Gigantes de Carolina
From BR Bullpen
The Gigantes de Carolina were formerly known as the San Juan Senators. In 2000, they took on the Carolina Giants name and moved into Estadio Roberto Clemente Walker. The team's name is derived from Carolina, PR's nickname as the "Land of Giants"
In 2000-2001, the Gigantes went 27-23 to tie the Santurce Crabbers for third in the Puerto Rican League. They had two of the league's top hitters, batting titlist Victor Rodriguez (.364, .448 SLG) and Yamil Benitez (.327, .566 SLG, the leader with 15 doubles and 35 RBI). Benitez and Rodriguez tied for the league lead with 52 hits and Benitez was named MVP.
Carolina fell to 24-29 the next season. Rodriguez hit .393/?/.475 and would have led in average but failed to qualify in terms of plate appearances. Jon McDonald (4-2, 1.72) led the league in ERA and won Pitcher of the Year honors. Dicky Gonzalez (2-2, 2.22) ranked second in ERA among qualifiers.
In 2002-2003, the Giants were only 20-30 and finished fifth for the second straight season. Luther Hackman (3-3, 1.38, 7 BB in 46 IP) and Jose Santiago (1-0, 6 Sv, 1.60, 4 BB in 34 IP) led the staff. 1B Travis Hafner was rated the league's #2 prospect by Baseball America.
During 2003-2004, Carolina was 24-25 and once again had a 5th-place finish. Gonzalez (3-0, 64 K, 6 BB in 61 IP) led the league with a 1.33 ERA. Rodriguez slipped to .294 but picking up some slack were Luis D. Figueroa (.422, .555 SLG, leading the league in average by 54 points) and Olmedo Saenz (.324, .494 SLG, the leader with 17 doubles and 55 hits).
In 2004-2005, Carolina improved to fourth place at 20-20. They beat the favored Caguas Criollos in the first playoff round, 4 games to one, but fell to the Mayaguez Indians in the finals. Josue Matos (5-2, 2.63) tied for the league lead in wins while Ivan Maldonado (1-0, 1.16) and J.C. Romero (1-1, 1 Sv, 1.56) had the low ERAs. Yadier Molina (.297, .432 SLG) and Armando Rios (.294, .508 SLG, 10 2B, 5 HR) paced the offense.
Carolina improved to 23-18 and second place in 2005-2006, then defeated Caguas and the Ponce Lions to claim their first pennant. Rodriguez (.301, .368 SLG) and Cesar Crespo (.294, .431 SLG, 11 2B, 7 SB) hit well, while Matos (4-0, 2.27, 8 BB in 44 IP) and Willie Collazo (5-2, 2.35, 8 BB in 57 IP) headed the staff. In the 2006 Caribbean Series, the club went 2-4, beating Mexico twice but winning no other games. Collazo (0-1, 3.38) made the Series All-Star team, while Ruben Gotay (.368) had the best average.
The team almost won the 2007 Caribbean Series, going 4-2 to finish one game behind the Águilas Cibaeñas; an upset loss to the Tigres de Aragua in game five was a major blow. Leading the way in the Series were 1B Javier Valentin (.368/.500/.368), RF Armando Rios (.545/.615/.682, the tourney leader in OPS and average), IF Alex Cora (.364/.440/.455) and DH Juan Gonzalez (.385/.385/.462). All but Cora made the Series All-Star team. Pitching very well were Carlos Alvarado (1-0, 0.73, 4 H in 12 1/3 IP) and Pedro Feliciano (2-0, 0 R in 5 IP).