When the Giants set their 25-man roster for the regular season Wednesday, it marked a welcome shift in philosophy of which we first caught a glimpse during that magical run to glory in 2010.
It was just as dramatic and emphatic back then, but as we found out in the disappointment of 2011, it was temporary.
Will it stick this time? All signs suggest it will, and for that the franchise will be healthier than it’s been in a long time.
The philosophical shift? Trusting youth. Putting the here, now and future — performance and potential — over the past, status and contracts.
In 2010, we saw it in the club’s anchoring to the bench of Aaron Rowand and Pablo Sandoval late in the season, then keeping Barry Zito off the playoff roster. Rowand and Zito were highly paid, underperforming 30-somethings, Sandoval the lovable Kung Fu Panda providing no love at the plate and no glove on the hot corner.
The Giants have long had a difficult time making the difficult decision to sit veterans with big contracts and fan favorites, particularly the former subset, and particularly during the time manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean have been working together. But with time running out on their pursuit of the San Diego Padres and a postseason berth, they bit the bullet and went with whomever was producing.
Worked like a charm, too. Obviously. You’d think they’ve have carried that mindset over into the title defense. But having given Aubrey Huff a $22 million reward for his role in winning those rings, they couldn’t bring themselves to go back to the hit-or-sit approach when it was clear that his early season struggles were likely to last all season.
They did it with Rowand, eventually releasing him, as well as Miguel Tejada, but they just couldn’t pull the trigger on Huff. Or on the mound with Zito, though his injury issues took them off the hook to a degree.
Well, Wednesday’s decision to keep 22-year-old backup catcher Hector Sanchez and give Huff’s starting job at first base to 23-year-old Brandon Belt, as well as giving jobs to unheralded outfielder Gregor Blanco, reliever Dan Otero and infielder Brett Pill, appeared to show that the team is going with the best players right now, regardless of age.
They showed it to a degree even before camp started by making Brandon Crawford their shortstop, too.
Now, might all of this change over the course of the year? Sure. But it looks like the only thing that will change it is the one that should: what happens between the lines. Not contracts. Not veteran cache. It’s going to be simple, and as sensible as possible, and it’s something by which they should govern themselves from here on out but never quite have.
Get the job done and you get the job. No matter who you are.
STAY OUT: If Gregg Williams coaches in the NFL again, it’ll be one of the biggest black eyes in league history — no pun intended. The audio that got out of him discussing specific injuries he wanted his players to inflict on specific members of the 49ers was nothing short of
In fact, it should rekindle a notion that seemed dismissed when it was first broached, that perhaps criminal charges would eventually be brought into play.
Why would they not be? Because football is a violent sport and players know for what they signed up?
Save it. Nobody signed up for a middle-age man telling absolutely huge, strong, violent men to target body parts in an effort to disable — and to offer payment for it.
If that’s not a crime, what is? And it’ll be a crime if Williams doesn’t pay the price most still prices imaginable.
Mychael Urban, a frequent co-host of The Wheelhouse (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) on 95.7 FM The Game, can be followed on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.