Giants 2010: Travis And Kevin
(originally written 3/29/10)
So, as I think I've established, Bud Bundy scored more than the 2009 SF Giants.
I'd like to talk a bit about Travis Ishikawa, who many fans seem to think is part of the problem.
When he debuted in 2006, Travis' level of preparedness to hit MLB pitching was on par with Mufasa's level of preparedness for charging hyenas.
For him, a ground ball to the 2nd baseman was something to build on.
He spent the next two seasons in AAA (hopefully NOT juicing) and when he returned, Ishikawa—as Gary Radnich of Giants flagship station KNBR likes to say—looked like somethin'. He was physically stronger and exuded confidence rather than uncertainty at the plate. He went into 2009 as the favorite to start at 1B for the Giants, provided Panda Sandoval could adequately man the hot corner, a position of much turnover since Matty Williams set sail for Cleveland 13 years ago.
But because Travis did not instantly become the NL's version of Carlos Pena (the Rays 1B whose career was practically over when he rose from the ashes into a 2008 MVP candidate), fans' patience wore thin. His honeymoon period after a huge RBI triple in the home opener expired faster than milk left out in the jungle. (I haven't actually TESTED milk's lasting power in the jungle but we can all assume it isn't very long, can't we?)
Personally, I have liked the majority of what I've seen from Ishikawa, save for his approach to sliders at his back foot. With consistent playing time and 100% backing from management, I think he could have had a 20-homer, 75-RBI season. Those numbers are on par with Bengie Molina's, and I don't see anybody benching him.
Of course, Bengie is very slow, so benching him last week may not take effect until next week.
I know that was a cheap shot, but so what.
Instead, Ishikawa was benched once Ryan Garko rode in to save the day—just as he was in the midst of a hot streak, no less! Travis had hit five home runs in his last 15 games, or something like that, when banished to the pine. I do understand why the Garko trade was made—on paper, he was a better option for a contending team—but the timing made little sense.
How did it work out? We benched a guy hitting .260 with a few home runs for a guy who hit .200 with no home runs for a long time.
We "upgraded" to less production.
Kind of like when George Costanza held out for less money from NBC.
The fans' expectations were insane, IMHO. Sure, Travis did not light the world on fire and was overmatched occasionally, but he wasn't terrible, and he WOULD have gotten better if anybody had faith in him. His glove brings back memories of one J.T. Snow, and he has a mechanically beautiful swing that can drive the ball to all fields. He just needed experience. Now, who knows where his career will go.
When you feel like you HAVE to get a hit in every spot or else you might not play again for a week—that kind of undue pressure can wreck a young player. Imagine the kind of pressure you would feel as a car salesman, for example. If you knew you HAD to sell five cars every day OR ELSE, your whole approach would be seriously affected. You would try too hard and in the end, you'd be WORSE off than if you'd just maintained your original approach.
You'd compliment people so often, they'd get creeped out and leave.
You wouldn't sell an air freshener!
Travis Ishikawa, to me, is the latest young Giant to have his career run into the ground by management (see Kevin Frandsen) hungry for instant impact and adverse to the actual development process. Now he won’t play for months. And he may never play in San Francisco again.
Remember how ordinary David Ortiz was his first few years as a Twin, folks.
As for Frandsen—the Achilles tear shot down his Giants career, because he would have made the team in 2008 and possibly (likely) been the starting SS while Omar Vizquel recuperated. He could have taken over 2B after Ray Durham was finally traded. Having spent parts of two seasons in the majors, he'd accumulated enough at-bats to adjust to MLB pitching. We could have judged him solely by his production rather than his relationship with management.
That didn't happen. He missed the whole year and failed to beat out Emmanuel Burriss in spring training for the second base job (We know there was more to that than anybody publicly said). His popularity and "local kid makes good" harmony mattered nil.
For so many years, Kevin had been labeled the second baseman of the future, just as soon as Ray Durham's legs finally exploded. As fate would have it, his OWN legs exploded first, and suddenly he had to EARN his keep. As 2009 wore on it became crystal clear Kevin's employers were not as high on him as the rest of the Bay Area—when Burriss was demoted, Matt Downs, a non-roster player with no MLB experience, was called up to take over second base.
The only way a message could have been sent any clearer would be if the team bus intentionally left for a road trip without him.
We don't know what goes on behind the scenes. We do know Frandsen chirped a bit to the media when he failed to make the team in the spring and failed to succeed Burriss. Who knows what else has gone on behind closed doors?
It is possible Frandsen developed a sense of entitlement and, like hundreds of young players before him, acted out when hit with the reality of his .105 average.
It is possible Bruce Bochy simply doesn't like Frandsen or respect his ability on the field.
It could well be Brian Sabean, upon demoting Burriss, was being held at gunpoint by gangsters who stood to benefit greatly off Matt Downs' success (less likely).
Both sides made mistakes in this relationship, but luckily Frandsen and Sabean don't share any children because this marriage was definitely headed for a split—one which finally occurred last week when Franny was dealt to Boston.
Travis, Kevin—we hardly knew ya.