For Giants, a markdown on Panik items, loss on the field
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Art Spander in Giants, Joe Panik, articles, baseball

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — They reacted quickly at the Giants Dugout Store, the one at Oracle Park. Joe Panik was dropped, or in baseball-ese “designated for assignment,” and within hours of the announcement there was a 40 percent markdown on all Panik merchandise.

Cruel, but strictly business, a term you hear quite often about baseball, an activity some think of as a game. What makes the jersey valuable, and thus sellable, is fans identifying with the player who wears it. He’s their guy.

But now their guy, if it was Panik, is no longer a Giant. He’s gone.


Then, not long after Panik was released Tuesday — he could have joined Sacramento, the Giants Triple A team, but chose to deal for himself — San Francisco’s chance for a wild card were all but gone.

Completely unrelated, unless there was lingering shock over the departure of a longtime teammate, the Giants on Tuesday evening were whipped by the Washington Nationals, 5-3.

It was a third straight defeat for the Giants, who fell two games below .500. That rollicking July, when San Francisco was 19-6, has turned into a stumbling August, so far 1-5.

“We’re not going to be putting up numbers like we did,” Bruce Bochy, the Giants' manager, pointed out to those who don’t understand the sport’s historical balance. “It was going to be hard to keep that pace.”

At least on Tuesday the Giants made it exciting, contrary to the 2-0 loss to the Nats on Monday, a dreadful game for San Francisco. On Tuesday, they had a runner on in the bottom of the ninth and at bat Pablo Sandoval, who already had two doubles in the game. But like Casey in the famous poem, Sandoval struck out.

This had a to be tough emotional day for the Giants' personnel. Panik may not have been Buster Posey or Barry Bonds, MVPs, superstars. But Panik made a load of big plays, and he was both an All-Star and at second base a Gold Glove award winner.

We’ve been taught there’s no sentiment in baseball, or sports in general. Just as in life, everything is temporary. And as Barry Bonds’ late father, Bobby, a great player in his own right, used to say about the unpredictability, “They traded Willie Mays, didn’t they?”

Indeed. And Babe Ruth, although not Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron or Carl Yastrzemski, whose grandson is on the Giants and, apropos of nothing but pertinent to a great deal, went 0-for-4 Tuesday against the Nats.

Bochy didn’t believe the players were affected by the departure of Panik, which may or may not have been considered a surprise. A few days ago the Giants traded for Scooter Gennett, a second baseman (he had a double in three at bats on Tuesday).

He wasn’t going to be on the bench. Which meant after six-plus seasons with the Giants, who took him in the first round of the 2011 draft, Panik was.

The Giants' head of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, was brought in to change the team’s direction. That had to mean a change in personnel.

The axiom is it’s better to trade a player a year early then a year late. Panik wasn’t traded literally but was symbolically. He’s a part of the past, not the future — ironic for someone only 28 years old. 

Bochy said telling Panik he had to be released was one of the most difficult things in a managerial career that’s lasted for years and is nearing an end with his retirement at the end of this season.

“He’s a Giant,” Bochy said about Panik. “He’s done so many good things for us, helped us win a (2014 World Series) championship here.”

And now he’s been dispatched, as the Giants seek a way to win another.

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