Freddy Sanchez was a super-likable presence during his time with the Pirates, coming in as a blocked Red Sox prospect, not getting a chance to play regularly in the majors until he turned 27, and ultimately willing himself into the Pirates’ lineup by outhitting Joe Randa then converting to second base and posting a string of reliably productive seasons. His oft-mentioned batting title in 2006 is one of the few tiny hooks the Pirates of the 2000s can hang their tiny hats on, and even when his production dipped in ’08, Sanchez remained extremely well-liked by the Pirates fanbase, and rebounded slightly in 2009 before being dealt to the Giants at the 2009 trade deadline, two months before his contract expired.
Sanchez overcame early injury problems in 2010 to post a decent season for the eventual NL West champs, and last night, in his first-ever World Series game, Sanchez went 4-for-5 with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored in the Giants’ 11-7 victory. It was a truly transcendent, feel-good night for fans of the terrific ballplayer and person that we loved in Pittsburgh, and seeing him finally get a chance to shine on baseball’s biggest stage was truly satisfying.
At least, that’s what I thought. Apparently, most of my friends who don’t follow the Pirates were absolutely outraged by Sanchez’s performance last night, and I slapped my forehead pink watching Facebook post after Facebook post appear that ripped on the Pirates for letting Freddy Sanchez go because management is dumb and cheap and never changes and let a World Series HERO slip away. I wrote several paragraph-length responses to these Facebook posts but never posted them, like some depressed ex-boyfriend fighting my drunkenness long enough to discard the email I was about to send my now-engaged former girlfriend.
Let’s clear up three things about Freddy Sanchez’s performance in Game One:
1) Are we really so unwaveringly angry at Pirates’ management that we must turn an unambiguously happy situation — a super-likable ex-Pirate finally getting a chance to play for a contender and delivering — into another reason to make ourselves angry? It’s not healthy, and it completely undermines the genuine happiness for Sanchez that I (naively) assumed that true Pirates fans would be experiencing after last night.
2) After the Pirates’ trades the past two years, there are ex-Pirates on just about every team in baseball — it was a near mathematical certainty that one would end up in the World Series, and nearly as certain that one would do something in the World Series. We can’t get pissed about Freddy Sanchez’s performance while Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Jack Wilson, Xavier Nady, John Grabow, Ian Snell, and Nyjer Morgan have just completed underwhelming seasons with now-eliminated clubs. That’s like selling 50 stocks then getting pissed when one of those stocks doesn’t go down the next year — this was an extremely likely scenario.
3) Freddy Sanchez was an unrestricted free agent this past offseason who the Giants re-signed to a 2-year, $12 million deal. Neil Walker moved to second base and outhit Freddy this season (marginally higher Avg and OBP, slugged 65 points higher, hit 12 homers to Sanchez’s 7 in 10 fewer PAs), and is 7 years younger and under team control for five more seasons. The Pirates had a number of disasters last season, but letting Freddy Sanchez go and moving Neil Walker to second was one of the best moves Neal Huntington has made (making up for the Iwamura flameout). Complaining about Sanchez’s performance last night demonstrates a short-sightedness and pointless negativity that instantly identifies oneself as someone who doesn’t actually follow the Pirates.
Freddy Sanchez is one step closer to winning the World Series. Freddy Sanchez is an awesome guy. Freddy Sanchez winning the World Series would be awesome. That’s all there is to this situation. There’ll be plenty of actual stuff to get mad about in the coming year, Pirates fans — no need to waste it now.