A fun weekday game in the sun? Ha, try elsewhere. The San Francisco Giants are on the verge of losing their grip on first place in the NL West (more on that in my weekly column for SB Nation Bay Area that went up this morning, which also includes a look back at all KNBR vs. 95.7 craziness and the Raiders’ and 49ers’ early returns from free agency), and as a result everyone’s gripping. Hard. Suddenly the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that was earlier dismissed by many (including me) as a team without the pitching depth to compete, looks like the best team in the National League.
A win today will calm everyone down before the Phillies arrive for four, but a loss will send everyone over the edge. And one of the things that they’ll inevitably focus on, again, is just how bad Aubrey Huff’s been this season. And, again, they’ll wonder why for all the moves this team has made this season, why they seem to focus less on Huff’s lack of production than everyone who follows the team.
Nate Schierholtz’s recent slump couldn’t have come at a worse time, and it’s no shock that he’s sitting on the bench today. But Huff’s name is still penciled in, even though besides a “meaningless” solo homer on Monday night in the Giants’ 5-2 loss, he offers absolutely nothing to the team right now: a running style that makes him look like he’s using his arms to pull his stiff, pained body to the finish line; mediocre defense without the range to cover for the similarly slow Jeff Keppinger over at second base; so many grounders to second that it’s now a punchline.
The patience with Schierholtz wanes much easier, for obvious reasons. He wasn’t the team’s offensive MVP last season, Huff was (okay, maybe Andres Torres was actually the offensive MVP in 2010, but bear with me). Schierholtz also makes about $10.5 million less per season, on average. So does Brandon Belt, Huff’s logical replacement. But while Schierholtz gets a seat in the dugout during today’s edition of THE MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF THE SEASON, Huff’s punishment is a move one step further down in the batting order in favor of … Orlando Cabrera (yeesh).
With the Giants’ offensive struggles becoming more noticeable lately as the pitching has started to look somewhat human-like, I don’t blame Bochy for benching Schierholtz, who struck out three times for the second time in his last four games. But if the Giants fail today, and Huff comes up once again with runners in scoring position and strikes out looking or rolls another weak grounder to second or the pitcher, we NEED to see Huff sit for a while. Whether it’s to rest his back or his psyche, it doesn’t matter. The season’s over two-thirds over, and almost every player on the team is being held to a high standard. Even Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito, who long ago were shoved into the “sunk cost” bin, have paid for their futility with time on the bench or on the DL. There were some flimsy excuses the Giants could have used to keep trotting Huff out there over the first four months of the season, but now, with the Diamondbacks showing themselves to be every bit as challenging to fight off as the Padres were last year, Huff’s time has run out.