By Sean McAdam
SAN FRANCISCO - If you're a Red Sox fan, you remember him booting away seemingly routine grounders, blaming his alarmingly high error total on the Fenway grounds crew and making Tony La Russa look positively prophetic about his unsuitability for Boston.
The Edgar Renteria Era -- or was it the Error -- was, as they say, nasty, brutish and short: One brutal and brutally expensive season.
The Sox had cast aside Orlando Cabrera after a three-month rental and cast their lot -- to say nothing of 40 million over four years -- with Renteria. It proved to be a colossal misstep, but say this for the Sox: They didn't hold their breath and hope it would get better. They cut their losses in a hurry, paying the Atlanta Braves to kindly take their mistake-prone shortstop off their hands.
When the Sox won another World Series two years later, they were still paying off Renteria. He never seemed comfortable in Boston, and Boston, in turn, never felt comfortable with Renteria.
If you could cut out Renteria's one-year nightmare in Boston, however, he's been a pretty good player for a pretty long time. And when he gets to the World Series, as he's done three different times with three different teams, he has a habit of making his presence felt. Scan the highlights of the last 13 years of the Fall Classic and, inevitably, there's Renteria popping up again and again, in big moments, like some sort of October Forrest Gump.
There he is in 1997, singling off Charlie Nagy in the 11th inning of Game Seven, making unlikely champions of the Florida Marlins. There he is, seven years later, in the uniform of the St. Louis Cardinals eerily making the final out against the team he would join a month later, hitting a harmless tapper back to Keith Foulke in Game Four.
And Thursday night, there he was starring for the San Francisco Giants, homering in the bottom of the fifth to snap a scoreless tie and giving the Giants the only run they would need to win Game Two. It helped that when the Giants tacked on seven more runs in the eighth to make it a comfortable 9-0 shutout, Rentiera was part of that, too, delivering a two-run single.
The 2010 season was far from a career highlight. He made three trips to the disabled list for an assortment of injuries, and once, went to the minor leagues to play himself back to good health.
He lost his starting shortstop job to Juan Uribe, only to regain it when the Giants began to worry that third baseman Pablo Sandoval had become a liability. Uribe was then shifted to third and Renteria was re-inserted at short.
His timing is, once again, spectacular. He may not challenge Reggie Jackson for the title of Mr. October, but he does have an uncanny knack of rising to the occasion.
"You know, I couldn't be happier for Edgar,'' said San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy. "It's been a tough year for him. The ups and downs, the injuries . . . He'd come back from one and re-injure something else. But he's a leader in that clubhouse. Everybody looks up to him. He's been through this and he's excited about how he feels right now. He's excited about being back in the World Series.''
Renteria is only 34, but he has already played 15 seasons and with his body slowly breaking down and his contract up, retirement could be beckoning.
"He knows that he's almost at the end of his career,'' said Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens. "He wanted to be into the playoffs because he doesn't know how much longer he's going to play. But there's no better time than now. He's playing great defense and got a couple of big hits.''
According to Meulens, Renteria is a personal favorite of team owner Bill Neukom, who makes it a point to often visit with Renteria and offer encouragement.
"He tells him, 'You're not done with us . . . you're going to help us more,' '' recounted Meulens.
And so it is. The theory around the Giants is that the three DL stints are now a blessing in disguise, enabling Renteria to tap into a reservoir of energy at a time when it's needed most.
"I think the rest probably has benefitted him,'' said Bochy. "He's playing like he did 10 years ago.''
Which, if you're a Giants fan, is much better than playing like he did, say, five years ago.