long, and Cain’s getting out while the getting’s good, while there are least a few fumes of the World Series glory run still wafting about AT&T Park.
Cain saw all of it. He not only pre-dates every player on the current Giants roster by several years, he pre-dated every player who wound up getting a ring on the first World Series title team in 2010. That’s right. He’s the only guy from the 2005 team that even made it to 2010, which tells you just how dismal that team was.
In that regard, Cain will always have a special place in the Giants’ three-championship era. He was the first cornerstone, the first significant building block of the post-Barry Bonds era.
Cain started the impressive parade of players from the Giants’ minor league system. Fans embraced Cain before anyone ever really knew there would be a parade of farm system favorites to follow in the form of Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik.
So with Cain announcing Wednesday that he’ll be calling it quits at season’s end – a rare career Giant covering 13 seasons – it really does feel like the end of a fabulous era. That’s because he started the fabulous era. When he arrived, they were starting a losing rut, and as he steps away, they’re firmly entrenched in another one. But in between … oh, what a memorable ride.
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