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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Final thoughts on the inelegant departure of Aaron Rowand

It was stunning to learn the exalted sense of self Aaron Rowand had for himself. For all the failure, all the signs of regression, all those cringe-worthy swings that produced weak pop ups and jam-job ground balls, Rowand believed he got a raw deal from the Giants.

Up to the moment that he was designated for assignment Wednesday, Rowand was agitating for more playing time. And when he learned that the Giants were finally severing ties despite the $12 million left on his contract, Rowand defiantly proclaimed he would catch on to a contending team.

I don't know if it's arrogance or denial that describes Rowand's mindset.

Here I'd thought that Boss Bochy had gone to extreme lengths to get Rowand in the lineup as much as he did, trying to squeeze whatever value he could out of that big investment his bosses had made in Rowand. Rowand should have been grateful for the playing time he did get.

I think the one thing that distinguished Rowand was the dread that fans would get when he hit a home run. It meant that he'd be stuck in the lineup for another three weeks. And just when he'd gone long enough to finally convince even the generous Bochy that he should be benched, Rowand would hit another home run. It was an endless cycle of mulligans.

So, I'd wrongly and naively assumed that Rowand was aware that his skills were in decline. I'd foolishly hoped that out of respect to the game, decency to the fans who have paid so much to watch him play, and perhaps even personal embarrassment, that he would retire.

He could have walked away with dignity and earned a legacy: he would forsake millions of dollars that he knew he didn't deserve. He would be the one ballplayer who gave back to the fans by not stealing them blind.

Well, that wasn't going to happen. Instead, Rowand had become a cancer in the Giants' clubhouse, complaining out loud about playing time. Did he not see his career-ending numbers piling up day after day -- you know, the ones that don't lie? He was 4-for-his-last-38, dropping to .233. But his negatives were in the tank long before the month of August rolled around. Since his nice start in April, when he hit .295, Rowand had settled into a full-service slump: he hit .211, with a .233 on base percentage and .309 slugging -- numbers that don't get you back in the lineup!

Granted, there were so many others with equally abysmal numbers. But this wasn't a trend that started just this year.

Here's how bad he was this year: As awful as he was last year -- remember, he was so useless, he'd been shoved to the back of the dugout while the rest of his team went on to win the World Series -- he was almost identically horrendous statistically this year.

Let me provide some numbers that will show you that it wasn't a momentary blip in an otherwise rosy scenario.

Last year, he hit .230 in 331 at bats. This year, he hit .233 in 331 at bats. He had one more hit this year (77) than last year, and 10 more doubles (22 to 12). But his home run power, already largely sapped, became almost nil: From 11 HRs, he dipped to four. His ability to draw a walk, already highly suspect, got even worse, dropping from 16 walks all last year to 10 this year (his on base percentage actually dropping from .281 to .274). He drove in 13 fewer runs than his paltry total of 34 last year.

But his decline went beyond the numbers.

Did he not watch video to see the horrid swing of his (never mind the obscene batting stance) that could not get around on a good fastball or guage a curve or change-up?

Perhaps the punishing dimensions of AT&T could be blamed for the drop in his power numbers. Well, he hit two home runs on the road and two at home; over the last three years combined, they were comparably bad: he hit 17 home runs at home and 22 on the road.

Those are numbers that a real power hitter achieves in a single year -- not over three years. And remember, the Giants brought Rowand into San Francisco as a middle of the order, power hitting outfielder.

Baseball is a humbling game, they say. But for all the humiliation, Rowand took his DFA with umbrage and pride, outraged at the idea that he wasn't up to snuff.

He had the audacity to suggest he expects to be picked up by a contending team. I would be surprised to see any team take him, even if they don't have to pay him a dime. Maybe then he'll get the message that he is through.


  1. Thanks, Steve, for your post. Your comments remind me of Walter Cronkite's closing statement,when he finished his daily news report: "and that's the way it is...."

    I appreciate your appraisal, in fact, I think you are quite generous in your assessment of Aaron.

    Let's see what happens now that the Giants face the D'backs.

  2. S- I believe your writing was strongest up to the point where you used the following past tense construction: "Rowand had become..." Then it sounds like you're writing a book about him, which I know you have no plans for! And the bashing, which I agree with, went on too long - especially now that the Giants are morphing to a wait-for-next-year-team, in my humble opinion. That is, even if they sweep this weekend, a sustained effort to the end of the regulation games is pretty unlikely, isn't it?

    I'll still watch all the games, if only to see what will happen for both vets and rookies.
    I like the team and I'm turned off by what's- his-face managing the Dbacks.
    And Upton? Apparently a very good hitter - but what a clank in the outfield. 33 errors this season? He's the Tinman.

  3. Thanks, guys. Hey, I just had to get that off my chest.

    I'm looking forward to the rest of the way; it feels almost like opening day again with a feeling of renewal. I'm not delusional, I can see the near impossible task ahead. But, I hope that the Giants can recapture the energy to at least give the Diamondbacks a challenge.

    It is probably too much to ask for a sweep; even winning two of three seems out of reach, given the differing trajectories. All it takes are a few breaks ...

  4. Great piece, Steve.

    A big part of me have a feeling that the season is over by now, but another part is still sitting anxious in the corner with the best fingers crossed for a sufficient row of wins. The whole me? Just happy to get rid of a fella like Rowand. Oh, the joy. No more weird squatting at bats!

    Best wishes from Scandinavia.