Brian Sabean and Giants ownership deserve credit for taking a serious financial hit to improve the team, as they designated Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand for assignment on the last day of August.
Now, as the Giants start a critical series against the Arizona Diamondbacks today, it is up to manager Bruce Bochy to use current performance in making playing decisions, not a player’s history.
Tejada’s dismissal is the least expensive and the most obvious. He was a mistake from the beginning as Sabean desperately tried to fill the shortstop hole left by the departure of Juan Uribe, but the Baltimore Orioles had earlier decided Tejada could no longer play shortstop, moving him to third, and the San Diego Padres had made the same decision after using him there late last season.
To make it worse, the fiery temperament that drove Tejada to greatness turned sour with the Giants, culminating in an ugly incident when he was ordered to bunt a runner along. He first reacted angrily to the sign, then jogged to first after laying down the bunt.
A .339 hitter can get away with that. A .239 hitter can’t. Tejada may as well have packed his bags after that.
Rowand was a different matter. The Giants greatly overrated his offensive ability — as I wrote at the time — when they signed him to a five-year, $60 million contract that runs through 2012.
His numbers were artificially boosted by playing in two home run parks for the Chicago White Sox and Phillies, and in the middle of a strong batting order in Philadelphia. With the Giants, where neither of those conditions existed, his production declined precipitously. He had hit .309 with 27 home runs in his final season with the Phillies. In his first two seasons with the Giants, he hit .271 and .261 and had a combined total of 28 home runs. When his decline continued last year, he lost his starting job to Andres Torres.
Now, Bochy faces another tough decision with Aubrey Huff. Because Huff was such an important factor on last year’s World Series champions, Sabean rewarded him with a two-year, $22 million contract that is looking more and more like a bad decision.
In common with almost every manager I’ve ever known, Bochy prefers to play veterans, and he’s stuck with Huff, who has had a mediocre year. But at this point, he has to realize he’s not going to get anything better from Huff so he has to play others — whether it’s another veteran, Mark DeRosa, or Brandon Belt, or the just-called-up Brett Pill.
There is room for sentiment in baseball, but not at the expense of trying to win. Rowand and Tejada were detriments to that, and so is Huff now.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.