Giants' Top 5 left fielders: Guardado's take

April 28th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans. With that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. We also asked fans to weigh in on Twitter:

Here is Maria Guardado’s ranking of the top five left fielders in Giants history. Next week: center fielders.

Giants' All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS

1. Barry Bonds, 1993-2007
Key fact: He is Major League Baseball’s all-time home run leader, with 762.

After spending the first seven years of his career with the Pirates, signed with the Giants ahead of the 1993 season and sparked the revitalization of the franchise. His arrival helped turn a 90-loss team into a 103-win team, as he batted .336/.458/.677 with 46 home runs and 123 RBIs to earn the first of five National League MVP Awards in San Francisco. Bonds spent the final 15 seasons of his career with the Giants, hitting .312/.477/.666 with 586 home runs and 1,440 RBIs over 1,976 games.

A seven-time NL MVP, 14-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, Bonds holds Major League Baseball’s all-time records for home runs and walks (2,558) and is the only player to hit 500 home runs and steal 500 bases. He also set single-season records for home runs (73 in 2001), intentional walks (120 in '04), on-base percentage (.609 in '04) and slugging percentage (.863 in '01). Bonds’ credentials reflect his standing as one of the greatest players in baseball history, but his Hall of Fame candidacy has stalled because of his links to performance-enhancing drugs.

2. George Burns, 1911-21
Key fact: His 41 wins above replacement rank second among Giants left fielders, according to FanGraphs. (Bonds is the runaway leader with 116 WAR.)

George Burns debuted with the New York Giants in 1911 at age 21 and established himself as a reliable producer, batting .290 with a 124 OPS+ over his 11 seasons with the club. His finest campaign came in 1914, when he hit a career-high .303 and led the NL in runs scored (100) and stolen bases (62). Burns was a starter for the Giants' 1921 World Series title team, though it proved to be his final season with the club. He was traded to the Reds in exchange for Heinie Groh the following offseason.

3. Monte Irvin, 1949-55
Key fact: Irvin integrated the New York Giants along with Hank Thompson in 1949.

Monte Irvin starred in the Negro Leagues with the Newark Eagles in the 1940s and was viewed as a leading candidate to break baseball’s race line, though that assignment ultimately fell to Jackie Robinson in '47. Irvin signed with the New York Giants two years later and emerged as another key integration pioneer after making his Major League debut at 30 years old. He served as a key catalyst in '51, hitting .312 with 24 homers and an NL-high 121 RBIs to help the Giants overtake the Dodgers for the NL pennant.

Irvin batted .296 with a 127 OPS+ and 84 homers over seven seasons with the Giants, earning an All-Star nod in 1952 and a World Series ring in '54. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in '73.

4. Kevin Mitchell, 1987-1991
Key fact: Mitchell won the 1989 NL MVP Award, beating out teammate Will Clark.

Acquired from the Padres as part of a blockbuster seven-player deal in July 1987, Kevin Mitchell crushed 15 homers and collected 44 RBIs over just 69 games to help the Giants capture their first NL West crown since '71. Primarily a third baseman, Mitchell shifted to the outfield because of the presence of Matt Williams and became a key part of the club’s emerging offensive core, earning two All-Star selections over his five seasons in San Francisco.

Mitchell flourished in 1989, hitting .291 and leading the Majors in OPS (1.023 OPS), homers (47) and RBIs (125). He and Clark became the first NL teammates to finish 1-2 in MVP voting since Joe Morgan and George Foster of the '76 Reds. The Giants ultimately fell to the A’s in the '89 World Series. Mitchell’s career season included an iconic catch, as he made an incredible barehanded grab on a fly ball off the bat of the Cardinals’ Ozzie Smith. His tenure with the Giants came to an end when he was traded to the Mariners for Michael Jackson, Bill Swift and Dave Burba in December 1991.

5. Jim O’Rourke, 1885-89, '91-92, 1904
Key fact: He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1945.

Jim O’Rourke signed with the New York Giants in 1885 at age 34 and remained productive during his eight seasons with the club, batting .299 with a 126 OPS+ over 807 games. Playing alongside fellow Hall of Famers Buck Ewing, John Montgomery Ward, Tim Keefe, Roger Connor and Mickey Welch, O’Rourke helped the Giants capture their first two National League championships in '88 and '89. He hit .321 with a 122 OPS+, 81 RBIs and 33 stolen bases in 1889 before jumping to the short-lived Players League the following season. O’Rourke played his last full season in the Majors with the 1893 Washington Senators, though he continued to play in the Minors while practicing law in Bridgeport, Conn. In 1904, a 54-year-old O’Rourke returned to play one final game with the Giants under manager John McGraw, setting a record for oldest player to appear in an NL game.

Honorable mentions
Jo-Jo Moore spent his entire 12-year career with the New York Giants and served as the primary leadoff hitter for the 1933 World Series champion club. A career .298 hitter, Moore earned six All-Star selections and finished third in NL MVP Award voting in '34.

Sid Gordon drew back-to-back All-Star nods from 1948-49 and split time between left field and third base for the New York Giants.

Gary Matthews captured the 1973 NL Rookie of the Year Award after batting .300/.367/.444 with 12 home runs over 148 games.