In the grand scheme of things this doesn't bother me at all, and from a Giants fan perspective I won't complain about it for the simple fact that I resolved after the World Series last year that I wouldn't complain about anything Giants-related for a decade at least. As far as I'm concerned we're playing with house money and they could go 0-1,620 for the next decade and I won't lose any sleep at night.
Whether it's the right move from a baseball standpoint remains to be seen.
What is clear, at least to me, is that this feels like a mistake. It feels like the Giants did Ishikawa wrong, and I feel bad for him personally and am worried for the organization and its fanbase karmically. To me, the Ishikawa decision is a bad omen and the sign of a dangerous mentality.
I'll explain after the jump...
First the fan perspective, because we are us and they are them.
I read Twitter accounts and game recaps all spring long about how the fans in Scottsdale were booing guys like Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito. The news disappointed me greatly. It reminded me of the 2005 Boston Red Sox. I remember clearly the 2004 postseason. Those fans, filled with angst and feeling incredibly tortured, just like we were last October, hoping and praying for a miracle against the Yankees, dreading every pitch of the game and watching through covered eyes, barely being able to bare being at the game (maybe due to the uncomfortable Fenway seats, HEY-O).
When their guys managed to pull off the unthinkable, not just making the comeback from 3-0 down against the Yankees but also following that up with an easy four game dismissal of the Cardinals, I remember the celebration. Their 86-year curse was over and grown men were openly weeping, holding signs about finally being able to die in peace. Their victory not only brought relief to millions of New England souls, but it launched a cottage industry that spawned at least 20 different books about that team, DVDs, all sorts of merchandise, etc. All of a sudden the "Sawx" were everyone's favorite team (or at least their second favorite) and there weren't enough seats on their bandwagon. Bill Simmons, who of course released his own book after that year, felt almost bittersweet about what their championship wrought, complaining bitterly about all the people he'd see on the streets in Los Angeles with brand new Boston caps, and pink ones for the women and girls.
There's nothing new on the surface about having new fans, and it's what every organization wants. However, what couldn't have been predicted was that along with those new fans came added expectations. All of a sudden those same season-ticket holders who would've given their left arms for just one championship weren't satisfied with only one. The very same people who were hailing that 2004 team as heroes were lustily booing Keith Foulke and Mark Bellhorn a few months later, and these guys were far bigger contributors to that Boston team both in the regular season and playoffs than Zito, Rowand or Ishikawa were for us. Honestly, you think what B-Weezy did last October was impressive? Check out Foulke's work in October of 2004 and think about the fact that he did it with a "fastball" not much better than Zito's.
I remember watching the Sox a bit during that 2005 year and I couldn't believe hearing those boos. It disgusted me to my core to the point that I felt dirty myself. Right then and there I told myself I was ending any association to the Sox and I would no longer have "an AL team." I'd root for the Giants and the Giants only and that other league would be a complete mystery to me save for the All-Star game and the postseason. A lot easier that way actually, big time-saver.
I really, REALLY, don't want what happened to Red Sox fans to happen to us. Those people are absolutely no different than Yankees fans now. Greedy, entitled, whiny, arrogant pigs, basically. They think postseason baseball isn't just some gift but their birthright. They think that their only competition is the Yankees and that the rest of the teams in the AL exist to be their de-facto farm system and to fill out the schedule. They demand that their ownership spend and spend and spend, wanting winners at all cost. Their fans, both transplants and bandwagoners, take over road games at Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Oakland, Toronto, and probably a few other cities I'm omitting.
Do you really want that to be us? Pat Riley talks about champion teams falling victim to "the disease of more," but does it have to happen to the fans too? It's already well underway, by the looks of it. We've taken over every stadium in the division except for LA's, and I would expect more support now in New York, Pittsburgh, Houston and Florida. The bandwagon will be full and there will be expectations.
But booing Zito and Rowand will still be disgusting and unseemly.
Not to sound like Bruce Jenkins here (he actually called me a cocky little shit in an email once, a decade ago), but Zito, Rowand, Ishikawa and Schierholtz all made more contributions to that 2010 team than their stats suggest. No matter how much he struggled after the All-Star break, Zito kept the Giants afloat the first two months, as he was their best pitcher in April and May. Rowand won us games against Atlanta, at Florida and at New York and a had a couple of big hits in the playoffs vs. Philly and Texas. Schierholtz won us an extra-inning game against Arizona late in the year and made countless contributions with his defense in right field late in games and as a spot starter. Ishikawa helped us break a 7-game losing streak by hitting a granny against Ubaldo Jimenez and drew a key walk to start a rally at Atlanta in game 3 of the LDS.
All these guys were legit members of that 2010 team that did something that all the San Francisco Giants teams before them could not, and they should never, ever be booed, in my opinion. Not this year, not any year. By doing so, not only do you establish yourself as an ungrateful lout of a fan with poor perspective, but odds are strong you're also an ass.
And please spare me the argument that pro sports are a meritocracy and a business and not a place for sentiment. Of course sentiment has a place in sports. Without sentiment, sports is just exercise. If sentiment doesn't matter, why even have a ring ceremony on opening day? Why even give out rings or for that matter why even keep score? Why should the players and the fans care about the results of their at-bats and pitches if none of it matters? If the 2010 Giants don't make you sentimental, then you've missed the whole point. You're not seeing the forest for the trees.
Honestly, if there's one thing I dislike about the age we live in, with message boards and blogs and all the advanced statistics (not blaming them, just saying they play a part in this), it's that now every sports fan on the internet, seems to relish playing general manager, and not just the usual "get rid of that bum" way, but in that robotic, detached, unsentimental fantasy-baseball way where the people in the jerseys truly don't matter, their past accomplishments don't register and they're all just baseball cards in uniforms. This new-school fan wants to take all the emotion and sentiment out of the game and is obsessed about building the best possible roster for the next day, the next year, always wanting to build the Yankees of the 50's or late 90's.
I don't like it and I think it diminishes what it is to truly be a fan, which is to watch the games and to build relationships, however fake and one-sided, with their players and teams. Theo Epstein and Brian Sabean do what they do because it's their job. They're well compensated for it. We shouldn't necessarily strive for their burden and I think we'd be better off, especially coming off a championship season, if we just sat back, and in the words of Jeff Kent, "enjoyed the game more."
I don't care if you call me a sentimental fool, I absolutely think it's wrong that Ishikawa won't get his day in the sun on Opening Day, wearing a Giants uniform as he gets his ring. It was one thing for the team to lose Uribe and Renteria, their contracts were up and free agency is inevitable in sports. But did they really have to promote Belt right away? Couldn't they have waited a couple weeks? It would've made sense from a financial standpoint because of his arbitration clock and from a common sense standpoint. What's wrong with letting the kid prove he can rake AAA for a month and letting Ishikawa enjoy some at bats and some cheers at AT&T?
Furthermore, I don't think Belt deserves to be on that opening day lineup. It's just wrong. Those nine guys who take the field to defend their title for that first road and home game should be guys who contributed to that 2010 title. It should be the defending champions, just to make a statement. What is Belt defending? He didn't win squat. For that same reason I'd start Fontenot over Tejada on opening day, but that's just me.
Belt doesn't need the pressure of having to perform right away for the defending champs anyway. You know, the Giants have been extraordinarily lucky that all their hyped prospects of late have been spectacular successes, from Cain to Lincecum to Posey to Bumgarner. Eventually the law of averages has to catch up to them, right? Who's to say that Belt won't be the Cinderella that turns into a pumpkin, or at the least into J.R. Phillips? Aren't we due for one of those? I hope I'm wrong about the kid and he turns into a superstar, but I have a bad feeling about making him an opening day regular.
I know my sentiments won't be popular and I'll get razzed here, but what can I say, I'm a sentimental guy. I waited a long time for these guys to win one, and I'm not about to forget it easily. I just want the fans and the organization itself to have the proper respect for that team. I don't want us to turn into the Yankees, the Red Sox or the Phillies. It's good for the standings, but bad for the soul.
Finally, if the organization is truly a meritocracy and just cares about winning, then when Ross comes off the DL they better release Rowand instead of Schierholtz. If they keep Rowand instead just because of his contract I'll be so pissed I'll burn the stadium down.