Angel Pagan came into camp facing a lot of questions, mostly from the media. San Francisco Giants beat writers wanted to know if he was healthy, first and foremost. They wanted to know how he felt about the Giants signing Denard Span. Span was essentially signed to replace him in center field and at the leadoff spot in the lineup. They also wanted to know if he was going to accept the move to left field and down the batting order.
Pagan said all the right things to reporters today, saying “I don’t have any hard feelings. I want them to know I’m on board.” Pagan did admit “every player has pride, but you have to sit there and understand that at some point you have to make a move.” He even went so far as to suggest he could bat behind the game’s best hitting pitcher every fifth day.
Angel Pagan here and healthy and ready to go said he would hit anywhere in lineup even 9th to give SFG two lead off hitters when Bum pitches
— Marty Lurie (@baseballmarty) February 23, 2016
Some fans have wanted the Giants to make a change in center field for a long time. Pagan has struggled to stay healthy ever since he signed a new contract after the 2012 season, yet San Francisco’s manager Bruce Bochy kept giving him chances to prove he was healthy and prove he could perform at the level they expected of their center fielder. As Pagan’s production declined at the plate and in the field, the writing may have been on the wall for a change, but Bochy was going to give his player every chance he could to prove doubters wrong.
Some may look at Bochy’s patience as foolish, but this is why he has had so much success. All 25 guys in a Bruce Bochy clubhouse know where they stand and what their role is and what the team’s expectations are. Giving his veteran players more chances than fans may want could be one of the reasons they have missed the playoffs in three of the last six seasons, but it is also the reason they have won the World Series in three of the last six seasons.
Bochy has proven his format works and is the most effective way for him to get the best out of the 25 guys he’s been given. Whether he has the right 25 is an argument for another article, but there is no question this is how the Giants have won championships.
In 2010, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria were big money players at the end of their careers. There was talk of them not making the post-season roster at all. However, Bochy saw a need for both, and Renteria proved him right with a World Series MVP. One player who didn’t make the roster, however, was Barry Zito, the team’s highest paid player. Bochy chose to go with 20 year old Madison Bumgarner over Zito. Zito understood the move and handled it professionally. Zito knew he wasn’t one of the team’s top four pitchers heading into October, and also knew he had been given every chance that season to earn that job. That set the stage for every tough decision the team would have to make.
In 2012, Zito and Ryan Vogelsong had earned their spots in the rotation, but that meant Tim Lincecum, the team’s two time Cy Young award winner, would be coming out of the bullpen. Like Zito, Lincecum handled it professionally and was incredible during the post-season in middle relief. So were Zito and Vogelsong, who shined in the National League Championship series and World Series. Zito, having been demoted two years earlier, not only knew he deserved the starts he got in 2012, but he knew he had the full support of Bochy and the front office.
There are many more examples of Bochy letting his player’s play on the field determine their status, and not the opinions of anyone. All professional athletes want from their front office and their manager is to be told where they stand and given a chance. Bochy tells players what their role is, what the expectations for them are, and then backs it up by giving them a chance to prove it on the field.
Pagan comes into the 2016 season knowing he has been given many chances to regain his job in center field and atop the batting order. He knows the team signed Span because he didn’t meet expectations. He also is being given an opportunity to win the left field job because he can still be a part of this year’s team. And as we’ve seen many times before, we should get the best version of Pagan going forward as he tries to live up to his manager’s new expectations for him.