The Giants didn’t make a roster change from the NLDS to the NLCS, and while I figured Aaron Rowand and Guillermo Mota would be replaced, I’m not especially surprised. While Dan Runzler would give the Giants another lefty out of the pen, Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean couldn’t get out of their minds the image of Mota throwing 3 perfect innings in the series against the Padres in the final series of the regular season. That image, and Mota’s playoff experience, kept him on this roster.
Ask Giants fans what image they have of Rowand, and you’ll get a lot of things — not many of them positive. Squatting at the plate in a, well, compromising fashion. Swinging at countless sliders in the dirt, and choosing to swing at pitches before they’re even thrown with limited success.
Rowand is not a good hitter, relatively speaking, but we’re probably missing the point here. Every one of Bochy’s moves in the NLDS were more about pitching and defense than anything else, and besides Andres Torres, Rowand is the only true centerfielder on the team. And as valuable as the guy was during the regular season, the Giants have to prepare for Torres getting hurt.
They also have to prepare for Torres being unable to hit. Out of 17 plate appearances, Torres got on base 3 times (2 singles and a walk) against the Braves, striking out 6 times and getting caught stealing twice in 3 attempts. Small sample size? Clearly. But if the Giants are having trouble scoring runs and Torres goes 0-for-8 in Games 1 and 2, Bochy might be tempted to give Rowand a shot at redemption.
Zito won’t get that shot this season, and now it’s impossible to ignore the chance that Zito’s horrendous start two weeks ago against the Padres was the last time we’ll see him in a Giants uniform. Forget humbling for Zito, who collects paychecks that feature take-home pay of about a million dollars every two weeks during the regular season. It’s humbling for Giants management that the Zito signing is officially a failure. Peter Magowan isn’t around anymore to shoulder the blame, so that blame spreads to the rest of the organization. And as we’ve seen many times before (Shawn Estes, Joe Nathan, Armando Benitez, Fred Lewis, Kevin Frandsen), Sabean will get rid of a player in anger. The only thing saving Zito’s chances of staying here is that unlike the guys I just mentioned, Zito hasn’t gone to the press and complained, and save for the time Krukow may or may not have called him a clown, hasn’t shown up his manager.
But all this is too much negativity to focus on right now, even for Giants fans. How can I focus on what’s wrong after walking past an orange City Hall last night? The Giants are less than five hours away from playing in their first NLCS game in 8 years, in a series where they have nothing to lose. Tim Lincecum’s no longer a playoff virgin. Same with Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Cody Ross or Brian Wilson. While I’ve reached my breaking point with Pablo Sandoval, the idea of him coming through with an extra-base hit in a tough spot isn’t impossible to imagine.
The pressure’s on Philadelphia, with the Giants not only underdogs, but the team with a younger core and a brighter future. The Phillies started breaking down this year due to a combination of age and extra-long seasons, Jayson Werth is on his way to getting overpaid this off-season and 7 of the 11 pitchers on their roster are over 30 (compared to 4 of the Giants’ 11, all of them relievers). Optimism abounds, and why shouldn’t it? A San Francisco-esque harsh wind looks to be blowing out tonight, and this season has been so much fun it’s impossible not to hope that a certain diminutive centerfielder will keep Rowand on the bench with a fly ball to right-center that keeps carrying, and carrying…