Matt Cain was the guy the Giants absolutely had to sign.
Signing pitchers to a long-term deal can be dangerous because pitchers are more likely to break down physically than position players. But not Matt Cain.
Though Tim Lincecum has had the more spectacular career so far, I think Cain’s career as a top pitcher will be longer because of the type of pitcher he is.
Lincecum is more in the mold of Tim Hudson, very talented but unorthodox and seemingly vulnerable to serious injury. The A’s traded Hudson because they feared he would break down and, though he’s had his successes, he’s also spent a lot of time on the disabled list.
Cain’s model would be Roger Clemens: A power pitcher who throws with an easy, natural motion that doesn’t put unusual strain on his arm or shoulder — the two problem areas for a pitcher. Typically, pitchers like Cain and Clemens can pitch well into their 30s without losing effectiveness. Clemens added to his career with help from steroids, but I’d be very surprised if Cain does.
Matt Cain is Jack Armstrong, a big, handsome young man who never has a cross word for anyone. I was at a Giants luncheon Monday, sitting with media representatives and Giants public relations employees, when the Cain signing was announced, greeted by room-shaking cheers. At my table, the public relations people were talking about how cooperative Cain was, far above the norm for players. I wasn’t surprised because he’s equally cooperative with the media — which is also far above the norm.
Even more important, he never, ever criticizes his teammates, though he has plenty of reason to because he gets less run support than any other Giants starter. Instead, he finds reasons to compliment them. Hopefully, his teammates will soon reward him for that by scoring more when he’s on the mound.
Even when a player doesn’t have great ability, it’s good to have players like that on the team. When that player comes with Matt Cain’s ability, that’s your basic no-brainer.
There’s another component to this deal, too: The need for the Giants to keep faith with their fans. Larry Baer, now the team’s CEO, called Giants fans “the best” at Monday’s luncheon, and they have certainly supported the Giants in great fashion since they moved into AT&T Park, averaging more than 3 million in attendance in 12 seasons there.
In return, the Giants have continued to upgrade the park. Last week, they showed media some of the improvements, including a fully revamped second deck, mostly financed by Virgin Atlantic, and upgrades in the mini-park for youngsters behind the left-field fence.
But mostly, fans want to know that the team is holding on to quality players, especially ones who have come up in the system. With Cain, Lincecum and the rapidly-improving Madison Bumgarner, the Giants have the nucleus of a great, home-grown pitching staff. Even Ryan Vogelsong was drafted by the Giants, though he took a circuitous route to San Francisco.
Soon, fans at the park will be cheering the Cain signing, just as those at the luncheon were. The negotiations took awhile, but the end result was worth the wait.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.