The Emergence of the San Francisco Giants' Andres Torres...Oops, My Bad
One of the aspects of modern Major League Baseball I loathe most is the constant berating of under-performing players who are otherwise beyond reproach.
In other words, Player X is working hard, trying to help the team win, upset about his performance, and slumping at the plate. Yet all the boo-birds and naysayers care about is that last detail without any regard to just how difficult the game really is.
Or whether Player X may possibly be contributing in its other facets.
The recently ragged San Francisco Giants have two such players currently experiencing the torch-wielding-villagers treatment in center fielder Aaron Rowand and catcher Bengie Molina . Both have been absolutely horrendous at the dish for, oh, about a month.
Check May on those links; it's scary...unless you're an opposing pitcher.
Consequently, some of the not-so-faithful are calling for a pair of metaphoric heads on pikes. Or at least corporal benching.
Of course, that overlooks the inconvenient fact that these are two of the more important defenders in Orange and Black—as evidenced Tuesday night when Rowand pegged the Colorado Rockies' Melvin Mora at third base to end the top of the seventh and almost kept the tying run off the board in the process.
Then, Big Money one-upped him by making a sparkling tag on Jonathan Herrera to record the final out of the top of the ninth and keep the go-ahead run from scoring.
The admittedly overpaid Rowand patrols a very good center even if his Gold Glove days are behind him and Bengie isn't graceful behind the dish, but he gets the job done and the oh-so-important pitching staff loves him.
Furthermore, both have been good and productive Giants for the majority of their tenures.
So all the venom spewed by alleged fans makes little sense to me—I get the frustration and maybe it is time to go in a different direction, but the malice is only reasonable if the player steps out of line.
That's not the case with either athlete.
I mention this both as a long-winded introduction and a desperate procrastination because I was somewhat guilty of giving Andres Torres a similar treatment.
When the Gents first kicked around the idea of playing a slappy, over-30 outfielder rather than some of their younger prospects, I saw little sense to it. There was no animosity or anger, but I think I'm on the record somewhere in Bleacher Report's comment catacombs as saying it was a bad idea.
Possibly a really bad idea.
San Francisco has been unsteady since it opened 2010 with a strong April, but none of that can be blamed on the journeyman who's found a home.
Torres started the season in a platoon-type situation as los Gigantes tried to sort out who their third outfielder would be. Nate Schierholtz and John Bowker were thought to be the most likely candidates to join Rowand and newbie Mark DeRosa in the big green of AT&T Park, but Andres got a start or defensive insertion here and there.
Nate the Great burst from the chutes, but the doming of Rowand by Los Angeles Bum Vicente Padilla opened one door and the much-maligned recurrence of DeRosa's wrist injury opened another.
The speedy Torres took full advantage and became a regular starting outfielder—he's capable of playing left, right, or center depending on the rest of the personnel—with a scorching streak that started on April 23 .
Since that time, the 32 year old has lifted his batting average an astounding 158 points while tacking on a gaudy 455 points to his OPS.
More importantly, he's been a vital catalyst in almost every one of San Francisco's victories since that date, including all 14 registered in May.
Alongside Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff (somewhere General Manager Brian Sabean is smiling), Torres has been one of the few bright spots with the lumber during the uneven second full month of the season. Newly arrived Buster Posey also deserves mention if only because he's been as good as advertised in the quartet of games since his promotion.
Back to Andres.
His overall line to date might not blow your socks off—.294 BA, .877 OPS, 8 SB, 13 RBI, 22 R, 14 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR.
However, remember that these are the San Francisco Giants, i.e. not your ordinary professional batting lineup.
Those digits are good for second on the team in average (minimum 100 AB), first in OPS (minimum 100 AB), first in swipes, first in doubles, and first in triples. Not listed are also his team-leading on-base percentage and slugging percentage (with the same minima).
Nor have I mentioned just how complete the package is.
Powered by an old school attitude and gritty work ethic, the former Detroit Tiger and Texas Ranger brings value to both sides of the ball.
As noted, he is capable at all three outfield slots and can contribute with either legs, leather, or arm—the aforementioned play at home authored by Molina was made possible by an accurate toss from Torres in right field.
The guy has made believers of anyone paying attention in the Bay Area both with his approach to the Show and his performances in it.
Granted, as wonderful as the story might be, it's probably trouble the team-leader in slugging clocks in at 5'10 and 190 pounds.
But this is about the good, not the bad.
And Andres Torres has been very good.
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