Aaron Rowand has gone 85 at bats without walking. No reason to differentiate between plate appearances and at bats in Rowand’s case, because for him they mean the same thing. He’s also gone 58 at bats without homering and 37 at bats without an extra base hit. But still, when the San Francisco Giants face left-handed pitching, Rowand still has a better chance of being in the lineup than Brandon Belt.
#FreeBrandonBelt isn’t a unique hashtag (the Phillies have one called “#FreeDomBrown“). It’s the rallying cry du jour for veteran-afflicted baseball fans tired of seeing deserving young players buried by old money. Belt has been alternately freed and grounded (or “put on restriction” if you grew up in a family that used that term instead) all season long, and big brother Rowand, with his terrible plate approach and even worse batting stance, isn’t the only player in Belt’s way. But in terms of ceiling and past performance, Rowand’s the worst player who stands to keep Belt off the field.
It’s time for a new hashtag (I bet you knew this was coming): #JailAaronRowand. Not real jail, of course. Rowand can still wear a uniform and take a seat anywhere he likes in the dugout. He can lean up against the rail, sit on the bench or on that padded area above the bench with the heater. But he absolutely should not play, for any reason besides multiple injuries among the Giants’ outfielders, for the rest of the season.
Bruce Bochy gets too much grief sometimes for a guy who dominated the opposing manager in the last World Series, but his optimism regarding Rowand is enough to sap the same quality from anyone watching this team — anyone who isn’t still intoxicated by Rowand’s performance from April 2-17, at least. Cute as it may sound, “Keep Belt Awkward” isn’t something to be celebrated like a rally thong. If we keep drawing attention to Belt’s perceived wide-eyedness, the chances increase that Belt’s lack of gamertude will continue to make Bochy skittish when writing the lineup card, especially on those days when the Giants prepare to face someone who throws from the left side.
Whether or not Bochy worries about his demeanor or has other reasons for keeping Belt out of the lineup as often as he has, it’s time to provide a public solution to how Belt can get in the lineup. But #FreeBrandonBelt sounds too liberal, too much like a rally full of hippies who want to let Timmy smoke. Definitely not something that’s going to sway a 56-year-old manager. This isn’t a BART protest. It’s time to go hardline. Conservative. #JailAaronRowand.
It’s not like Rowand has any idea what he’s doing, or even wants to change. Why would someone with so little success over the past couple years not even think of changing their batting stance? Maybe experiment with one where, I don’t know, he doesn’t look like he’s taking a dump and/or waggling the bat in front of his junk (check the video) as if it’s an extension of his little gamer?
Whether or not the Chicago Sun-Times article about Rowand’s lack of chills when seeing San Francisco written across his chest was a non-story, it’s clear he isn’t happy here. It’s time to stop forcing the issue. He should only be an emergency player, or a platoon player with Cody Ross at best.
Until Carlos Beltran comes back, there’s no reason to keep Belt out of the lineup. Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff and Ross are ahead of Belt on Bochy’s depth chart? Stick Ross or Schierholtz in center. And when Beltran comes back, perhaps consider a permanent vacation for Ross, too. After all, Rowand’s walk-free slash line since the All-Star Break (.224/.224/.382) is actually better than how Ross has done (.155/.232./.291). Maybe it’s time for two new hashtags.