SAN FRANCISCO – Speechmaking is all about timing and impact. Home runs sort of work that way, too.
Hunter Pence has impeccable timing.
Shortly after word got out that the Giants and Pence were in agreement on a five-year, $90 million contract, the inspirational, irreplaceable right fielder popped his 27th home run of the season Saturday afternoon.
[Instant Replay: Pence's blast not enough in 9-3 loss to Padres]
It was his 11th home run this month – the most by a Giant in September since Barry Bonds assaulted the single-season record by hitting a dozen in 2001.
Funny enough, Bonds signed a five-year, $90 million contract after that season.
But Bonds never won the Willie Mac Award. Pence did on Friday, then excused himself for a private conversation with God before dropping an “I love you, Buster Posey” and telling Giants fans they were more than the best fans in baseball. They were the heart and soul of this team, and this city.
How could the Giants let Pence walk after that?
Left-hander Madison Bumgarner might have said it best – right after breaking out his best droll drawl to call the contract, “pretty cool, if you like $90 million.”
“Everyone in here thought something crazy would have to happen not to bring him back,” Bumgarner said. “He plays every day. He’s one of the best right fielders in the game. We know the energy he brings to the club. I’m not surprised. I hope he’s here for the rest of his career.”
The rest of the Giants were just as ecstatic -- although there were the obligatory jokes about Pence crashing his scooter because his wallet was too heavy.
“It’s great,” Matt Cain said. “He’s been very instrumental in the year and a half that he’s been here. He’s definitely an exciting player to watch. He brings excitement to the stadium for fans, too. He’s a guy you know is always going to bring it every game. To have him on the team is a huge, huge benefit for us. That’s a guy that you want on your side.”
Center fielder Angel Pagan knows how Pence must feel. He bounced around the league before getting a four-year, $40 million commitment from the Giants last winter. Now he knows that Pence will be a long-term presence for those celebratory leaps in the outfield after victories.
“The best way to describe Hunter is he is a very positive man,” Pagan said. “The The game could be 20-0 in the ninth with two outs and he still says, `Hey, we can win.’ That’s the right attitude. He injects that type of energy to a club, like I try to do. That can do a lot for the team, to keep a positive (vibe) around here. For me that’s a big key, because it’s a long season. You need somebody next to you to pick you up when things are going bad.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy was instructed to hold off comments before the deal became official; club officials were still working out the year-by-year breakdown, and Pence went for a physical after Saturday’s 9-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.
(Pence played all nine innings, by the way. He’s started all 161 games this season. You’d better believe he will be in Sunday’s lineup, too.)
But Bochy didn’t mind singing Pence’s praises.
“I couldn’t be happier for Hunter,” Bochy said. “Our hope is that (fans) will be as excited as we are. You can’t help but love the way Hunter Pence plays the game. It’s all about making a commitment and getting back on track, and you need great players (to do that).”