Here is a link to my column from Monday’s World Series media day. The full text runs below:
KANSAS CITY, Mo.
As the first game of the World Series looms, here is a simple question: Who is a real Giant?
Is Matt Cain a real Giant? Is Marco Scutaro? Is Angel Pagan?
It’s a vague question, I admit. So, I’ll lay out my terms. A true Giant is a player who gets off his butt.
Gets off his butt for what?
Gets off his butt to be in Kansas City for the World Series. That’s what.
Let’s take this case by case, starting with Cain. The Giants held a media period Monday afternoon. All the players sat at tables. Behind the tables were name cards so, if a writer didn’t know Tim Lincecum from Buster Posey, the writer could get help.
Sitting at his own table was Cain. He wore a Giants cap and a smile on his face. He attended the media session even though he is not on the Giants’ active roster. He is a mainstay of the starting rotation. Well, he was a mainstay, but elbow surgery ended his season at the halfway point. But he is here.
He spoke about the feeling of watching games without getting into games: “My heart rate’s been getting up and I’m not even a part of it. (I’m) trying to think along with the guys, what they’re throwing. We’re sitting there trying to play out scenarios, trying to tell each other what’s going to happen. You turn into just a big fan base trying to cheer guys on.”
I asked Cain how many playoff trips he’s made with the Giants this postseason.
“I missed the first road trip to Pittsburgh and then up into Washington. I had ankle surgery. Other than that, I’ve been around.”
Why has he been around?
“Just trying to be a part of the team. I’ve always wanted to be that. I know, if something ever were to happen, I want to be around. If guys want support, want to talk about things, just to be a good guy, in a way. This is something we’ve all been a part of. I want to be around the guys.”
Let’s get this straight. Even though he had ankle surgery, Cain traveled with the Giants to St. Louis. He was at AT&T Park when the Giants clinched the pennant, got sprayed with champagne. He is here now.
Where are Scutaro and Pagan?
Have they traveled with the Giants on any postgame road trips?
Have they shown up at AT&T Park for any postseason games?
Are they real Giants?
You tell me.
The Scutaro Case: Scutaro had his iconic moment, catching that pop fly in the rain in San Francisco in 2012 to win the Championship Series over the Cardinals. But he never was part of the team this season, played only five games because he was injured. You can understand why he has been absent in the postseason, even though the team is paying him $6 million this season and will pay another $6 million next season.
For a cool $12 million, he could have gotten off his butt. It’s not even clear he will be a Giant next season. The Giants certainly do not need him. Joe Panik is a revelation at second base and he will be the Giants’ second baseman for a decade. He is young and healthy, and Scutaro is old — 39 next season — and he is damaged goods. At one point this season, a writer asked Bochy where Scutaro was. Bochy looked perplexed. Bochy said he thought Scutaro was in Miami, but he wasn’t sure.
The tie between the Giants and Scutaro does not seem strong.
The Pagan Case: Pagan left the team in September for back surgery. His injury was legitimate. In 2013, he played only 71 games for the Giants. Bad hamstring.
At the very least, he is not durable. He will be 33 on opening day next season and the Giants, who are paying him nine big ones this season, will owe him another nine mil next season and 10 mil the year after that.
With all those mils, he couldn’t buy a plane ticket to San Francisco or Pittsburgh or Washington, D.C., or Kansas City? Call me crazy, but this demonstrates a lack of interest on his part. Compare his no-show to Cain’s show. Compare his minimum connection with his teammates to Cain’s inviolate connection. Just compare.
The players on the Giants are not thinking about Pagan right now. They have a minute focus — the World Series — and he doesn’t qualify for that focus. Not his fault. Some in the organization believe he needs to feel nearly perfect to play well, that he has a low threshold of discomfort. I am not taking away from his injuries.
The players and the organization notice he’s not here. Tim Lincecum is enduring humiliation just by being here. Cain is enduring the pain of not playing, and he’s here. Pagan is enduring nothing, putting himself forward for nothing. It is a very bad look. It’s not how a teammate acts.
The Giants’ team is changing. Cain, Scutaro and Pagan are the changing parts. Cain is the highest-paid Giant — he has a six-year deal for $127.5 million. He won two games before his surgery. The Giants paid him lots of money for two wins. He needs to regain his status in the starting rotation. He won’t be No. 1. That’s Madison Bumgarner. How does he fit with Jake Peavy — if he returns — and Tim Hudson and Yusmeiro Petit and even Lincecum? Things are changing.
Don’t be surprised if the Giants pay off Scutaro and wish him a good life. I do not see a role for him on the Giants next season.
What about Pagan? This is where things get interesting. Gregor Blanco is making the fans, making the team forget about Pagan. For now. Blanco is playing well — he’s even begun to hit. He is a superior fielder to Pagan. Don’t even argue that point.
Pagan’s routes to fly balls are sometimes grotesque and, too often, he recklessly lets balls get past him. Blanco catches everything in that oversized glove as big as a mattress. His routes to balls are perfect. He does not hit as well as Pagan, not nearly. And he is not a 162-game guy — not that Pagan is, either. Blanco goes hot and cold. You use him hot. You ask him to bunt. You insert him for defense. You use him to spell Pagan.
Pagan is more likely than Blanco to get the Giants to the postseason — although that statement is debatable. Blanco is as likely as Pagan to do well in the postseason. So, sure, if Pagan is healthy and if Pagan is serious and if Pagan is committed, he is vitally important to the Giants.
But, he didn’t get his butt to K.C. I asked Bruce Bochy about that. Bochy said he received a text from Pagan a few weeks ago. Pagan texted he’d see Bochy in San Francisco if the Giants get into the World Series.
Spring for the ticket, Angel.