Tag Archives: retirement

The Horse Rides off into the Sunset

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Matt Cain throws the last pitch of his career in the fifth inning at AT&T Park on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)

Under sun-drenched AT&T Park, Matt Cain made his final Major League start, all of them while wearing a Giants’ uniform. Undoubtedly, nerves were running full tension in his 6 foot-three frame, but he retired the first six Padres in order before giving up a lead-off single in the third.

After a four-pitch lead-off walk in the fifth, Bruce Bochy walked to the mound under a chorus of boos, but Cain had only given up two hits and one walk at that point, and although he was at the pitch count that Bochy had stated he’d exit on, he let Cain have the chance to finish the inning. He promptly retired the next three Padres in order and exited to a tremendous chorus of cheers from the fans. After receiving hugs and congratulations from Bochy and a few others, Cain came out onto the warning track and doffed his cap to the fans, reaching in every direction as he was bathed in a chorus of cheers and tears. After what seemed like an eternity, the ever-humble Cain went into the dugout to receive hugs from all of his teammates. Probably the most-memorable and tear-inducing moment was the bear hug that he received from Madison Bumgarner. Cain then took one last curtain call in front of the dugout before Hunter Pence lead off the bottom of the sixth.

And just like that, he was done.

Matt Cain served an incredibly faithful 13 years to the San Francisco Giants before announcing his retirement earlier this week. Bochy and management knew that he deserved this one last start, more than deserved. Although his last three years were plagued with injuries and a lack of performance, he didn’t disappoint in his last start, allowing no runs and only two hits and one walk in five innings.

The term getting “Cained” was coined early in his career. In our last post, we noted how he is at the bottom of pitchers with over 100 wins in terms of run support. He routinely lost games 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 despite his dominant pitching, which is why his losing career record is not indicative of the pitcher that he was. Although he’s not a Hall of Famer, he epitomized what it is to be a Giant. Sure enough, after his departure, Reyes Moronta allowed a two-out homerun to Wil Meyers to tie the score at one, and denying Cain of a win.

The Giants reclaimed the lead with a single by Pence, but the Padres opened up the bottom of the ninth with a squibber to Crawford, who threw it past Pablo at first base for a two-base error. A bloop put runners on the corners with one out, but Sam Dyson struck out Renfroe, and got Austin Hedges to an 0-2 count before grooving a pitch that Hedges split the outfielders with, putting the Padres up 3-2, their first lead of the entire game. With two outs. And down to their last strike. The Giants couldn’t muster a baserunner in the home half of the inning and limped out of the park with another crushing defeat, and Dyson’s second consecutive blown save (although an error and bloop really weren’t his fault).

Bochy reflected on Cain’s career in the post-gamer, and even jokingly offered that Cain could manage tomorrow because he’s “not done very well this year.” Instead of being interviewed in the clubhouse, the Giants put Cain out on the podium in the press room. Bochy revealed that the team had a private moment and a toast to Cain just after the game and prior to their pressers.

Cain was candid and honest in reflecting upon his career, even commenting on how he smiled when he realized that Ted Barrett, the home plate umpire from his perfect game, was behind the dish today. He was surprised that he made it a full five innings considering that he hadn’t pitched in a month, but after his four-pitch walk to lead off the fifth, he talked with Bochy realizing that he didn’t want to go out on a four-pitch walk. He summoned what was left, and with two outs and two strikes, he dropped a curve on the opposing pitcher, mostly because he was “out of gas.” That weak grounder to Crawford officially ended his career before doffing his cap.

Cain said that he “fulfilled everything he could think of from a career.” He wants to be with the Giants in some capacity next year, but he needs to take some time with his family and decompress before looking at his options.

Bochy ended his presser talking about Cain’s nickname saying, “his nickname is the ‘Horse’ for a good reason because we were riding him hard.”

After Cain’s presser, it was a pleasure to actually shake his hand thank him in person, a rare occurrence between press and athletes, but he had just thanked the press (sarcastically or not) for the relationship over the years. So, as the “Horse” rides off into the sunset, I think we all would just like to say thanks, Cainer, you’re a true Giant.

Chad

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Reflections of a True Giant

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Matt Cain holding the World Series trophy after their 2010 victory.

A man was called up with the Giants two years before the first iPhone, when the Space Shuttle was still flying, when Bush II still had three years to go in his Presidency, six weeks before my first kid was born, and when this song was #1 on the Billboard charts:

So, we’ve come a long way, and yet not so much in many ways.

The longest-tenured Giant announced his retirement yesterday, a mild surprise to many, although it’s obvious he wouldn’t be with the Giants next year. Rather, the Giants will not opt for the 21 million dollar extension, favoring the paltry 7 million dollar buyout. Cain knew his days as a Giant were over long before this season started, and apparently he looked inward on his life and realized that he wanted to spend more time with his family, but also respected this organization so much that he couldn’t imagine donning another jersey.

Matt Cain will spend all 13 years with the Giants. No other team will grace his chest. He officially will have the longest tenure with the team without being with any other team since the Giants moved west. He also ranks 3rd all time in San Francisco history for WAR, 5th for strikeouts per 9, and 3rd in strikeouts (only 14 behind Lincecum). Of course, he also has the franchise’s only perfect game from that magical night in 2012 (thanks, Blanco, btw!), and three World Series Championships to go with some gritty performances that enabled the Giants to secure at least two of those trophies.

He started the 2012 All Star Game and made three All Star Games in total. Although he’ll finish with an ERA around 3.69, much of that has been inflated in recent years. He posted a career-best ERA of 2.79 in 2012, 2.88 in 2011, and 2.89 in 2009. He was fifth in Rookie-of-the-Year voting in 2006 and sixth in the Cy Young vote in 2012.

But, despite all of the incredible statistics that Cain has assembled throughout the years, there is one that haunts Giants fans.

Wins.

Getting “Cained” was a phrase that was coined sometime in the 2007 season, and continued thereon. For some magically insane and sadistic reason, the baseball gods seemed to thwart any offensive production during Cain’s starts. Cain often lost games 2-1, 3-2, 1-0. Games he pitched very well in, but was not backed up by offense. It was a far cry from American League pitchers and many National League hurlers that gave up 4, 5, 6 runs, but still got the win. Despite his 3.69 career ERA, Matt Cain will finish with no more than 105 wins, and no less than 118 losses.

Put that into perspective with other pitchers around that ERA for that duration:

Bronson Arroyo has played admittingly longer (16 years) than Matt Cain, but his career ERA is 4.28, a full 0.59 higher, yet he has a winning record at 148-137. Bortolo Colon (20 years) has a career ERA of 4.05, but is well above .500 at 239-176.

To cut out some of the chaff, I looked at pitchers that had more than 1,500 innings pitched and less than 2,500 innings. Matt Cain is under 2100. The results are somewhat expected. Out of the 463 pitchers that qualify in that range (includes starters and relievers), only THREE pitchers have a better career ERA and worse winning percentage than Matt Cain.

Out of 463!

Oh, and when did those three play?

Bob Groom: Played 1909-1918. 2336.1 IP 119-150 (.442) 3.10 ERA

Bob Rush: Played 1948-1960. 2410.2 IP 127-152 (.455) 3.65 ERA

Denny Lemaster: Played 1962-1972. 1787.2 IP 90-105 (.462) 3.58 ERA

Matt Cain: Played 2005-2017. 2080.2+ IP 104-118? (.468?) 3.69? ERA

Let’s take it from a different angle. Only 547 pitchers have won 100 games or more. Out of that group, Matt Cain has the second-worst winning percentage (.468) ahead of Bob Friend (.461) who played from 1951-1966. By the way, out of those 547, Clayton Kershaw is number one (.692). I know, I know. It’s tough to swallow.

Point being, despite this adversity, Matt Cain never complained. Never got too frustrated from being “Cained.” Always made time for the media.

Our fledgling site got our credentials in 2011 and we started covering games. During media day in 2014, after interviewing Matt Cain, he asked what I did in my full time job, because apparently, he realized that I wasn’t a professional journalist.

My colleague Ben, replied, “he’s a marine biologist and dives at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.” Cain looked up at me and suggested that I train him to SCUBA dive. Aside from the obvious contractual prohibitions in such an activity, I did set up a tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium for him through Giants’ PR. A few weeks later, I gave Matt Cain and his family a three hour tour of the aquarium, and even suited up and did a feeding show in the kelp forest tank. After the feeding show is when he recorded our pre-show bumper, and I gifted many of my underwater photographs to his daughter and wife.

 

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Matt Cain is second from left, I’m next to him on the right

 

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Matt Cain and his family look on as a Monterey Bay Aquarium diving safety officer helps me get my full face diving mask off after my kelp forest feeding show.

After that, I covered him at games and the AT&T Pro-Am tournament, where he always refers to me as “aquarium guy!”

I’ll be covering the game on Saturday when he makes his last and final Major League Start, and his last in a Giants uniform. In a park that witnessed the beginning of his career, and some of his major contributions to this franchise’s three world championships.

So, although I have a personal connection to Matt Cain, I will always think of him from a fan’s perspective first.

A gentle Giant. A proud Giant. A Giant forever.

Chad King

Here are our interviews with Matt Cain over the years:

2015:

 

2014:

 

 

 

 

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