No player was as underwhelming as Huff
It ain't over till the D-Backs clinch—their magic number as of Wednesday was 15—but the question must be asked:
Who, or what, is most responsible for the San Francisco Giants' likely failure to make it to the 2011 postseason?
Did the manager misuse his personnel, or was he crippled by a roster decimated by injuries?
Did the G.M. make ill-advised choices in the offseason and at the trade deadline, or did he do all he could have done?
Did key performers simply fail to do their jobs?
Or, were the defending World Series champs simply fated for a letdown after their magical, mystical dance to the 2010 title?
Are you tired of questions? Ready for a few answers?
Don't know about fate, but I'd say "yes" to just about everything else. Here's my list of the Giants' 10 biggest scapegoats of 2011.
Cousins ruined Posey's season and tarnished the Giants' hopes
What Cousins was supposed to do: Slide.
What Cousins did: Treat Giants catcher Buster Posey like a defenseless human bowling pin.
Effects: San Francisco lost its all-everything catcher, cleanup hitter and quiet clubhouse leader 45 games into the season. A pall was cast over the club that lingered throughout the season. Offense and defense suffered.
For those interested in perverse satisfaction: Cousins went on the disabled list in mid-June with back spasms (perhaps from continuously peering over his shoulder looking for revenge-seeking Giant fans) and has not returned.
Zito teased, then reverted to form
What Zito was supposed to do: Occupy fifth rotation spot. Pitch with at least a tiny bit of competence.
What Zito did: Pitch incompetently, going 3-4, with a 5.62 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP in nine starts sprinkled among two lengthy stints on the disabled list. He teased fans with three successive quality starts after the All-Star break before reverting to form. He earned $6.17 million per win.
Effects: Zito's first injury in April brought Ryan Vogelsong into the rotation (Bless you, Z). His second injury further destabilized the pitching rotation after Jonathan Sanchez went on the shelf.
Sanchez was inconsistent and generally ineffective
What Sanchez was supposed to do: Hold down fourth spot in rotation.
What Sanchez did: Pitched erratically (4-7, 4.26 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 66 BB, 101.1 innings) in 19 starts before going on the disabled list in August with biceps tendinitis.
Effects: His inability to pitch deep into games stressed the bullpen. His inability to throw strikes stressed the manager, the pitching coach, the teammates and the fans. His injury created an opportunity for rookie Eric Surkamp, who was promoted from Class-AA Richmond and has made two quality starts.
Torres never captured the magic of 2010
What Torres was supposed to do: Bat leadoff. Play center field. Provide energy and inspiration that made him the 2010 Willie Mac Award honoree.
What Torres did: He was injured to start season and spent most of 2011 in an offensive funk (.229 BA,.309 OBP, 87 K's in 93 games). He was unable to exercise plate discipline and was ineffective hitting in the leadoff spot. He was sent to the disabled list in late August to clear head as well as a shin bruise.
Effects: The lack of a dependable leadoff hitter plagued the offense, created fewer run-producing opportunities for middle of the order hitters.
Bad attitude + poor performance = DFA
What Rowand was supposed to do: Provide outfield depth, make spot starts, pinch hit. Perhaps compete with Torres for CF job.
What Rowand did: After playing effectively (.294 BA through April) subbing for Torres, Rowand scuffled at the plate (.233 BA, 21 RBI, 84 K's in 351 plate appearances) and sulked at the loss of regular playing time. He was designated for release on August 31. Reports subsequently surfaced that he was a negative clubhouse presence. He's owed $12 million in 2012 in the final year of a five-year, $60 million contract.
Effects: His negative attitude no doubt pervaded clubhouse. His continued use by Bochy annoyed some fans, as well as B/R writers. He took a roster spot that could have been better utilized. His departure robbed B/R Giant featured columnists of the opportunity to whine about the overuse of unproductive veterans.
Tejada's fateful bunt triggered his departure.
What Tejada was supposed to do: Play shortstop without embarrassing himself and harming the team. Provide reasonable offensive contributions. Solidify critical middle-of-diamond position.
What Tejada did: Demonstrated that he no longer had the range and agility to play shortstop. He had rare moments of offensive productivity before settling into a season-long funk (.239 BA, 4 HR, 26 RBI). He was a passable defensive replacement for Sandoval at 3B. He openly rebelled when asked to bunt as a pinch-hitter and was released shortly thereafter.
Effects: Defensive shortcomings left a key position unstable and prompted a merry-go-round of alternatives. See Rowand, Aaron for other impacts of unproductive, overpaid veterans.
Great attitude, poor numbers
What Ross was supposed to do: Compete for corner outfield spot. Hit consistently. Occasionally get into unconscious hot streaks for which he is known.
What Ross did: He never settled into a regular, productive role. He was injured off and on and had no sustained hot-streaks. There were fewer references to his childhood experiences as a rodeo clown. His run production (.238 BA, 12 HR, 47 RBI), while among best on club, did not justify $6.3 million contract.
Effects: Minimal. Another of numerous forgettable veteran outfielders. A strangely insignificant year from a player whose hot streak carried 2010 club to World Series.
Huff was unproductive and appeared unmotivated
What Huff was supposed to do: Mash. Provide middle-of-order power and productivity and be a clubhouse leader.
What Huff did: Mush. His offensive productivity declined in every key category. This was a major factor in the team's overall offensive woes. At times, he appeared strangely detached and passive. There was no evidence of any leadership on his part.
Effects: He proved to be among Brian Sabean's worst offseason personnel moves. The continued trust from his manager in face of his lackluster performance proved to be detrimental. His laissez-faire attitude was a constant annoyance to fans. He serves as a reminder to the risks of offering multi-year contracts.
Beleaguered Bochy appears ready for a rest
What Bochy was supposed to do: Guide club to another playoff appearance. Mix, match veteran position players while relying on pitching staff to win close, low-scoring games.
What Bochy did: Endured stupefying string of injuries to virtually all key regulars, two starting pitchers, closer, top set-up man and a key midseason trade acquisition. He compounded those challenges by stubbornly insisting on playing unproductive veterans while under-utilizing younger options. He often disdained opportunities to use small ball to spark offense.
Effects: Bochy's reliance on veterans exacerbated offensive shortcomings. His reluctance to use rookies delayed their development. Playing Eli Whiteside constantly also cost the club precious runs in several close losses.
Equity about evaporated, Sabean will have to show more ingenuity in 2012
What Sabean was supposed to do: Provide Bochy with passable position-player options to complement exceptionally gifted, deep pitching staff. Give the club a realistic chance to return to playoffs. Leverage the organization's precious window of opportunity to compete for World Series titles.
What Sabean did: He gave a two-year deal to Huff despite his history of letdowns after big seasons. He signed Tejada despite the evidence that he could no longer play shortstop. He didn't deal for catching help after Posey's injury.
Effects: The cumulative effects of prior bad deals (Zito, Rowand) plus the addition of veterans created aging, creaky roster with limited financial flexibility. Sabean failed to provide adequate support to stellar pitching staff.