Matt Cain To Retire After 13 Years with the San Francisco Giants

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 16: Matt Cain
MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 16: Matt Cain /

After 13 seasons, 341 games, and over 2,000 innings, Matt Cain is calling it a career. He plans to retire after making one last start on Saturday.

Before Wednesday’s game with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Matt Cain made a difficult announcement. Surrounded by reporters, Cain told them what he had told teammates just minutes earlier. Not only would this be his final week with the San Francisco Giants, it would be his final week in Major League Baseball. Rather than continue his career in a different uniform, Cain will retire when the season ends on Sunday.

Though the game on the field had to be played, the focus kept shifting back to Cain. The announcing crew shared a number of small memories that they’d accumulated over the past decade and a half since Cain was drafted in 2012.

Even the Diamondbacks, the team that Cain had faced 39 times in the past (his second-most against any opponent), showed their respect for the pitcher. Between innings, Arizona showed Cain on the big screen, congratulating him on his decorated career and wishing him luck for the future.

There are many Good Giants spread throughout baseball, the players who made good contributions to the team along the way as they carved out their dynasty. Players like Gregor Blanco and Hector Sanchez, who return to AT&T Park in their new uniforms, or like Andres Torres who pops up in the stands every so often, are greeted with loving cheers as the fans and former teammates remember the good times.

There aren’t as many players who have soared right past Good Giant status and land in Giants’ legend territory. Cain is one of those select few that have reached that upper echelon. His big moments are too many to count on two hands, and trying to search your brain to remember them all could take hours.

The end has been drawing near for Cain for a long while. The team wasn’t going to pick up his $21 million option for 2018, not after Cain averaged fewer than 20 starts and 110 innings per season with a 4.86 ERA over the last five years. Instead, the team will pay him $7.5 million to not pitch for them for another season, and instead of testing his luck elsewhere, Cain will hang up his cleats and the Horse will ride off into the sunset.

More from Golden Gate Sports

Cain will stand atop the mound one more time, making his 331st start as a Giant on Saturday in the middle game of the team’s final series of the year. Since the team moved to San Francisco, only one pitcher has started more games for the Giants, and he was a Dandy. Juan Marichal started 446 times for the Giants, and has his name forever etched in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, New York.

Though Cain won’t join Marichal in the Hall of Fame, his name will certainly join the countless others on the team’s Wall of Fame. He’ll join Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, and the many others that are immortalized in the team’s history. And soon enough, he’ll be joined by his former teammates Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, just to name a few.

Just as Cain will lead that group onto the Wall of Fame, he was the leader of the new generation of Giants. Unbeknownst to everyone watching, when he made his major league debut on August 29th, 2005, it was the start of the future.

As the team’s roster shed older players through the following years, Cain was joined in the big leagues by guys who would stand beside him as the team had its greatest run of success. Tim Lincecum would be brought up in 2007. Pablo Sandoval was next in 2008. 2009 brought Bumgarner and Posey. Sprinkle in Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, and so many others that came via trade or free agency, and the Giants had the core that would lead them to three World Series in five years.

Though Posey came four years after Cain, he was behind the plate for so many of Cain’s big games. In 2010, when Cain went through the postseason allowing just one unearned run in 21.1 innings over three starts, it was Posey doing the honors every time. In 2012, when Cain fired a one-hit shutout in the home opener on April 13th, Posey was catching. In his next start, where Cain met Cliff Lee head-to-head in what turned out to be a pitcher’s duel for the ages, Posey was guiding him through.

When Cain became the first Giant in franchise history to retire all 27 batters in a single game, throwing only the 22nd perfect game in major league history, Posey was there to give him a Buster Hug. Cain took the mound in all three series clinchers in the 2012 postseason, and Posey was always 90 feet away.

Posey was even behind the plate in 2012 when Cain started the All-Star Game. For the pitcher, it was his last of three All-Star nods. For the catcher, his first of five (and counting). And on Saturday, when Cain throws his last pitches, Posey will again be there.

After Wednesday’s game, Posey said he will be behind the dish one last time for Cain. Posey’s catching assignments have been few and far between over the last month or so of the season, but this is one assignment that he could not pass up.

Cain will only be 32 years old when he takes the mound for the last time, and will turn 33 the next day. He’s not an old man by baseball standards, but after debuting at 20 years old and becoming one of the most durable pitchers in the game over the next few seasons, his arm has more mileage than the average 33 year old.

If there are no Brett Favre-like comeback plans, Cain will enter an exclusive club in retirement. He will become one of only four players to play more than a decade and play only for the Giants. The others are Jim Davenport (13 seasons), Robby Thompson (11 seasons) and, Scott Garrelts (10 seasons).

Cain has already taken on the role of old veteran with knowledge to pass down. It’s not uncommon for the cameras to pan into the dugout or bullpen and find rookie Kyle Crick nestled up next to Cain, hoping to glean any bit of information he can. Maybe a career in coaching is next. Maybe a front office role. Maybe he’ll spend his days with Chelsea and their daughter.

Next: Meet New Giant Pierce Johnson

Cain will be gone from the roster, but will never be too far from the mind. Thank you, Big Sugar, for 13 years of great performances and better memories.