Among the flurry of last-minute deals, Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi sealed at the trade deadline was the acquisition of second baseman Scooter Gennett for cash from the Reds.
And so the Giants have now doubled up on both second basemen and big leaguers who answer to goofy nicknames.
Joe Panik has held the everyday job at second base since June 2014, a year he came in sixth for the Rookie of the Year vote. He was an All-Star in 2015 and he won a Gold Glove at the position in 2016. But his future is uncertain with Gennett on the scene.
Panik’s defense remains above average. He has a 1.9 ultimate zone rating in 2019, but his hitting has been abysmal, and so Zaidi sought offensive help in Gennett.
The newly-acquired second baseman has never been a strong defender but was on a distinctly upward trajectory offensively leading into this season.
In 2017 and 2018 he hovered around a .300 batting average with power to boot, and things looked bright for 2019, but he sustained a devastating Spring Training groin injury that shut him down for the entire first half.
In 72 plate appearances with the Reds since returning June 28, he struck out 20 times, walked just once and hit .213 with a 25 wRC+ and just five RBI. And after hitting 23 homers for the Reds in 2018 and 27 in 2017, he failed to go yard even once for Cincinnati this season.
But in his second game wearing orange and black Saturday he jacked one out for the first time in nearly a year. While it was one of only two hits in 11 plate appearances over the weekend in Colorado, his other knock was a double and the Giants are hoping he can continue to tap into that power.
Skipper Bruce Bochy said Gennett will get the lion’s share of starts at second base for the foreseeable future:
“He’s going to get the playing time out at second base, and I talked to Joe, he’ll come off the bench and do double-switching and things like that. But with Scooter, he’s got some pop in the bat and gives us a little bit more power, so he’s going to be up there for the most part.”
Gennett’s only been with the team since Friday and hasn’t had a lot of time to talk to Panik, but he said they’ve met in the past and he respects his counterpart. He said they share the same goals:
“We’re kind of in the same boat in the sense of we’re trying to figure things out, we’re trying to improve our game and get back to doing what we’re capable of doing. But we’re definitely not walking around looking at each other, like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna try to do better than you today.’ It’s about contributing and helping the team win in whatever way, shape or form that is.”
Power will certainly endear Gennett to San Francisco fans, almost as much as his quirky character, which is epitomized in the story behind his name.
Like Buster Posey, Gennett said he’s gone by the name ‘Scooter’ since he was very young, but while ‘Buster’ was passed down as a familial nickname, Gennett’s alias has a much more sordid genesis.
In an attempt to evade arrest at the tender age of four or five he said he borrowed the identity of his favorite character from the Muppets spinoff cartoon, “Baby Muppets”:
“Scooter was my favorite character. He was the crazy one and kind of ornery, and I found a lot of similarities between me and him.”
Gennett said he had recently graduated from his car seat and he got into the habit of tormenting his mother during car rides by waiting until she got on the road to joyfully announce that he’d unbuckled his seatbelt, forcing her to pull over to buckle him back up.
One day after three or four stunts in one car ride, Mrs. Gennett had had enough. She decided it was time to get the law involved and drove little Scooter, né Ryan, to the police station for an intervention:
“I just remember a big, tall police officer with a badge and I remember being scared. He asked me what my name was and I made up ‘Scooter.’ My mom never heard it before, and [the officer] was like, ‘What’s your real name?’ And I’m like, ‘Scooter Gennett.’ …I thought that I was going to get arrested or get in trouble if I answered my real name.”
In the year that followed his brush with the law, Gennett said he refused to answer to Ryan and eventually the nickname stuck.