Robert Allen Nen (born November 28 1969 in San Pedro, California) is a former right-handed relief pitcher in Major League Baseball, who spent most of his career as a closer. He is the son of former major league first baseman Dick Nen. He currently works in the Giants' front office as a special assistant to General Manager Brian Sabean.
Nen is best known for his years with the San Francisco Giants (1998-2002). He also played with the Texas Rangers (1993) and Florida Marlins (1993-97); in 1997, Nen won a World Series championship with the Marlins. After the 2002 season, Nen injured his throwing arm and has not played since.
Nen was known for an unusual delivery in which he tapped his toe on the ground before releasing the ball. His signature pitch, a slider, was nicknamed "The Terminator." It looked like a fastball until it broke straight down at the plate at a velocity of up to 92 mph. In addition to the slider, Nen had a fastball that reached the upper 90s. A splitter rounded out Nen's pitching arsenal.
Nen has 314 career saves with the Marlins (1993-1997; 108 saves) and Giants (1998-2002; 206 saves). He is 15th overall in career saves.
Nen wore number 31 as his jersey number throughout his career.
He attended Los Alamitos High School and played both varsity football and baseball with future Giants teammate J. T. Snow. Nen played mostly at third base, and also did some pitching. He skipped college and went directly to the minor leagues.
Major League careerEdit
Nen was selected by the Rangers as a pitcher in the 32nd round of the 1987 MLB draft. The Rangers promoted him to their Major League roster in 1993. His partial season with the Rangers was marred by injuries and subpar results on the mound, resulting in a 6.35 earned run average.
On July 17 of his first year, the Rangers traded Nen and pitcher Kurt Miller to the Marlins for Cris Carpenter. Nen started one game for his new team and finished the 1993 season with a disappointing 7.02 ERA. The following season, the Marlins moved him to the bullpen in an effort to reduce the frequency of his arm injuries. Nen flourished in his new role and became the Marlins' new closer that year. He finished the strike-shortened 1994 season with 15 saves and a 2.95 ERA. Nen would continue to be a dominating closer for the Marlins, racking up a total of 108 saves and establishing himself as one of the elite closers of the 1990s.
In a controversial move (which has since happened again when the Marlins won the World Series in 2003), the Marlins held a "firesale" in which they traded away most of their high-calibre players in favor of gaining prospects and utilizing many of their minor league players, all while keeping their team payroll low. On November 18, 1997, Nen was traded to the Giants for Mike Villano, Joe Fontenot and Mick Pageler.
Nen was expected to fill in the closer role, a role recently vacated by the late Rod Beck, who left via free agency to the Chicago Cubs. If Beck had set the bar high for a San Francisco closer (199 saves in his 7-year tenure with the Giants), Nen would raise the bar. His first year yielded 40 saves with a 1.52 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 88.7 IP. As a Giant, Nen was selected to three All-Star Games (1998, 1999, 2002) and finished 4th in voting for the 2000 National League Cy Young Award and 12th in the NL MVP voting (the award went to teammate Jeff Kent), both high honors for a closer.
The Giants, the National League wild card team, and the Anaheim Angels, the American League wild card team, played a seven-game series in which Nen earned two saves. The Giants entered Game 6 leading the series three games to two. Behind the pitching of starter Russ Ortiz, the Giants appeared to be cruising to an easy 5-0 victory and their first World Series title since 1954 (when they were still the New York Giants). In the seventh inning, however, Ortiz ran into trouble and was relieved by Felix Rodriguez. Rodriguez then gave up a three-run home run to the Angels' Scott Spezio.
The Angels tacked on another run in the eighth with a lead-off home run by Darin Erstad. After two more runners reached base safely in the eighth, Nen came in to relieve Tim Worrell and try to protect what was now a shaky one-run Giants lead. But Nen was unable to shut down the Angels' surge and gave up a two-run double to eventual series MVP Troy Glaus, which put the Angels ahead by one run. They hung on to win the game, and won the series following a win the next day. Nen pitched with full awareness that he was likely jeopardizing his career and remains admired by Giants' fans for his self-sacrifice. It was, in fact, his final appearance.
During the next two seasons, Nen spent time rehabiliting from three surgeries for a torn rotator cuff that he had aggravated during the middle of the 2002 season. The tear went through 40 to 75% of his right shoulder. When his contract with the Giants ended after the 2004 season, Nen filed for free agency but was not picked up by any team.
On February 20, 2005, Nen formally announced his retirement. He is currently the all-time saves leader for the Giants with 206 saves. His locker was maintained throughout the 2003 and 2004 seasons as he last left it and was formally retired in 2005, but his jersey continued to hang in the locker room both at home and on the road.
Nen joined the club's baseball operations department as an instructor on both the major and minor league levels, while also advising general manager Brian Sabean on an as-needed basis.
"Smoke on the Water"Edit
When the Giants moved from Candlestick Park (also known as 3Com Park and Monster Park) to the park by the Bay Pac Bell Park (now AT&T Park), the Giants used the song "Smoke on the Water", by Deep Purple, as Nen's entrance music. Though not chosen by Nen, the song was selected to highlight his throwing speed.
In a ceremony before their July 9, 2005 game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Giants honored Nen with a plaque commemorating his 300th career save. The plaque is now located on the public walkway behind the right-field wall of AT&T Park, not far from McCovey Cove.
On his father, Dick Nen: "He told me, it must have been a thousand times, let everything you do show your respect for the game. Don't cheat yourself, and don't cheat your teammates."
On his unusual delivery: "There was some problem about my toe pointing down when I was coming up, and when I tried to correct it, I just literally stumbled into the tap thing. It was an accident. But when I did it, it felt right to me, and I could throw real hard that way so I stuck with it."
On being a closer: "You had to believe to close. You had to know you were going to get people out every night, know that you were going to get their best guys out, every night."
|1998||San Francisco Giants||$4,090,000|
|1999||San Francisco Giants||$5,150,000|
|2000||San Francisco Giants||$5,500,000|
|2001*||San Francisco Giants||$6,600,000|
|2002||San Francisco Giants||$8,300,000|
|2003||San Francisco Giants||$8,750,000|
|2004||San Francisco Giants||$9,150,000|
- Signed a contract extension in 2001 for 4 more years with the San Francisco Giants worth $32.5 million. At this time, he was the highest paid closer in Major League Baseball history.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- CBS Sportsline: Former teammates praise Giants saves leader Nen
- ESPN article detailing the end of Nen's baseball career after the 2002 World Series
- Article detailing Nen's eligibility to the Hall of Fame
|National League Saves Champion|