MLB Playoff Picture: Prospects' Performances Reveal Bochy's Errors
Even after their torrid streak over the past week and a half, the defending world champs face an uphill climb that requires a lot of help from other teams in the league if they want to reach the postseason for a second consecutive year.
With San Francisco 5.5 games behind the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, and 3.5 games behind the NL Wild Card-leading Atlanta Braves with just seven games to play, qualifying for the playoffs in 2011 is an improbable (though not impossible) proposition, to be sure.
This state of affairs, of course, begs the question: If Giants manager Bruce Bochy had played these young prospects back in August (when the Giants went 11-18 and first began digging the hole they presently find themselves in), would this club, even without injured stars Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez, be the one counting magic numbers?
Bochy's loyalty to veteran players like Aubrey Huff, and the manager's refusal to sit these vets despite season-long slumps, have been the source of immeasurable angst and frustration for the Giants faithful throughout the season.
Huff, in particular, has been perhaps the biggest disappointment for the team he helped lead to a world championship last season. His 2011 campaign has been ugly, as he is currently hitting just .247 with 12 home runs and 59 RBI. His on-base percentage is a dismal .308.
Would the Giants be on the verge of clinching a playoff berth if Bochy had played young prospects sooner?
The man that the Giants had starting at first base in place of Huff on Opening Day, rookie Brandon Belt, was heralded as the next Buster Posey. Brian Sabean made no bones about how he wouldn't treat Belt with kid gloves, but instead give him regular playing time just as he did with Posey in 2010, which led to unimaginable success.
But we all know the story of Brandon Belt in 2011: vacillating between Triple-A and the big leagues, fixing mechanics in his swing, breaking out with huge offensive contributions to the club and still not being made an everyday player until September.
The way Sabean and Bochy handled Belt this season is a microcosm of how the Giants have been managed as a team.
The realization that 2010 was special, but was also unique and impossible to replicate once Buster Posey was lost for the season on May 25, did not register soon enough with the decision-makers in the dugout. The result is a nearly-insurmountable deficit in the team's quest to once again reach the postseason and defend their World Series title.
If the Giants are able to get to the postseason following a monumental collapse by the clubs ahead of them, we all know how short baseball memories can be when extinguished by subsequent success.
But if the Giants do fall short this season, there will be no shortage of culprits to lay the blame upon, including an uncanny amount of injuries to key players. But the failures in stewardship and guidance of the club by Sabean and Bochy will undoubtedly loom large.
Sabean and Bochy would do well to acknowledge the importance of youthful energy as they begin thinking about 2012.
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