Matt Cain, always a Giant, to retire Saturday

There’s a relatively small list of retired baseball players who spend their entire career with the team that drafted him. Many of them, current and future Hall of Famers that defined a team’s generation, acted as pillars in a dynasty or are simply remembered as the face of a franchise:

Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Chipper Jones and Tony GwynnStan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks.

For the San Francisco Giants, Jim Davenport, Robby Thompson and Scott Garrelts.

After Saturday afternoon, it’ll be time to add one more name to this exclusive list: Matt Cain.

Cain announced his scheduled start in Game 161 Saturday afternoon will be his last as a Giant and, therefore, the last of his career, telling reporters in Arizona he held his first team meeting of the year to make this announcement:

“I can’t imagine playing anywhere else. The San Francisco Giants organization has meant so much to me. It’s meant so much to my family. It’s something that’s dear to my heart and I’m just grateful it’s been a part of my life.”

Cain (season 3-11, 5.66 ERA, career 104-118, 3.69 ERA) will retire a Giant and carry with him 349 games and 331 starts, the first perfect game in San Francisco Giants history, and three World Series titles.

He’ll have endured 13 years in a big league uniform, having been made a permanent figure for the Giants three years after he was drafted out of high school in Tennessee in 2002.

Despite latter years of injury-provoked decline, Cain’s tenure and loyalty — nudged by the organization’s five-year, $112.5 million contract offered at the peak of his career —  made him an important face on the Mount Rushmore of the dynastic Giants team that raged through the earlier part of this decade.

Like a handful of players on the exclusive list mentioned above, the rise and fall of Matt Cain nearly flowed in sync with the team’s success and pitfalls:

“I know that I’m able to hang my hat at the end of the day and say I’ve put everything I could into this and I’ve experienced it all and enjoyed every bit of it. … That’s what makes this a little easier for me, is to know I started out in 2002 with a Giants uniform, getting picked up by the Giants, and knowing that’s the exact way I’m heading out, is in a Giants uniform.”

Cain weighed all the odds as the tumultuous season neared an end. How his body felt, how he knew he’d have to prepare for the next season. He felt this was the right time.

“It gives me a little more freedom to go out and enjoy Saturday. … I want to be able to enjoy this last weekend and have fun.”


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.