The election has been held. We have the results. It turns out that the player we will complain about all year, the player who will get absolutely no slack in any capacity, the player who will get blamed for everything, even if that's completely unfair, will be Ehire Adrianza. If it's anticlimactic, it's probably because the Giants are doing something right.
Every team needs a scapegoat. Or, rather, every team will have a scapegoat, whether it's needed or not. If a struggling player doesn't exist, fans will invent one. There's probably still someone on Twitter, right now, yelling about bringing back Gary Brown so he can make the roster over Gregor Blanco, who was the reason the Giants lost 102 games back in 2014. Adrianza is almost certainly going to be that player until he's off the team or hitting .300.
Don't believe me? Here's a poll with over 3,100 respondents -- more than two-thirds! -- suggesting the Giants should cut Adrianza immediately. As usual, Facebook commenters were ready with opinions.
Adrianza? Man that guy just won't leave
Adrianza is Benard... Benard is Adrianza.
Ehire Adrianza is Emmanuel Burris with the exception of being higher on an alphabetical chart.
Dammit. Adrianza-he must have drit on the giants
Right, right. Good points, all.
So allow me to make a half-hearted defense of Adrianza. I'll start by agreeing with a few things.
- Adrianza looked lost at times last year, like someone who learned how to play baseball from a book he found on the airplane seat next to him.
- He probably isn't one of the best 45 shortstops in professional baseball, and that's being very generous
- If it's extra innings and Adrianza is coming up to the plate in a tie game, I'm probably mumbling naughty words.
All true. At the same time, he has an actual skill: He can field the shortstop position. Whether he's merely average or a true defensive asset is a matter of debate. The scouts said he was a wizard before he arrived, but we haven't seen anything to convince us of that. He's probably pretty okay with the glove.
Adrianza has a skill that's at least average, then. Contrast that with Joaquin Arias, for example, who was a contributor for two Giants championships, and grateful we are for that. But he was kind of a zero-tool player unless you count "sure hands" as the most important defensive tool for a middle infielder, which you shouldn't. Adrianza can at least do something right.
The most important point to remember, though, is this: Every team has an Adrianza. Every team has a player with just one skill, a player who will eternally live on the fringes of the roster. Charlie Culberson might make the Dodgers' roster, for example. That's the most expensive team in baseball history, and they're going to use a player the Rockies didn't really bother to keep around. While I don't think I'm qualified or knowledgeable enough to count Culberson's tools, I'm pretty sure that I'd take Adrianza over him, based on minor-league stats and defensive reputations.
The 25th-man on every roster is someone with enough flaws to keep him from being the fifth man on a roster. If Adrianza could hit .250 with 15 homers, he would be a millionaire several times over. He can't -- yet! -- so he's the 25th man on a roster, and it's a gig that he's barely holding onto. While the Giants aren't going to monkey around with 13 pitchers for too long, I'll wager that Adrianza's job is still an open question until a) it's taken from him or b) he hits enough to convince the doubters.
That's the case with the last player on every bench. And it brings up the Ehire Adrianza Theorem, which we'll use from now on. It goes like this:
If a utility infielder is the biggest problem on a baseball team, that team is probably ridiculously talented.
There's still a chance that we'll all complain about Angel Pagan a lot louder, for instance. But if he's fine, if the speed is back and the defense is sound, fans will have to find another scapegoat, fairly or not. If that scapegoat is the utility infielder, everything is probably okay.
You can extend this theorem into your everyday life, really. If you spend your days worrying about spotty wifi, you are probably living a pretty sweet life! If you're incredibly mad that they stopped carrying your favorite foodstuff product at Safeway, everything sure is coming up roses for you otherwise! Look at you, just being able to walk into a store and get whatever foodstuffs you want.
If the Giants have a roster on which Adrianza stands out, it's because the other 11 position players are doing what they're supposed to. That's a good thing. That's a great thing. Maybe we should praise him for being the context and perspective our puny brains so desperately need. What we need to look out for are sentences that end with "and Adrianza sucks, too." That's a sign that something has gone horribly wrong.
For what it's worth, Adrianza isn't hated by the computers. Marcel has him at .236/.310/.350, which would make him solidly above replacement. ZiPS has him at a cool win above replacement, which would make him one of the better spare shortstops in the league. And if you don't trust computers, note that the scouts are still a little positive about him. My evidence for that assertion is this: The Giants didn't want to lose him.
No, Adrianza isn't a starting-caliber shortstop. No, you don't want to see him as a pinch-hitter in the late innings. No, the Giants don't have a single power threat on the bench, which is hard to do. And, yes, it's absurd that the Giants have 13 pitchers, even after you account for the rough spring from every starting pitcher.
But I'm not worrying about Adrianza. There's no point. If you're worrying about him, maybe stop and wonder if you're really worried about him, or if you're just really, really content with the other 24 players on the Giants' roster.
(I'd rather have Mac Williamson on the roster, don't get me wrong.)