San Francisco Giants: Saying Farewell to Nori Aoki


After one short, but highly entertaining season with the San Francisco Giants, outfielder Nori Aoki has moved on to greener pastures, taking his talents up to Seattle.

On Thursday, Norichika Aoki was introduced to Seattle Mariners’ fans in a press conference after singing a one-year deal earlier in the week. For the first time, he donned a white jersey with black lettering and turquoise outlining, emblazoned with the number eight. With his typical, sly sense of humor, Aoki announced that he chose Seattle “for the coffee” adding “and also to win a World Series” after a short spat of laughter.

That small quip evoked memories of Aoki’s introductory press conference with the San Francisco Giants, when he wasted little time showing off his sharp wit. Wearing a brand new orange and black number 23 uniform, he immediately made clear his plans to wrestle pitcher Madison Bumgarner, because he heard that MadBum likes to wrestle. His “take on the biggest dog in the yard” approach quickly endeared himself the Giants’ faithful.

It’s probably for the best that the planned steel cage match never came to fruition, as Bumgarner’s six-plus inch and 50-plus pound advantage might have been a little too much for the diminutive Aoki. Instead of hitting Bumgarner in a wrestling match, Aoki saved his hits for opposing pitchers.

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Aoki come out of the gates swinging, showing off his famous slap-hitting ability for the Giants. Using his unique (to say the least) hitting style, Aoki made a habit out of frustrating his opponents, blooping base hits in front of opposing left fielders, and beating out slow grounders to second base for infield hits. In the early going of the season, Aoki punch and Judy-ed his his way on base time after time, even as the rest of the lineup struggled through slumps.

More than anything, Aoki had fun playing, and was incredibly fun to watch. It wasn’t always pretty, and it wasn’t always successful, but it was fun, without question. From swim moves to avoid a Justin Turner tag while diving back to first base, to blowing through a Roberto Kelly stop sign at third base, to getting thrown out trying to race home for an inside-the-park home run, the small left fielder never failed to entertain.

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Aoki nearly slashed and dashed his way to an All-Star bid with an incredible first half. Though not flashy, Aoki was as steady and solid as they came, and for a while before the All-Star break, he was high enough in fan voting to be a starter in the Mid-Summer Classic. But on June 20th, the All-Star bid, and the fun, came to an abrupt end.

On June 20th, in the first inning of the second game of a three-game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Carlos Frias spoiled the Aoki party with just one pitch. Frias’ fastball ran in tight on Aoki, and despite an attempt to jump over the pitch, the heater caught Aoki flush on the right ankle. After a couple minutes spent on the ground in obvious pain, Aoki took his rightful place at first base, which he earned the hard way. With what turned out to be a fracture in his fibula, Aoki went from first to third base on Joe Panik‘s double, and tagged and scored on an Angel Pagan sacrifice fly. No one could question the heart and toughness from the littlest guy on the diamond.

Aoki returned more than a month later, and just when the Norichika train was getting back on track, Jake Arrieta slammed on the brakes yet again. A cut fastball that slipped out of Arrieta’s hand caught Aoki square in the helmet, causing a concussion that would effectively end his season, despite a couple of comeback attempts.

In the end, Aoki fell victim to the constant revolving door that has cursed the Giants in left field for the past eight years. For a half season, Aoki filled the void, and did it incredibly well. The Giants could have had Aoki back, as the $5.5 million contract he signed with Seattle is worth the same as the option the team declined in November. Alas, it was just not meant to be.

Next: The Giants Need Ben Zobrist

Aoki wore a Giants’ uniform for just 93 games, a blink of the eye in the baseball world, but he should go down as a Good Giant. When all is said and done, that’s the biggest compliment you can give a guy.