On a team with constantly changing names at almost every position there have been few (outside of Barry Bonds) that have remained with the team for more than a couple of years. Right field has become a revolving door for the Giants, with different players almost every year. However, from 1997 until 2005, Giants fans knew who would be manning first base, scooping up potentially errant throws from across the diamond and getting on base with a quick bat and a patient eye. Now, J.T. Snow is no longer with the team, picked up by the Boston Red Sox for the 2006 season.
While Snow was never a great hitter, especially for a first baseman, the six-time Gold Glove winner's defense easily made up for his lack of power. But as his offense began to decline, his defense could no longer make up for his relatively weak stick in a position where offensive prowess is often considered the top priority. After hitting .281-28-104 in 1997, his first season as a Giant, Snow never again matched those numbers. From 2001 to 2003, the first baseman did not even hit double digits in home runs (due both to a decline in power and less playing time), and in both 2001 and 2002, he produced a meager .246 batting average. He shocked fans in 2004, with an unexpected offensive surge of .327-12-60 in only 346 at-bats, and this revitalization could have part of the reason that the Giants penned Snow for last season. However, his 2005 numbers of .275-4-40 were much more in line with what has become expected of Snow in the 21st century, and Snow is now donning a Red Sox uniform. All told, Snow had a .273 batting average with 124 home runs and 615 RBI as a Giant.
Snow's durability became a concern as well, as he had not played in more than 120 games since 2002, or had more than 500 at-bats since 2000. The Giants will be looking to Lance Niekro and Mark Sweeney to take over at first for the upcoming season. Niekro, whose strong stats against left-handed pitching make him an ideal candidate for being part of a lefty-right platoon, has found his perfect match in Sweeney who usually faced right-handed pitching as part of a platoon with the Padres. However, the Giants and the rest of their infield will surely miss Snow every time an errant throw bounces into foul territory instead of into the capable glove of a veteran first baseman for an easy out.
There is no doubt that Sabean made a wise decision trading for Snow after the 1996 season. He gave up starter Allen Watson and minor league pitcher Fausto Macey. Watson had one decent season for the Angels in 1997 (12-12, 4.93) and was out of baseball after an awful stint with the Yankees in 2000. Fausto Macey never made it to the major leagues and his last season of professional baseball was in 1998. The Giants got the good end of this deal, as it provided them with stability at first base for nine years, a position that had been mismanaged by mediocrities such as Todd Benzinger and Mark Carreon between the years of Will Clark and Snow (1994-1996). The Giants again made a smart move after last season, letting Snow go, as they needed to make more room for younger players with more upside on their major league roster.
One of my personal and cherished memories of Snow from when I was 12 has earned him the lifetime nickname "Mr. Money" from my family. At Candlestick (3-COM, Monster) our section would all get lottery scratchers if a Giants player hit a home run. And guess who hit a home run? None other than J.T. Snow! We won $16 from our scratchers and promptly spent it on a hot dog made out of boots and raccoon tails. Honestly, I don't remember how we spent the money… but to this day, I call J.T. Snow Mr. Money. That being said… Mr. Money, I wish you luck on the Red Sox. If all my dreams come true, perhaps we will face you in the World Series this October.
*Snow won six consecutive Gold Gloves from 1995-2000, four of those as a Giant.
*Despite a career batting average of only .268, Snow's on base percentage throughout his years was .357, due to his patience at the plate. He nearly walked 100 times (96) in 1997.
*The Red Sox will be Snow's fourth major league team.
*He has spent the majority of his career as a Giant, 9 of 13 years (not counting his 7 games in 1992 as a "year.)
Jesse Radin writes for SFDugout.com and has been a Giants follower since 1996. The Blind Observer is Jesse's column covering all things baseball, though mainly about the Giants. Questions or comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
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