I understand that some folks are recluctant to give Brian Sabean credit for trading Bengie Molina. Sabean did re-sign him in the first place. It’s hard to get a medal for crawling to an emergency room after you crush yourself by tipping over a vending machine. It doesn’t matter that you paid for those chips and the vending machine was oppressing you. You just aren’t going to get a lot of credit. I’ve seen it happen.
But of all the moves that put the Giants in a position to win the division, only one was completely and totally unexpected. While the performances of Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff have been unexpectedly amazing, it’s not as if it was a surprise that the Giants acquired them at all. The trade of Bengie Molina was shocking, absolutely shocking. He was supposed to be a middle-of-the-order run producer, a pitcher whisperer, a game-calling master, a clubhouse leader, and a legendary clutch hitter all in one. He was supposed to be a Swiss Army Knife of winning, except instead of the toothpick and tweezers, there was a spot for a couple of donuts.
Molina actually wasn’t quite that superlative. At all. His one mediocre skill, power, was gone, leaving him with a collection of skills that ranged from below-average to worst-in-baseball. He would still hit cleanup for no apparent reason. He would still play every day. The best catching prospect in baseball was playing first base to make room for Molina. It was all very impressive. And there was no way it was going to change in 2010.
Except it did. If the Giants needed offensive help, there was a simple way to find it. Move Huff from left back to first, move Buster Posey from first to catcher, and find a real left fielder. To do that, though, Brian Sabean would have to make a bold move. He’d have to trade the security blanket of the pitching staff. He’d have to trade him away because the manager wasn’t going to limit Molina’s time on his own. He’d have to admit that Molina just wasn’t going to add much to an offense in need.
He did it. There were a lot of season ticketholders who were probably baffled. The organization spent a lot of time expounding on the magic of veteran catchers, and they were just going to turn it over to...to...this rookie? The clubhouse must have been similarly confused. The pitching staff probably had to bite their collective tongue, as Molina was a respected catcher with whom they felt comfortable. It wasn’t as easy of a move as a lot us would like to believe.
Molina gone. Posey at catcher. Pat Burrell signed. Giants in first place in September. Give or take away the credit tokens as you see fit, but Sabean deserves at least a little credit for correcting his own mistake. As trades go, this was a reverse-McGriff. It just might put the Giants in the playoffs.
Here’s the part where you complain that if Posey were starting at catcher since April, the Giants would be up by four games. You might have a point, but there’s a very simple rebuttal to this point. You see, the Giants wouldn’t have been better off if Posey were starting the whole season because