A Giant favorite

Bill Mueller is one of the classiest individuals I’ve ever met in this game. And my friend, Buzz, who I’ve known for more than half my life and who is as knowledgable on the Giants as anyone in this business, often said Mueller is one of his all-time favorites. I used to think of him as a poor man’s Pete Rose, without the demons, because of how he got everything out of himself that he possibly could get.

Why am I telling you this? Well, Mueller is working for the Los Angeles Dodgers now, and hopefully Giants fans can see past that little fact and keep their fond memories (and if you don’t have fond memories of this guy, you don’t know baseball). Mueller has that nebulous tag, “special assistant to the general manager,” which essentially means he’s getting on-the-job, front-office training. Not sure where it will lead for him, and Mueller himself told me he’s not sure if he wants to be a GM (or even a coach), but no doubt whatever he does he’ll succeed. Some guys have a quiet intensity that is belied by their humility, and I’ve always felt Mueller was one of them.

Example: I sat down with Mueller to discuss the defection of so many former Giants to the Dodgers and what it means to the rivalry. In the course of our conversation, I asked him about Jeff Kent and whether he (Mueller) thinks he’ll be judged harshly by Giants fans.

“First of all, a player like Jeff, that’s a good player …” Mueller answered. And I gotta be honest, I was so stunned I never heard another word of that answer. Mueller, for the record, was a darn good player. Witness the batting title he won for the Boston Red Sox team of 2004 (the one that exorcised The Ghost) and the contributions he made to the 1997 Giants division winner that started one of the most successful eras in team history

On a personal note, that 1997 team was the first club I got to cover on a semi-routine basis. I was generally third in line behind our beat writer Joe Roderick and a back-up. But as the season progressed, I got more and more assignments, and Mueller was one of the first guys I struck up a rapport with. He and Estes made it just a bit easier for a guy who was just getting over the wide-eyed portion of his career. If all athletes were like those two, the media’s job would be a breeze.

Here are some of the other things Mueller told me:

ON THE GIANTS-DODGERS RIVALRY: “It would be enhanced for me, if the guys who played with me in San Francisco all were still there. … Guys like J.T. Snow, Robb Nen, Shawn Estes, we’ve all gone our own ways. So the Giants are just another team to me now. I personally don’t know anybody over there. I’ve got great memories though. I still talk to Estes all the time. Everytime members of those teams get together, it’s like having a reunion with a fraternity.”

“I really enjoyed playing. I hope that I went about my business in a way somebody can take from it and perhaps use it for their own success. I would’ve liked it to continue, but I can’t play [because of a career-ending knee injury]. At some point, it’s going to end for everybody, and I feel like I played the game right every time I went out there, so I’ve got no regrets.”