Randy Winn: An appreciation

Randy Winn wouldn’t care if he ever spoke to the media. That doesn’t mean he dislikes reporters. It’s just that he doesn’t crave attention.

But when anybody with a camera, microphone or notebook approached Winn during his four-and-a-half seasons with the Giants, he was cordial at the very least, thoughtful and engaging at his best and always — ALWAYS — accommodating. The phrase “no comment” didn’t exist in his vocabulary.

That’s part of the beauty of Randy Winn. While he surely appreciates the glory of being a Major Leaguer, he doesn’t coat himself in it. Beating his chest and declaring, “Look at me!” isn’t part of the job description for him. Rather, beating the other team is what it’s all about.

Unlike Bengie Molina, Winn wasn’t bound for a surprise return to San Francisco. Winn’s two home runs in 597 plate appearances during 2009 doomed him with the Giants, who were bent on upgrading their offense. His departure essentially became official Wednesday with the all-but-finalized news of his agreement on a one-year contract with the New York Yankees.

Yet Winn merits a final salute as he leaves San Francisco. The man was, and is, a complete professional. Winn delivered a consistent effort whether he was thriving or slumping, healthy or in pain. By driving himself to excel in all facets of the game — he’s an excellent baserunner and a polished, underrated outfielder — Winn separated himself from the sorry plethora of ballplayers who almost seem to refuse to improve themselves.

Body language says a lot about an athlete. That’s by definition, since they make their living with their bodies. Winn always carried himself like a U.S. Marine — focused, proud, intent on his impending tasks. It follows that a Marine veteran who’s one of my regular e-mail pen pals named Winn as his favorite all-time Giant. The earnest diligence Winn exuded impressed this man to no end.

Winn maintained that attitude behind closed doors. Some guys slouch or shuffle through the clubhouse; Winn held his head high, leveled his gaze, maintained an even stride and almost never limped, despite sustaining painful leg ailments (which was the only subject he refused to discuss). One exception occurred when Winn noticed a group of reporters and began hobbling, trying to trick us into seizing upon fake news.

Indeed, Winn had a healthy sense of humor. It showed in his feigned disdain for the “Good Guy Award,” given annually by reporters covering the team to the player whose cooperation is especially valued. This two-, three-year running gag between us and Winn ended last September when we voted him Good Guy for 2009. He clearly deserved it, and he seemed genuinely pleased.

Remember the familiar yet too-seldom-heard saying, “As good a ballplayer as he is, he’s an even better person”? Winn could be president of that club — along with Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, two other veterans who recently became ex-Giants. How fitting that they became known among the Giants as the “Rat Pack,” a nod to the famed entertainment troika of Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Sammy Davis Jr. How sobering, though San Francisco’s clubhouse remains filled with truly decent men, that they’re all gone.

One of Winn’s classiest acts occurred early this offseason. During a November conditioning camp held for Minor Leaguers at AT&T Park, the Giants supplemented the physical regimen by bringing in speakers to motivate and educate the prospects. Guests included J.T. Snow, general manager Brian Sabean and even Willie Mays.

Another speaker was Winn, who was about to plunge into free agency and thus wasn’t technically a Giant. Yet he felt compelled to share some of the wisdom he had accumulated through 12 big league seasons. His message focused on the importance of being a good teammate.

That’s the essence of Randy Winn.

The Yankees will quickly learn how lucky they are to have Winn in their midst. His professionalism will enhance the Yankees’ aura as reigning World Champions. They’ll cherish his ability to play all three outfield positions and his other diverse skills. On that club, any offense he provides will be a bonus.

Winn will be free to go about his business while the ravenous New York media descends on Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and other Yankees stars.

But when reporters need to speak to Winn, he’ll answer any question they have.

11 Comments

Thanks, Chris, for a great article. I have always admired Randy Winn and regretted that the Giants let him go — as you say, “what a class act”! No matter that his hitting was sometimes streaky (a label that can be applied to most of the Giants team), you always knew when a ball was hit to Randy in our always-tricky outfield, he was going to be there. He will be missed but I’m glad that he got another contract and will get to play baseball. Why is it that the Giants like to let great guys, like Randy & my other favorite class-act, Omar Vizquel go? But regardless — GO GIANTS!
San Carlos Giants Fan

Amen, Chris. Perhaps Randy, a Santa Clara graduate, will be back with the Giants organization some day as a coach.

Thanks Randy, and thanks Chris for letting me know more about a true Giant.

He always had the look of a nice guy. His intense stare at the plate never looked menacing, but he sure looked competitive. His play will always define how to play Right Field in our park.

By and large I agree with your assessment Chris, save for one thing: I don’t think his body language was always so commendable. He was a consummate pro, yes, but I won’t miss the contsant self-hating attitude (slapping the bat with his hand and frowning) at the plate every time he fouled off a fat pitch, etc. He could quite often be a downer at the plate.

Downer, smowner. That’s called being a competitor. People tended to get down on him because his slumps seemed to last forever, but he batted .306 before last year’s slump and this is what the Giants will miss….career avg. 286, speed on the base paths, a solid outfielder and a consumate pro. Good luck in NY, Randy.

This is a very nice story! I’ve always heard great things about him, and I’m going to miss him a lot. And as much as I hate the Yankees… I hope he finally makes the playoffs! I remember reading somewhere that Randy Winn is the active MLB player who has played the most games without reaching the playoffs, but it looks like he might actually have a chance this year (even though some people are saying the Yankees aren’t going to make the playoffs this year). I hope he does really well, and I’ll still be cheering for him!
–Lauren

As a MLB team bus driver for the last 12 years,I can honestly say that Randy Winn is one of the most CLASSIEST professional athletes that I’ve encountered. ALWAYS polite when handing him his bag from the bus,and dressed like an attorney on his way to court. As a life-long Giants fan,I’ve had the priviledge of speaking to him on occasion. Last season,as I was getting out of my car at the team hotel in San Diego,he actually went out of his way to walk up to me and say hello. Along with Vizquel, Aurillia, and Roberts,Randy Winn will always be one of My Giants I’ll remember.

Great article! Thanks for recognizing a player whom young and old could look up to. I always enjoyed seeing him play and feel that he deserves this chance to be on an actual team that can make it to the World Series. Good luck, Randy!

Excellent article, important to say these things. I will truly miss Randy, for his outstanding fielding in the tricky AT&T Park right field, which he did better than anyone I can recall, and for his clutch hits and steals, when we needed them. Even last year, during his hitting slump, he got a few crucial sacrifices (which do not contribute to his batting average) and always seemed that his fewer-than-usual hits DID come at moments when much needed. I suspect he worked hard during the off season, and is going to make the Giants’ brass sorry when he gets his bat back with the Yanks! I will fly my Randy Winn street banner when the Giants are Winn-ing, and hope it continues to bring us good luck! And I will be keeping my eye on Randy’s numbers during the season, hoping for the best for him! When he is retired from active playing, I lay odds that he will return to the Giants fold in some coaching or operations capacity. We can only hope!

Randy , You’ve been a ROCK for the Giants,ever since you came here..I & we the fans thank you very much, & we’ll miss you alot.. good luck w/the yankees,but I hope we get you back someday !!

No question that Randy Winn was a class act for the Giants from the moment he joined the organization. I will love it if he gets to the post season with the Yankees…although I will love it even more if the Giants make it to the World Series. I hope Winn comes back to the Giants someday as a coach or in some other capacity. Great article, Chris!

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