Wed Apr 20 04:40pm EDT
"Yeah, a pretty good birthday present," Belt told reporters with humility after learning the San Francisco Giants had demoted him to Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday.
Belt, who many pegged as the likely NL Rookie of the Year, was batting .192/.300/.269 with a homer, a double and 13 strikeouts in 60 plate appearances.
It's not a huge sample size, but the Giants have put themselves in a bind; they have more major league-caliber players (or contracts) than available roster spots.
Manager Bruce Bochy had said "it would not be the worst thing" if Belt were to be sent to the minors, and with Cody Ross(notes) coming off the disabled list, this seems like the right time for the Giants to make the move.
However, the Giants appear to have done the wrong thing two years in a row with their best prospect. In 2010, they didn't bring Buster Posey(notes) north out from spring training when he clearly was the team's best catcher. The Belt-yanking is a mistake in a different way.
With an overabundance of competent players who can play first base or the outfield, it wasn't as clear that Belt should be in the lineup every day for the Giants. They either should have started him at Fresno, or cut a couple of pricey veterans and commited 100 percent to Belt.
The Giants simply don't want to make hard choices (yet) about players like Aaron Rowand(notes), Pat Burrell(notes), Nate Schierholtz(notes) and others who crowd the 25-man roster. Someday, they'll have to cut bait with one or more of the players who helped them win the World Series.
Belt seems to understand, or he at least seemed to grasp being demoted with a more even keel than when the Giants told him he made the club — and he bawled his eyes out.
Via Extra Baggs in the San Jose Mercury News, Belt said:
"It's just a bunch of people coming back and not enough spots. Obviously, I have some things to work on. it's best to get some games and at-bats to figure them out."
It's your party, Brandon. You can cry if you want to, really.
Obviously, Posey's season worked out OK. The Giants won the World Series and he was in the lineup at the end. And fidgeting with Belt might not hurt him or the team in the long run, either. But why run the risk?
Of course, there's the underlying issue of service time and future contracts to factor in. I'm not sure it makes fiscal sense for teams to get too wrapped up in when a player becomes a "Super Two" or whatever. It's more important that the player develops at the best possible rate, no?
The Giants probably haven't irrevocably harmed Posey or Belt. But I'm not sure the Giants have done right by them, either.
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