SweetSpot: Matt Downs

Giants make change at 2B

June, 16, 2009
6/16/09
9:46
PM ET
Henry Schulman on a Giant shakeup:
    The Giants have made a seismic shift in their personnel today. They optioned struggling second baseman Emmanuel Burriss to Triple-A Fresno and purchased the contract of 25-year-old infielder Matt Downs, who just took a terrific round of batting practice.

    Burriss has been exceptional defensively but has not had a hit since June 4. Downs was hitting .288/.333/.453 with six homers and 38 RBIs with the Grizzlies. I presume he will be in the lineup tonight.

    --snip--

    UPDATE: Manager Bruce Bochy discussed the move, and the reasons hardly were surprising. Burriss has done a great job defensively, but he was hitless in his last 27 at-bats and the Giants' offense is not good enough to afford an automatic out in the eighth spot.

    "We feel now's the time Manny needs to go down and work on some things," Bochy said. "It's fair to say he's had his struggles." Bochy called this a "little hiccup" in Burriss' career and said, "He'll be back."

    Specifically, the Giants want Burriss to work on leadoff-type at-bats: bunting, using the whole field, etc.

Well, that's one way to look at it. Here's another ...

Just three years ago, Burriss was the 33rd pick in the amateur draft. He played well in rookie ball that summer, and he played well again in Class A the next spring and summer. But he struggled terribly that same summer after being promoted to the fast California League. Neverthless, last spring the Giants skipped him past Double-A to Triple-A, and after just 14 games there -- in which he struggled, again -- they promoted him to the big club ... for which he thrived.

Relatively speaking, anyway. For a guy who really hadn't done anything since leaving the South Atlantic League, Burriss's .283/.357/.329 line was pretty impressive. Burriss is fast, and his defense at second base was good (though his defense at shortstop was not). On the strength of last season -- which, it should be said, included only 274 plate appearances -- the Giants awarded Burriss the every-day job at second base this spring.

And now we're where we are, and nobody should be terribly surprised. The Giants want Burriss to learn to bunt, and use the whole field, etc? What he needs to learn is how to %@#&$ hit. You know? Because he's never done that, even as the Giants just kept moving him up the ladder.

At its best, baseball is a fairly efficient meritocracy. But sometimes the system breaks down, and that's how you wind up with an every-day player who simply has no business being in the major leagues. Not yet, anyway.

SPONSORED HEADLINES