If anyone doubts that Giants lead-off batter and center fielder Andres Torres’ recent season-ending inflamed appendix might also be season-ending for the San Francisco Giants, they should consider Manager Bruce Bochy’s reaction. Bochy is a man who lives with veteran players and would prefer to die with veteran players. Just last Christmas, he wrote to the North Pole asking Santa for a veteran player, and he recently joined Facebook’s I-like-Veteran-Baseball-Players Group.
For validation of this assertion, just ask the range-deficient, anti-run-producing, AARP-ready Edgar Renteria, who, during his two year $19 million contract with the Giants, received 691 more at-bats than he should have (and, yes, Renteria has 691 Giant at bats to date). But Bochy loves the veterans. Just check with $12 million a year Giant Aaron Rowand, who had one great year with Philadelphia in 2007 (his free agency year), but who has been garden compost ever since. But Bochy dotes on the veterans: the grizzled manager batted Rowand lead-off most of last year, and into June of this year before grudgingly admitting Rowand’s .229 batting average and .282 OBP was absolutely killing the team.
(And Giants fans, remember to keep purchasing those season tickets, garlic fries, and $10 beers– the team owes Rowand $12 million in 2011, and another $12 million in 2012. So drink up.)
But the veteran-addicted Bruce Bochy recently did something remarkable in response to Aaron Rowand’s predictable 0-5 debut as Torres’ replacement in the leadoff spot Sunday September 12th, and veteran Cody Ross’ 1-4 effort in the same role on Tuesday September 14th: the next day he actually started rookie Triple A outfielder Eugenio Velez in left field (Ross played center) and batted Velez lead-off. Velez went 0 for 3 with a walk, but the Giants downed the Dodgers 2-1 and moved to a half game out of first place in the NL West.
Now don’t go selling your GM stock for Eugenio Velez baseball cards and memorabilia. Bochy made himself drive that psychedelic bus around the block once, and absent Velez going 5 for 5 with three runs scored and two stolen bases, expect to see the Rowand-Ross show from now until October 3rd. But the appearance of Velez at lead-off and Ross in center means the Giants skipper is willing to roll the dice to shake things up at a time when the Giants are not only driving for the NL West title, they are so close they can taste it.
This is also an opportunity to run the Cody Ross mobile around the block and see how it performs; Ross could very well be a starting outfielder on the 2011 Giants. As for Velez, he has been a confusing conundrum of contradictions the past two years: a speedy runner with a rocket throwing arm, clumsy on the bases at all the wrong times and known to flat out drop baseballs that badly want to land in his glove.
The configuration of Cody Ross in center field and Velez leading off is the best possible solution to the Torres problem, but a very smart baseball mind is currently running all SF Giant field operations. We’ll defer to Mr. Bochy’s wisdom as we sit back, ingest excessive adult beverages and, in the words of Pete Townshend, get on our knees and pray we don’t get fooled again…