San Francisco Giants: Ryan Theriot’s final act
By Jeff Young
In San Francisco Giants history plenty of popular players have donned the Orange and Black for only one season. Included on that list is gritty infielder Ryan Theriot.
The Giants reeled in the veteran big leaguer on a minor league pact just before spring training got underway in 2012. He was brought in to the bolster middle infield depth while competing against former Louisiana State University (LSU) teammate Mike Fontenot for one of the final roster spots.
Throughout spring training, Theriot stated his case to make the Opening Day roster. However, it came at the cost of Fontenot’s roster spot. Fontenot was released so Theriot could be added to the roster.
At the time, his role with the team was a bit undefined. He was there to fill the void at second base while Freddy Sanchez recovered from back and shoulder injuries. Unbeknownst to the Giants as the season began, the former Pittsburgh Pirate would not return to the field.
This created a large void, but Theriot filled in nicely. The Giants never expected the right-handed batter to be the everyday second baseman, but the veteran infielder filled that role for the better part of four months.
San Francisco had a solid lineup as Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, and Buster Posey represented the National League at the All-Star Game. Theriot did not need to be anything more than he was: A gritty at-bat who could fill in capably at second base.
Across 384 plate appearances in 2012, Theriot posted a .271/.316/.321 line with a 12.2 percent strikeout rate. His job was to keep the line moving, and he did just that.
However, the trade deadline brought an opportunity to improve the roster, and Giants general manager Brian Sabean took advantage of that.
On July 27, 2012, the Giants swung a trade to acquire veteran infielder Marco Scutaro in exchange for infiled prospect Charlie Culberson.
This trade improved the starting lineup but relegated Theriot to a bench role.
As soon as Scutaro landed in San Francisco, the veteran bat found another gear. Across 268 plate appearances following the trade, Scutaro posted a .362/.385/.473 line (144 OPS+) with 30 RBI and 47 runs scored.
Outfielder Hunter Pence was acquired shortly after the Scutaro trade, but it was the latter who really strengthened the lineup. Of course, Pence contributed at the plate as well and provided much-needed motivation.
With these additions, the Giants posted a 94-68 overall record and glided to a first-place finish in the NL West.
Theriot’s role diminished down the stretch and he only accumulated 11 plate appearances throughout the entire 2012 postseason. However, he is remembered for his final act on the baseball field.
Incredibly, the Giants beat the odds after being down to both the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
After an extended break, the Tigers looked sluggish out the gates against the Giants and quickly found themselves in a 3-0 hole in the series.
In Game 4, the Giants got out to an early lead, but the Tigers did not go down without a fight. After nine innings, Detroit strung together a late rally to push the game into extra innings.
As the designated hitter, Theriot led off the top of the 10th inning with a single to right field and moved into scoring position after Brandon Crawford bunted him over to second base.
Scutaro came to the plate and laced a single to center field giving Theriot a chance to score the go-ahead run in extra innings of a World Series-clinching game:
This was familiar territory for Theriot. After all, as a collegiate player, the right-handed bat scored the game-winning run in 2000 to give LSU a College World Series title.
Theriot’s run gave the team a 4-3 advantage against the Tigers and Sergio Romo was able to close the deal in the bottom half of the 10th inning giving the Giants its second World Series title in three years.
The Giants built a strong roster in 2012, and the addition of Theriot was meant to improve the bench. With Freddy Sanchez on the shelf, Theriot carved out a much larger role than originally anticipated.
The acquisition of Scutaro moved Theriot to the bench, but Theriot remained ready to play. San Francisco tabbed him as the designated hitter in Game 4, which he rewarded the team with one final run to cap an improbable postseason victory.
Following the 2012 season, the middle infielder wanted to continue his playing career and the Giants had interest in a reunion, but could not offer enough playing time. Theriot did not play another game at the professional level.
His final moment as a professional baseball player was sliding across home plate as the go-ahead run in a World Series-clinching game. It has been eight years since that slide, but an image Giants fans will not soon forget.