1989 stands out for Giants fans for obvious reasons (the earthquake-affected World Series sweep by the A’s, in particular – ouch). But for me, the highlight of 1989 was Kevin Mitchell’s amazing MVP performance. And also his infamous barehanded catch of Ozzie Smith’s fly ball.
Before there was Barry Bonds in left field, there was Kevin Mitchell. And Kevin Mitchell could hit. Finishing the season with 47 HRs (at least one against every national league team), a .291 batting average (slugging .635) and an eye-popping 1.023 OPS, Mitchell received 20 of 24 1st place MVP votes in 1989 (Will Clark took three 1st place votes; how selfish).
Compare that to the various players who manned left field for the Giants in 2011. Aaron Rowand was laughable, with his .170 BA and OPS of .457 (seriously, what was that?) while playing LF. Brandon Belt, Cody Ross and Pat Burrell covered an OPS range of .706 to .791 in LF, with nearly identical batting averages hovering around .240 – not quite as horrible as Rowand (I mean SERIOUSLY – why did that guy ever play last year?), but not exactly electric. And nowhere near Mitchell’s BA/OPS of .291/1.023.
And then, of course, there is that barehanded catch on April 26, 1989. Watch this video starting at about the 0:26 mark. If you saw it then, you can’t help but remember it. Go ahead, watch it again. It’s fun.
Add it all together, and it was a hell of a season from a hell of a player. On a team with a bunch of great players that year, Mitchell remains my favorite Giant from 1989. Who was yours?