Posted By Jeff Fletcher on February 8, 2009 9:14 pm
In the first year of his five-year, $60-million deal with the Giants, Aaron Rowand hit .271 with a .339 on-base percentage and 13 homers. His defense in center field was not up Gold Glove standards after winning the award with the Phillies in 2007.
You weren’t very satisfied with that, from the looks of my email inbox.
Neither was Rowand.
“I didn’t feel personally like it was a terrible season, but I didn’t feel I met my own expectations of what I know I can do,” Rowand told Bay Bridge Baseball on Friday. ”I’m coming into this season rejuvenated, ready to go, with the expectations of meeting those personal goals I have for myself.”
It’s no mystery what happened to Rowand last year. In fact, it was fairly predictable. First, he went from a hitters’ park to a pitchers’ park.
Rowand admitted that he underestimated the impact AT&T had on him: ”Everybody knows that it is not a hitter-friendly ballpark. It was obviously more (of an issue) than what I had anticipated, but everybody’s got to do the same thing. Everyone’s got to hit in the same ballpark. There are no excuses.”
Manager Bruce Bochy said that he is expecting Rowand, with a year of experience here, “to learn from the mistakes he made as far as hitting approach or defense or anything like that.”
Rowand said he’s still not lowering his offensive expectations because of the park, though: “I don’t see why I couldn’t put up numbers that I put up when I was in Philadelphia (.309, 27 homers in ’07). I have those types of expectations for myself.”
The other reason for Rowand’s down season was that he got hurt diving for a ball in the second game of the season. Former Phillies GM Pat Gillick publicly said one of the reasons the Phils didn’t re-sign Rowand was a fear that he’d hurt himself flying all over the field and into walls. While his batting average didn’t seem to suffer because of this particular injury — not until later, anyway – his defense did.
“One of the things that upset me the most about it was that for the first half of the season I wasn’t able to dive playing defense in the outfield,” he said. “That’s frustrating for a player like myself. There were balls I know I could have gotten to that I couldn’t get to because I couldn’t lay out and try to make the catch. I think that, more than anything else, weighed on me mentally, knowing I could have done a lot better job out there playing center field.”
(Rowand would probably also admit to an alarming number of ill-advised throws and missed cutoff men last year. In retrospect, it was probably him trying to find a way to compensate for an inability to do what he wanted with his glove.)
In the second half, his offense went the way of his defense: south. He hit .242 after the break, and .217 after Sept. 1. Bochy took some responsibility for this.
“The second half, I think he wore down a little bit,” Bochy said. “He’s not going to say it or admit it, but I feel like I wore him down. It’s going to be my job to keep him fresher and keep his legs. He gives you everything he’s got every day. With our outfield situation, I’ll have the luxury of giving these guys a few more days off and keeping them fresh.”
That probably means more lineups this season with Randy Winn in center and Nate Schierholtz in right.
While on the topic of the Giants outfield, I couldn’t help but ask Rowand if he and his teammates were buzzing with Manny Ramirez talk as much as the rest of us: “I don’t pay much attention to it, but you’d be an idiot to say having a guy like Manny on your team isn’t going to help you. You are not watching baseball very much if you say that, but none of us are sitting here waiting for something to happen.”
Rowand also said he’s keeping in touch with good buddy Joe Crede in hopes that they’ll be reunited with the Giants: “He’s a great player. He’s a Gold Glove (caliber) third baseman and he can swing the hell out of it.”