Goodbye, 2011; farewell, Andres Torres

Saturday, Dec. 31

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Giants traded Andres Torres to the New York Mets, a friend recalled my declaration that I would weep if the cheery outfielder ever left the ballclub.

I didn’t need my buddy’s reminder to be so moved.

We who cover sports for a living grow emotionally attached to the athletes we meet at our own peril. The most obvious danger of this lapse is unprofessionalism. There’s also the simple fact that athletes don’t care about us as much as we might care about them. Another pitfall is the ache that remains when a well-liked player leaves. This is why many athletes resist befriending teammates, to insulate themselves from the shock of a trade or personnel move.

Though I pride myself on my professionalism, maintaining emotional distance occasionally challenges me. I completely failed in that regard with Torres. I’ve been fortunate to know numerous players who I’d welcome to a backyard barbecue. Luis Gonzalez, Sean Casey, Aaron Boone, Dmitri Young, Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia are among the dozens who come to mind. But Torres was different. He simply was the most endearing ballplayer I’ve met. He made himself exceedingly easy to root for without even trying — though he tried so hard at everything else.

The timing of this almost embarrassingly self-revealing piece may seem strange, because the Giants traded Torres more than three weeks ago. Other writers already have weighed in on his merits. I admire their alacrity. I felt compelled to hold onto my thoughts, like a pitcher rubbing up a baseball and assessing its nearly imperceptible lumps, before unleashing. But I didn’t want the sun to set on 2011 without saluting Torres.

Few players — few people — are as genuine as Torres. His attachment to the Giants literally flowed from him as he sobbed when manager Bruce Bochy telephoned him after the trade became official. An athlete’s attempt to express loyalty to his team can fall flat; too often, he’s actually reaffirming his bond to his paycheck, not his city or teammates. But Torres’ desire to excel for the Giants was sincere. I was agog in August of that charmed 2010 season when Torres professed his dedication to the team. It wasn’t so much what he said as how he said it, with each word dripping emotion:

“I need to respect the organization for giving me this job. I want them to know I’m going to work hard, try to get better and help the team win.”

We all know why Torres felt this way. The Giants gave him a chance to thrive after he spent most of 11 pro seasons toiling thanklessly in the Minor Leagues. So he channeled his energies toward being the best Giant possible, ceaselessly delivering maximum effort.

My favorite statistic of the 2009 season was Torres’ total of eight triples in only 170 plate appearances. Even players who hit a lot of triples need close to three times as many plate appearances to accumulate that figure. Torres himself had eight triples in 570 PAs in 2010. Regardless, if he drove a pitch anywhere near a gap, he was virtually guaranteed to reach third. Usually he prompted hilarity as he did so, unintentionally amusing teammates with his sprinter’s style of running with a rigid upper body and furiously pumping arms.

But Torres the ballplayer didn’t engage me as much as Torres the person. He was unfailingly friendly, saying hello to everyone he encountered each day. Though his conversational repertoire wasn’t broad, it was heartfelt. He must have asked me a hundred times, “How’s your family?” So I’d tell him.

Then, late last season, I had the privilege of bringing my daughter Samantha to a game. We started to exit AT&T Park through the corridor leading past the Giants clubhouse. We came upon a nattily dressed gathering of players and their wives, about to leave for some sort of meet-and-greet function with sponsors or fans. Torres, who was among the group, burst forward to introduce himself to my daughter. All those times he inquired about my family, he truly cared.

My identification with Torres was partly forged by a third party. Tim Flannery, the Giants’ third-base coach who’s a superb singer-songwriter, dedicated “Right Or Wrong,” a song from his new CD “The Restless Kind,” to Torres. The tune includes the lyrics, “It’s never too late to be the person you were meant to be.” All of us who feel incomplete — yet not inadequate — can relate to Flannery’s articulation of Torres’ resilience, fortitude and perseverance. If you believe you still can reach your tantalizing goals, you can appreciate Torres’ story.

I kept hoping last season that Torres would escape his yearlong slump, but it never happened. Angel Pagan, who the Giants acquired from the Mets for Torres, appears to be a more consistent performer. The Giants did what they had to do by engineering the trade.

It doesn’t matter. Torres has entrenched himself in my “interior stadium,” to borrow the title of one of Roger Angell’s finest works. Some players I’ll remember for their excellence; others I’ll cherish for their personality. Torres will stick with me for many reasons, but mostly just because I felt lucky to know him. Yes, Andres, my family is fine. And in a way, you’ll always be part of it.

Chris Haft

79 Comments

Well written. THank you

Thank you for your kind words.

Well said, Chris. Thank you! Great job!!

Thank you very much for your appreciation, Terri!

Thanks Chris for articulating what a lot of Giants fans feel. I hope Andres thrives for the Mets and look forward to his return as an opponent in the future.

As I said to another fan/reader, the Mets visit San Francisco July 30-Aug. 2. Mark your calendar!

Beautifully written. I too, will miss his energy, respectfulness and kind ways!!!!
Thank You Andres Torres for all you gave!!!!!!

It’s nice to see that Andres meant so much to so many fans.

Thanks for sharing Chris. I will also miss Andres. Class dude. Maximum effort as you said. Happy for his part in the 2010 season. A great story.

Nice post. I always got an authentic vibe from following his interviews, etc. The player Andres Torres of 2010 has been missed, glad to here that Andres Torres the man is the good guy he seemed to be through the media lenses.

It’s okay to get attached, Chris. It’s a beautiful thing to appreciate the player beyond their persona. Your words are sweet and sincere. Thank you for not letting them go unspoken as we say goodbye to Andres Torres who will indeed be missed for who he is.

You’re extremely kind. Thank you very much.

I will guarantee everytime the Mets come to visit in 2012 Torres will still get a standing ovation just like when he wore the Orange and Black.

Great artical! I met Andres at BJ’s In the Tanforan shopping center in Burlingame after a game. He was taking pictures with some other folks as we were leaving when my wife recognized him. I know it’s impolite to bother players when they are trying to eat in a public place but I asked if we could get a picture with the understanding that he might refuse and I wouldn’t be mad if he did. When he agreed my wife was so nervous that she couldn’t worky iPhone! He offered to show Jer how as we were all getting a good chuckle out of the whole situation. For ALL the reasons you stated he will ALWAYS be my favorite Giant from that CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON!!

Wow. What an anecdote. You vividly captured what a great guy Andres is.

I too salute you, Andres! Thank you for what you’ve brought to the Giants. Thank you for your spirit, your kindness and your inspiration. – EJV

Thanks, Chris. I was heartbroken when they traded Torres. I’ll even admit to shedding a tear or two. But now I am sitting here sobbing.

Gosh, Nancy … you’re going to make some of us start crying all over again, too!

Thank you for this. I never had the chance of meeting Torres in person but through his interviews and performance, I too was enchanted by him and will continue to cheer him on!

“Enchanted” — excellent word in this context.

Thanks for a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to Andres Torres. I was one of the lucky season ticket holders who were invited to the Town Hall meeting after winning the World Series, and I’ll never forget how Torres broke down in tears when asked what the season had meant to him. It was EXACTLY how I felt about it as a fan, and he was one of the players. There wasn’t an insincere, conceited or mean bone in his body. We wouldn’t have won that year without him, on the field and off it.

I’ll always miss him, and wish him well with the Mets. I hope he plays his giant heart out for them the way he always did for us.

Gosh … believe it or not, I forgot about the Town Hall moment. That indeed demonstrated the depth of Andres’ appreciation for everything in his life.

Thank you for writing this.

He has such a vibe to him that you can’t help but to love. Genuine is still somehow lacking when it comes to describing him. Maybe it’s a Puerto Rican thing and we’re just -that- passionate about -everything- but yes, I got the call and I cried too.

My whole life I’ve been a Giants fan, I had a kid just to carry that tradition on (smile) but if letting him go was what the braintrust thought was “right”, hate to say it (maybe not hate as much as “strongly dislike at this point) they didn’t deserve what he has in store for the coming seasons.

56..All. Day!

I thank you for your comments and, as I remarked to another reader, I thank Andres for moving me to write what I did.

What an eloquent way to say goodbye to my favorite player. Even those of us who were not fortunate enough to have a personal relationship with Andres were able to recognize what a spectacular human being he is. There isn’t a “stat” to measure the impact a person like Andres has on a team. Even as the “enemy” I will never be able to root against him and I’m hoping he gets his 2010 groove back and has many more major league years to come in his baseball career.

Thank you very much for your kind words. You’re absolutely correct — there’s no statistic that measures the loyalty Andres evoked.

You echo my feelings! I will miss Andres dearly, for he was the heart of the team to me. And I always felt a surge of relief when he ran full tilt to position himself under that fly ball; once he stopped with glove open, I knew it was a sure out! I will continue to hope he somehow returns to the Giants and will follow his progress with the Mets.

That’s one thing I didn’t mention — Andres’ defense. He indeed prompted a feeling of assurance when he pursued fly balls.

Here, here!! Thank you for reminding us!

Very emotional, we will truly remember him!!

Years from now, the Giants will conduct 10-year reunions, 25-year reunions, etc. celebrating the championship team. Partly through them, Torres’ deeds will live on.

This was an extremely moving piece. Thank you for writing this. We’ll all miss Torres terribly.

Thank you. I wrote this piece precisely for people like you.

Well said! I his way the best he could be and captures for all of us what we hope our athletes and heros can be. My favorite moment washis accepting the Wllie Mac award. I was there and it was the most moving and emotional day, of that championship season. In every respect, Andresnis a true champion and a great model for us all! Best of luck amigo. we will miss you!

I can still hear Willie McCovey announcing Torres as the 2010 award winner. One inspiring figure begets another.

Great post, Chris. It’s really hard to say goodbye to Torres. I hoped they would find a way to keep him as a back-up outfielder–he’s still valuable in lots of ways–but look forward to his returns with the Mets and in coming years for the Willie Mac Award presentations. He will always be one of ours because of 2010!

2011 just seemed to be a year of sadness for the Giants, starting with Bryan Stow and then what happened to Buster. Yes, there were good stories–Vogelsong, the return of the Panda, all of Nate’s clutch moments, Romo’s “perfect game”–but especially after Buster, there was just a lingering sadness that never really went away. Torres being traded fits that theme, too.

Hoping for good things for Andres the Forever Giant in 2012 and beyond and for our SF Giants. Happy New Year, Chris, and thanks for all you do. We appreciate you!

that was so well said! And what an inspiring tribute by the author…my first reading of his work…I will now seek out C. Haft’s articles much like I do Bruce Jenkins…thoughtful & insightful writers (just like Andres) are rare…

Kknucklehead

You’re very kind and flattering. It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Bruce Jenkins, who I respect so much.

That was an amazing tribute. I hope Andres gets to read it and I hope nothing but success for him in the future. Andres’ story is more than a Cinderella story. Cinderella’s shoe still fit the glass slipper. I get the feeling that Andres was never meant for the big leagues but he fought his way into it anyway. It is so much more than inspiring to watch him work the way he does. I know few people will remember what he did on the field. Even Giants fans in the future will forget about his 2010 season, he wont make the hall of fame and he wont make the Giants wall of fame but he is a true inspiration who’s time spent in the bigs, and especially on the Giants, should be looked upon as what true grit, determination, and dreams can do. Though, I hate to use the word hero with athletes, he came close. A word that probably better describes him would be “role model.” A near impossible status to attain for anyone, especially a professional athlete with cameras focused so closely. That is what he was. A role model and what he accomplished inspires me every day. I hope Andres knows that we were more lucky to have him than the other way around.

Thanks for your kind words, William. You may have heard or read about the documentary film about Torres that should be released within the year. Once that’s out, I think plenty of people will indeed view Andres as a role model.

With Panda, the Giants just pointed at his gut and said “That’s your slump”. With Torres it’s harder. Hope he’ll make it with the Mets, but the Giants have sent great players there before (see Willie Mays).

Thanks for your article about Torres. We loved watching him steal bases and would dance to the Latin music when he came up to bat. Too bad baseball is a business. There are some players who play with heart and who just shouldn’t be traded, Torres is one of them.

Thank you, Nancy. You raised a good point: Andres was such a good guy that he almost made you forget that baseball’s a business.

Andres was simply my favorite Giant during and after 2010. I absolutely loved the guy. Guess in some way I still do.

Because of what happened in 2010, Andres will always be a Giant, in a way.

Thank you so much for this post, you articulated so well why we all love him. I already miss him. :(

Nice to hear from you, L.J. Thank you very much.

Wonderful heartfelt post Chris. It is nice as a fan to hear this kind of insight of a player and team. I wish Andres luck and success as well. Keep up your great work.

Thank you so much for your appreciation. I also thank Andres for the inspiration (sorry, I wasn’t trying to rhyme).

I’ll miss watching him pump those arms, but I do look forward to his ovation when he returns to SF.

The Mets visit San Francisco July 30-Aug. 2. Mark your calendars.

Baseball is too fickle. I can’t stand how they all…hop around from team to team. It’s cheap and tacky. Business, schmizness. Just pick one and stay with it forever. Timmy.

I’m a Met fan, and you’ve helped me see that a very special man has joined my team. Thank you for your heartfelt article and your insight. I look forward to watching Torres. Hopefully nice guys will finish first and he’ll do well!

Thank you for your note, Lisa. Yes, you’re lucky to have Andres on your side. I hope he excels for the Mets; I KNOW he’ll try his best to do so.

I am also a Met fan who has had the chance to meet many of the Mets players layst year. Having two sons, its great when they meet a player who is willing to spend some time talking to them and sometimes (like DJ Carrasco) really imparting some wisdom to them. Andres sounds like a great guy and I hope we have the chance to meet him this year. In personality alone, it looks like we won on this trade big-time. While personality doesn’t generally win ball games, I would rather have my sons exposed to someone who can impart life lessons, even if by his play alone, than a selfish player who only cares about himself.

I can promise that Andres will not disappoint you in this regard.

As a Mets fan who doesn’t have a ton to be hopeful for, it seems like the one bright spot will be our opening day CF. I’m amazed at all the comments of endearment and support for Andres. In NYC, it’s easy for players to get enamored with the bright lights and forget where they came from. I sense Andres will not be one of those players, and will take time to sign autographs and connect with the fans. I’m looking forward to seeing him play and having him on our team. Thanks for your excellent article.

Thanks for your kind note. As I told another reader, Andres won’t disappoint you — I promise!

As a Mets fan I wasn’t heartbroken when they traded Pagan. And I’ll have to admit I had that “who?” thought when I saw who they got for him. But the more I read about Torres, pieces like this, I am very excited to have him on the Mets. Very well written piece!

Thanks for the kind words, and I hope Andres excels for the Mets.

I too am a Mets fan and I hope his work ethic and personality infects the Mets clubhouse. Sounds like we got a great guy in Andres, I hope he can turn his game around and have a great season. God nows we need a bright spot, maybe Andres can be that for us.

This is sports writing at its best; It’s very hard to seperate the human aspect of this game from the physical, and sometimes there is no need too.
We Met fans will do our best to make him feel welcome and cheer him on through good times and bad (most of us anyways, it is NY).
I think while Pagan is different, you will find the same kind of ernestness; he’s younger and sometimes foolhearty, but it doesn’t come from a place of cockiness, he truely tries to give it everything he has. He is soft spoken and kind, does alot of charity work and such. Any reputation for attitude or “sulking” seemed much more to be a product of the media; (conversely, when Jason was disapointed with bad ABs it was because “he cared so much” ). At any rate, It seems like both teams received class acts; talented gamers who take nothing for granted, my they both success and hapiness in their new homes.

Ideally, the trade will work out for both sides. Also, thanks for your kind words about the blog entry.

Thank you Chris.
I am a Mets fan, and that was a wonderfully insightful article about Andres Torres. I have been trying to find out as much information as possible, not just re his career stats, but about his personality and work ethic as well. After reading your article and all the comments from the Giants fans ( and EVERY ONE a positive comment) I can see that we are fortunate to have him. Heroes and good guys are so hard to find nowadays :) and I for one will give him a very warm welcome to Citifield when he comes out to play.

Thanks for your complimentary note. You’re right: It’s truly rare to see an athlete like Andres generate such a universally positive reaction.

Excellent piece. Thank you so much for this. As a Met fan and an adult with ADHD, I’m looking forward to what Torres brings to the Mets and the awareness he brings about ADHD.

Thank you for writing, best of luck with everything, and root hard for Andres!

I am also a Met fan living in Southern California. When I first heard of the trade I was disappointed because I knew nothing of the players we were getting back in the trade. I was referenced this blog from Metsblog and Im glad I did. Im happy that Andres is so highly regarded because he overcame so much to get to where he is. You make him sound like a prince of a guy and I look forward to watching him do his thing when the games are televised. I hope the team, fans, ownership appreciate him the way you do.

Andres IS a prince of a guy, Richard. You’ll quickly find that out. Thanks for writing.

Great article. I’m a Mets fan, and I knew about this guy’s reputation as a nice guy, but wow. This really makes me happy that he’s joined the team and I hope he does alright. I think he’ll fit into the clubhouse nicely and be a bright spot on the team somehow or another in 2012.

While he was somewhat more accomplished, this is exactly how we Met fans felt when Edgardo Alfonzo left us to go to San Francisco. It’s nice that among the sullen jerks and mercenary tools there are still players we can connect with who don’t make us feel stupid for investing so much in the exploits of others.
Pagan is a solid if inconsistent ballplayer that I think will greatly benefit from escaping the relentless NY media, and I wish him well.

Just now came across this article and so glad to see it. Andres Torres is an amazing person and I cried too when I heard he was traded. I just couldn’t believe we were losing such an integral part of the team. I loved watching him both on the field and in the dugout. It will be a sad 2012 without him and a gain for the Mets.
Anyway, thank you so much for putting into words much of what I have been feeling. I plan to save your tribute article to re-read each time I miss the personality of Andres Torres. He always gave everything he had to the Giants and the fans.

Thanks for your kind words, Colleen!

Thank you for your awesome tribute to Torres. He was one of my favorite Giants and always will be so. In November of 2010, I was boarding an airplane to Phoenix, when Andres walked by my parents and me. My dad said, “Hey! That was Andres Torres!” When we got on the plane, Andres was seated in the aisle and we said “Hi” to him. Once we were in the air, my dad said I could go talk to him. I brought my Sports Illustrated World Series edition to Andres and he signed it, writing, “Always work hard and never give up.” I told him I liked the necklaces that he always wore, so Andres reached into his bag and gave me one of his bracelets! He was so nice and just the best! Go Andres! We miss you already! Go Giants! – Anthony, age 9

Thanks for reading and submitting your nice comment, Anthony, and keep rooting for the Giants (AND Andres).

This is a terrific piece. I admire Andres for his clear dedication and what became clear from your entry – that he cares about the people around him. The attention he paid to you and your daughter simply demonstrates that the man is a class act. I wish the best for him – if the Giants can’t win another championship soon, I hope he does so. Thanks so much for your stellar writing and the great stories.

Thank you so much for your kind comments!

Nothing but good wishes for Andres Torres and thanks for helping win the World series, and Mr. Haft, best thing I’ve read in a very long time, thanks for the goosebumps.

You’re giving ME goosebumps with your comments. Thanks, Jim!

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