San Francisco Giants Benched Rowand, Waited on Sandoval, Added Guillen: Next?
Fans haven't been hesitant to point to the player or the plan that keeps the San Francisco Giants from soaring to the top of the NL West and well past the field in the wild-card race.
As it turns out, though, most things that fans insisted the Giants do to get things going have been done and things haven't gone very well at all in the last month. The club is on the verge of falling out of the division race and has to keep pace with the Philadelphia Phillies, a tall order, to win the Wild Card.
It almost seems as though fans are...grasping at straws and calling for change for the sake of change. No!
Here's a quick look at the most common complaints fans had, how the Giants addressed them and their impact on club that had gone 12-14 entering the final two games of August.
"Call up Buster Posey... now!"
The fear was that the organization was going to play it cheap and not recall Posey until June. Remember all that talk about the arbitration clock? Well, the club called on the phenom in May. Then, a deal that sent Bengie Molina to Texas made Posey the everyday catcher. Posey has had a magnificent season.
Calling Posey up sooner than later didn't prevent the August meltdown.
"Don't break up the starting rotation."
Fans who believed the Milwaukee Brewers would trade Prince Fielder for Jonathan Sanchez notwithstanding, it was generally considered key that the Giants not trade a member of the starting rotation to get a full-time, run-producer. Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner stayed put.
Fans who insisted that the starting rotation would save the Giants have noted that it has been the club's biggest problem over the last month.
"It's Barry Zito's fault!"
That's not really a fan request, but most fans mumbled it when the Giants had a lineup without a big league hitter. In fact, now isn't a bad time to mumble, "It's Zito's fault that ... " and add "the Giants couldn't sign a big-time slugger" or "trade for Roy Oswalt and his big contract." Right?
Mainly, though, Zito was outstanding early and then just OK. Now, he's fallen on hard times yet hasn't been any worse than his peers in the rotation were in August.
"They have to bench Aaron Rowand!"
Duly noted, obviously, because Rowand is buried deep on the Giants bench.
Getting Rowand out of the lineup didn't exactly ignite a hot streak in August, did it?
"Add a big 'bat' right now!"
The Giants rescued left fielder Pat Burrell from the scrap heap and he has returned to somewhere near the form he showed when he was one of the NL's top home run hitters with Philadelphia.
Burrell filled a spot in the middle of the order and delivered the goods but...
"Man, go get another 'bat' to help the pitching!"
Now, it's easy to grumble, "I meant Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez," but the fact remains that Jose Guillen came over from Kansas City and has hit the devil out of the ball. He hasn't ignited a series of personality conflicts and ruined the clubhouse chemistry either.
Two 'big bats' and... the August slump still hit hard.
"The pen stinks! Get some relievers."
Veterans Javier Lopez and Ramiro Ramirez were acquired in trades. Jeremy Affeldt returned to health.
Apparently, the club needed to acquire Mariano Rivera because faces changed in the pen, but the results remained much the same.
"Shorten the leash on Jonathan Sanchez and yank him when he starts to unravel."
If only the Giants would give the left-hander the hook sooner than later, right? Well, manager Bruce Bochy routinely replaces Sanchez in the fourth or fifth, even with a lead, if he starts to struggle.
An abundance of faith in Sanchez wasn't the problem.
"Put John Bowker in the lineup and let him hit home runs!"
Bowker was hitting .207 with the big club when he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The woeful Pirates have yet to recall Bowker from the minor leagues. So, fans who thought Bowker was the answer have to explain how wrong two organizations are about him.
"What's Dave Righetti doing? Find a new pitching coach."
Looking back, it turns out that Righetti was the pitching coach during both of Lincecum's Cy Young Award seasons. Righetti also presided over the staff in July when the Giants played so well they appeared poised to soar past the NL West-leading San Diego Padres.
Since none of the other things fans have insisted would save the Giants have saved the Giants, guess who becomes a fall guy? The rotation has fallen apart because Righetti's not doing his job, apparently?
"Just put Andres Torres in the lead-off spot and the whole lineup gets better."
His club MVP type season might have help keep the club from sinking from sight completely in August.
"Do something about Pablo Sandoval."
Comcast baseball analyst Mycheal Urban suggested that, perhaps, Sandoval should be sent to the minors in June. Others felt he should bat second, fifth, seventh, eighth, etc. They also said his defense isn't a problem, but that he needed to hit.
Sandoval's hitting. His defense is a problem. Ouch!
"Bochy's gotta go!"
Oddly, when an entire list of sure-fire fixes fail to prevent a tailspin, the manager is the guy who usually gets the blame. Even Bochy's most ardent critics must have trouble believing the skipper is to blame for Lincecum, Zito, Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner all getting beat like drums at the same time in the same month. And, he likely hasn't done anything that makes it more difficult for Sandoval to catch the ball then throw it straight.
It's easy to blame the manager if Guillen can't get to a fly ball. "Why wasn't Cody Ross in there?" And, it's easy to blame the manager if Ross strikes. "Nate Schierholtz should have pinch-hit!"
It's hard to figure how putting any other manager in Bochy's spot would've helped in August, though.
Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Contact Ted at email@example.com
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