If the Giants fall short (just somewhat likely) or Buster Posey doesn't win the Rookie of the Year Award (quite likely), a fair number of people (including me) are never going to forget that Posey didn't join the Giants this season until almost June. But why wait? Murray Chass is already ready to rip management for the delay:
- Immersed in a fight with two other teams for the division title and with three teams for the wild-card spot, the San Francisco Giants just might wish they had forgotten about Buster Posey’s free agency six or seven years hence and made this season their priority.
Instead of calling up the talented Posey earlier than they did, the Giants left the catcher in the minors because they were playing the game clubs love to play to manipulate players’ major league service time and delay their eligibility for salary arbitration and free agency.
From the day he arrived in San Francisco (May 29), Posey has been an offensive force and an all-round valuable member of the team and surely could have helped the Giants win another game or three or four, the games he couldn’t help them win because he was in the minors.
When I wrote about this issue earlier this season, citing Posey as the central example of the clubs’ legal but dubious practice, Giants’ fans responded in nearly one voice. They supported the Giants because what they did insured that Posey would be with the team an extra year, and they preferred that year to a handful of games this season.
My point, which remains my point, is that if and when a team has a chance to win, that is, get to the post-season, it should do what it can to get there. Not that I have surveyed most baseball people, the types who work in front offices and are responsible for building teams, but based on conversations I have had, I believe that most subscribe to the practice that when the playoffs might be in sight, don’t blink.
By not using these good young players when they could have, I suggested, teams were undermining the integrity of baseball by not doing everything they could to win.
He's got a point, and I'm generally sympathetic to arguments about the integrity of baseball. Shoot, I'm the guy who thinks players who feign injuries should be suspended, and managers who are ejected shouldn't be allowed to manage from the tunnel behind the clubhouse.
When it comes to doing everything you can to win, though, I'm not sure where to draw the line. Teams, even contending teams, do sometimes take short-term hits in the interest of long-term benefits. Most obviously, young pitchers have their workloads limited in the interest of future health. Do you think the teams are doing that because they're overly concerned about the welfare of the pitchers themselves?
Well, maybe a little. Mostly, though, they're doing that because they want to get five or six good years out of their young pitchers rahter than just one or two. Will they make some allowances if they're in the pennant race? Sure. But not until they know they're in the pennant race.
Let's say that the Giants wind up saving $5 million because they've delayed Posey's free agency by one season. Do you just chuck that $5 million in April or May, because you'll win one or two more games and those games will make the difference between going to the playoffs and not going to the playoffs?
I don't know. I don't think there's really a right answer here. It's a complicated calculus that general managers must perform, nearly every day for six months.
The funny thing is, I think in this case Brian Sabean actually didn't trust Posey to take over behind the plate. If the whole point was to delay Posey's free agency and save a few million dollars somewhere down the line, why bring back Bengie Molina for $4.5 million? If the whole point was to save money, why didn't Posey take over behind the plate until July?
I think it's fair to question the Giants' integrity. But if they don't win, I suspect the problem won't have been their integrity, but rather their judgment.