The Giants have designated Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada for assignment, good moves in both cases.
Aaron Rowand had some good moments for the Giants, including his great 9th-inning catch to save Jonathan Sanchez’ no-hitter, and some nice Opening Day heroics. But each season was worse than the last, no surprise since Rowand was 30 in his first year with the club. He was an example of the kinds of mistakes the Giants used to make before their World Series title transformed Brian Sabean from idiot to savant. Rowand was coming off of his best season, making the All-Star game and winning a Gold Glove, both for the first time. His previous two years hadn’t gone well, and a reasonable evaluation of Rowand in the 2007 off-season was that he’d make a solid 4th outfielder for a couple of years.
So the Giants gave him a 5-year deal worth close to $60 million.
I don’t blame Rowand for signing that contract. Which of us would turn down $60 million to play baseball? He had a reputation for playing hard, and he maintained that reputation with the Giants. His frustration likely grew as his playing time lessened, but, whatever went on behind the scenes, he was careful not to go public with his dissatisfaction. But as time went on, he was no longer even a 4th outfielder … he was a 5th outfielder. He wasn’t needed, and was taking up a roster spot better filled by others. The Giants still owe him the remainder of this year’s contract (around $2 million) and $12 million for next year. But they owe him that money whether he’s on the roster or not, so it is best to let him go. The mistake was made four years ago; the blame lies at Brian Sabean’s doorstep.
Miguel Tejada had precious few good moments for the Giants. At his best, Tejada was a much better player than Rowand, a perennial MVP candidate who won the award with the A’s in 2002, playing in every game at SS, hitting .308 with 34 HR. In fact, Tejada played in every game for six straight seasons. Two years after his MVP season, he went to Baltimore and led the league with 150 RBI. As late as 2009 with Houston, Tejada hit .313, made the All-Star team, and led the league with 46 doubles.
Last year, though, a return to Baltimore didn’t go well. Tejada looked like the 36-year-old he was. No longer at SS, he moved to third base. In mid-season, he was traded to the Padres for their failed pennant drive, and he looked better, moving back to short and hitting reasonably well.
The Giants needed a SS for the 2011 season, and as I recall, the options were limited. The primary shortstops on their championship team were Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria, the hero of the World Series. Renteria’s two-year stint with the Giants had been disappointing, due partly to injuries, although he’ll forever be thanked for those Series’ home runs. The Giants had paid him $18 million for those two years, and, finally learning their lesson, they weren’t going to offer Edgar that kind of money a second time. He signed with Cincy, where he is struggling. Uribe had a couple of good seasons for San Francisco, but he wanted a bit more money and a bit longer contract than the team was willing to give up. The Dodgers signed him for 3 years and $21 million … so far this season, he is hitting .204 for them.
So, the Giants were smart to avoid those two. Brandon Crawford has a nice glove, but he’d only managed a .236 average in Hi-A/AA last year. Given 50 games to prove himself in 2011 for the Giants, he showed that nice glove, but hit .190 before he was sent back to the minors.
I may be forgetting some free agent they could have had. But, given the lack of options, I don’t know that one year of Tejada at $6.5 million was all that bad an idea. It didn’t work out well, but that’s hindsight.
So we’re left with Rowand, who gave us a few good memories (and far too many looks at that awful batting stance) but who was a bad signing from the beginning, and Tejada, who gave us few good memories and hit better than Crawford or late arrival Orlando Cabrera, but who also likely sealed his fate with his prideful, me-first attitude when asked to bunt a few days ago. Both are gone now, for good reason.
Tonight is the final episode of the Showtime reality series about the team, and whatever the quality of the show, one thing it accomplishes is turning big-stage athletes into regular people. Watching the show, it is hard to get mad at underperforming players … you can see how hard they are trying to recover their lost talents, can see them with their families, with each other, and suddenly it doesn’t feel as good ripping the Rowands and the Tejadas. And I’m not trying to rip them, now. But, particularly in the case of Rowand, I hope the Giants’ braintrust has learned something about handing five-year deals to average outfielders in their 30s.