SAN FRANCISCO – He conjures up images of the guy lounging in the corner of a dark, dank hole-in-the-wall bar a few ticks from last call. The dude puffing on a cigarette when not tugging on Wild Turkey whiskey, marinating in Creedence Clearwater Revival emanating from the old-school jukebox.
The next morning, he rolls out of bed and coolly bangs out three hits.
"Damn," the Giants' Aubrey Huff said with wide eyes, "you pegged me.
"I'm pretty kickback, man," he added, hours before the Giants fell to Florida, 4-3, at AT&T Park on Monday. "I mean, I take my game serious, but I don't take myself serious."
True, Giants fans should take just about everything he says with a grain of salt. But be very mindful of what he does between the lines.
Because while Bustermania may be runnin' wild on the shores of McCovey Cove, Huff Daddy has been the most consistent, most dangerous, most reliable bat in the Giants' lineup from Day One this season.
No disrespect to Buster Posey, whose breakout rookie season has fans salivating over his catcher's gear (when, oh when are pitchers going to challenge his inside-out, opposite-field swing by pounding him with fastballs inside on the hands?). But it is Huff who has been the Giants' MVP thus far. And whom they can thank for where they sit in the standings – leading the National League wild-card race.
If Posey has been a revelation, Huff has been a revolution.
No wonder Bruce Bochy shuddered as if he just awoke from a vivid nightmare when asked where his club would be without Huff.
"I'd hate to think where we'd be without him," the Giants' manager said. "He changed our offense. And in the clubhouse, he's a loose, free-spirited talent that grinds out at-bats for us and can steal a base when you're not paying attention to him.
" Then to have that flexibility to put him in the outfield."
Huff is a throwback. A grinder. A guy who fully appreciates his lot in life.
Huff lost his father at age 6, when he was killed trying to take a gun away from a man who had just shot his wife in a workplace domestic dispute.
In baseball – Huff played countless hours of catch with his mom – he spent most of his first 10 big league seasons with Tampa Bay and Baltimore, "the bowels of the basement of the A.L. East," he mused. "Nobody gives a (hoot)." But in the Bay Area, he's developed a cult following.
This is what happens when you lead a team starved for an offensive presence – since Barry Bonds was shown the door in 2007 – in just about every offensive category.
Entering Monday, the left-handed Huff was batting .309 with 109 hits, 42 extra-base hits, 19 home runs, 60 RBIs, 49 walks, a .397 on-base percentage and a .549 slugging percentage.
Plus, his .314 average against southpaws was second in the N.L. among left-handed hitters (with at least 60 games played) to San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez (.316).
Then there's this – his .327 average since May 1 led the league.
"He should have been on the All-Star team," Bochy lamented. "He's a guy we kind of feed off."
Huff has claimed he's the best athlete on the team. Indeed, at Brewer High School in Fort Worth, Texas, he was known more for his basketball talent than for baseball.
That one-year, $3-million free-agent contract he signed Jan. 11 has been worth every penny for San Francisco.
"It's worked out a lot better than I would have ever imagined," he said. "It's no secret I love it here. It's no secret I'd like to stay here.
"This is the best place I've ever been my whole career."
Better than any saloon.