Fred Lewis's Days as a San Francisco Giant Look Numbered
It's a shame that Fred Lewis's days as a San Francisco Giant seem to be coming to an end soon.
With outfielder Nate Schierholtz swinging a hot bat, Lewis is left without a position in a crowded outfield, and it seems as if the Giants are on the verge of including him in a trade deal or simply waiving him altogether.
What is the bottom line? Lewis simply doesn't have a place anymore on this Giants roster.
It's too bad, Giants' fans had high hopes for Lewis after he burst on the stage on May 13, 2007, when he hit for the cycle in just his 16th game in the majors.
With underrated speed and a patient approach at the plate, many fans felt Lewis would be a key component of the Giants' future in the post-Bonds era.
Lewis had developed within the Giants' organization, and he was a different face from those usual free agents that Brian Sabean signed during Barry Bonds's tenure in San Francisco.
However, despite achieving good OBP numbers (.371 and .351 OBP in 2007 and 2008, respectively), Lewis for some reason never lived up to his early promise.
He came close in 2008.
Along with his .351 OBP, Lewis belted nine homers, drove in 40 RBI, stole 21 bases, and hit 11 triples.
With those stats, Lewis was easing post-Bonds life for Giants fans, and as a result, it seemed fitting that Lewis was manning Bonds's old position as well.
It was also fitting because Lewis was the exact opposite of Bonds in terms of personality.
While Bonds was a hostile and self-centered player, Lewis was the exact opposite. Lewis was always a friendly personality with fans and media and an even better clubhouse fixture. Fans could always see Lewis smiling in the dugout and giving his teammates deserved high fives after big plays.
Giants fans wanted to like Lewis, and with the way he played in 2008, we felt justified in our endearment to him. Not only was he a better personality than the guy who formerly played left field in a San Francisco uniform, but he was a good player as well.
And then in 2009, the wheels fell off for Lewis.
Despite a strong April (he batted .299 with a .420 OBP), he started to slowly decline in May. His numbers in May in terms of averages were meager (.258 average, .340 OBP), but on the other hand, Lewis had increased his home run totals (three in May in comparison to zero in April) and had driven in more runs as well (seven in May in comparison to one in April).
Lewis also kept good walk numbers (11 times in April and 10 times in May). And his strong ability to get on base was translating into runs.
In April and May combined, Lewis scored 30 runs.
However, a solid April and a decent May did not help him in June.
In the month of June, Lewis struggled at the plate mightily. His average in the month was an awful .167, and his usual high .OBP wasn't any better at .186. In addition, Lewis didn't have a single multi-hit game in the month of June.
The only trend that continued into the third month of the season for Lewis was his strikeout numbers. Despite 47 less at-bats in June than in the month of May, Lewis still struck out eleven times (he struck out 21 times in 89 at-bats in May).
Add that with a .968 fielding percentage, worst among all the Giants' regular outfielders, and it makes sense why Lewis lost his starting position on June 23 against Oakland.
With Schierholtz on a tear offensively, it seems unlikely that Lewis will regain his starting positon.
It's tough to stomach, not just because he is such a likable guy but because you can see his mental struggles at the plate.
He doesn't take advantage of a pitcher's mistakes. Many of his swings just barely miss the ball. He doesn't look relaxed at all as he digs into the batter's box.
Lewis has the look of a guy who knows his future as a MLB player is on the line with each and every at-bat.
It's painful to watch from a fan's perspective. You want him to relax and have good at-bats because it can help the team, not because it will keep him on the team.
Yet, as Lewis continues to press, his struggles continue early into July. As a bench player, he is 1-for-9 in the month of July and has only a .111 OBP.
To make matters worse, he has three strikeouts in nine at-bats.
With trade talks being the hot topic throughout the month of July, Lewis's name is constantly being mentioned, not as a centerpiece but just as an additional one.
Lewis has become one of those players where GMs say, "If you want this player, you have to take this guy as well."
Lewis is that guy, and you wish he wouldn't be. He plays the game the right way. If you watched any of the games against Houston last weekend, you didn't see Lewis sulk in the dugout like Nomar Garciaparra did in 2004 when he got benched against the Yankees.
Rather, he was up and congratulating his teammates and enjoying the camaraderie of his teammates, like any good baseball player would.
In some ways, it is unfair the way Giants fans have turned so quickly on Lewis. Is he the heir-apparent in left field to Barry Bonds? No, but he was a pleasant surprise for the time being.
When our overpriced veteran Dave Roberts went down with an injury last season and two seasons ago, who came in and filled his spot? Lewis did, and he did a heck of a job.
And I think I speak for most Giants fans when I say any time when Roberts played over Lewis last season, we showed the same kind of dissatisfaction that we do now when Lewis plays over Schierholtz.
Lewis may not have been that great player Giants fans wanted him to be after he surprised us all with that cycle game in 2007. Who knows what got to him. Maybe he just wasn't as good a player as we thought, or maybe it was too tough playing in the shadow of Bonds in left field.
All I know now is that Lewis's tenure as a Giant is going to end soon. If he makes it past the end of the month, I'll be utterly surprised.
Yet, I hope Giants fans wish him the best, wherever his career should go from here. He's given much effort to this team and organization, and he has done it the right way.
Every game, he plays hard, and he hasn't complained. He's not just been a model teammate in his tenure as a Giant but a model citizen as well.
I certainly wish things turned out differently for Lewis in San Francisco. He was a refreshing change of pace from the legend who manned left field for 15 years before Lewis.
But, like most things in life, it didn't work out like expected, and the only thing one can do now is move on.
I hope Lewis and Giants fans can do the same.
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