Tommy Hanson’s MLB Comeback Comes Up Tragically Short


Monday night, the San Francisco Giants farm system was handed some sad news to grasp, as Sacramento River Cats pitcher Tommy Hanson passed away in Atlanta. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native’s cause of death has not been determined at the time, but it came at the terribly young age of 29.

According to the San Jose Mercury, “Hanson fell into a coma in an Atlanta-area hospital after suffering catastrophic organ failure.”

Hanson came into the league in 2009 with the Atlanta Braves, surprising out of the gate with an 11-4 record and finished third in the National Rookie of the Year voting. He looked to be a nice piece in the rotation for the foreseeable future with the Braves. Before his 2009 call-up, a year prior the San Diego Padres were interested in acquiring him in a deal for current Giants pitcher Jake Peavy, but the Braves declined.

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Being a highly coveted prospect and having a strong rookie season, Hanson enjoyed his first full season with the club in 2010. Hanson pitched over 200 innings and had a 3.33 ERA, but did not receive much run support from his offense (10-11). The Giants went on to face the Braves and Hanson in the National League Divisional Series during a magical run to win the 2010 World Series.

Falling victim to the Giants, the Braves and Hanson haven’t seemed to be the same since that divisional series.

2011 and 2012 were Hanson’s last years as truly being successful in the league. After such a promising rookie season, the 2012 Opening Day starter’s talent never seemed to translate and found himself out of the Braves organization after a trade to the Los Angeles for Jordan Walden.

Once with the Angels, Hanson’s struggles continued as his last 15 games as a Major League pitcher happened in 2013. The Angels soon gave up, and released him. He continued to search for work, even on minor league deals.

Failure continued to follow Hanson as his 2014 deal with the Texas Rangers was terminated during Spring Training, and then a failed minor league stint with the Chicago White Sox due to injury putting him on the season-ending disabled list.

What happened to the once promising Braves starter is indescribable. Whether it was hitters figuring out Hanson’s pitches or injuries responsible for the decline, we will never know.

In 2015, the Giants took a flyer and welcomed Hanson, signing him to a minor league deal. Starting off in San Jose, Hanson worked his way up to finish with the River Cats, the Giants Triple A affiliate. When Hanson signed, for most fans, this seemed like a situation where another player could resurrect a career — much like that of Ryan Vogelsong, and former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher and Cal State Fullerton alum, Ricky Romero. To call it a comeback is the complete truth.

Hanson’s numbers with the River Cats this season was 3-5 and 5.60 ERA.

A continuation of Hanson’s minor league stint looked bleak after the season he posted, but shockingly and tragically it came to an end on Monday night.

Former teammates have chipped in and their responses say it all:

During a time where teams are active in the offseason and grabbing the headlines, those now rightfully come second to the passing of one the Braves’ former young stars. The Giants gave him a chance to prove his talent after struggling to get back to the player he once was. Whether a comeback was in store, we will never get the chance to see. But the Giants organization is a family and once a Giant, always a Giant.

Here is a look at one of Hanson’s top moments in the Major Leagues.

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Thoughts and prayers go out to the Hanson family during this time. In 2009, I got the chance to witness watching Hanson in his rookie season and during game two of the 2010 NLDS, the only postseason appearance of his career. He was fun to watch, especially in a duel against Tim Lincecum. It certainly will be different to not see Hanson don a uniform again.