Programming note: Giants-Cardinals coverage starts today at 3:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area.
We are about to find out if Bobby Evans knows how to kick a tire. We are about to learn if his diligence is as due as Brian Sabean’s.
The Giants passed on the “opportunity” to trade for Philadelphia second baseman/newest Arizona Fall League Hall of Famer Chase Utley, instead letting the process play out to the point where Utley is now a Los Angeles Dodger. The replacement for Joe Panik is now the replacement for Howie Kendrick. The nation reels at the thought.
Now under normal circumstances, the nation should reel at none of it. Utley is nearing the end of an illustrious career, so being traded as a right-now proposition requires him to change what has been a miserable season by his standards simply by changing his scenery from a spectacularly uninspiring last-place team to a playoff contender.
And the fact that he ends up a Dodger rather than a Giant allows people who care about this sort of thing to grade Evans, the Giants’ general manager, on this single moment.
This is, in that way, one of those rare pass-fail deals in that you will know immediately whether Giant fans should hate Evans for blowing the division or love him for letting Utley ruin the Dodgers’ chances . . . even if he doesn’t.
To this point, Evans has not really separated himself in the public’s eye as a figure independent of Sabean’s long shadow. Not for lack of trying, mind you – Sabean has been harder to get than a winning lottery ticket at Bed Bath & Beyond, and Evans has been the one answering all the GM-ish questions anyone could ask. He is the general manager, and Sabean is mostly consigliere to Evans’ Michael Corleone.
And let’s be honest. When you look at Evans’ face, you see a veteran Mob capo.
Point is, the tires on Utley were kicked by Evans’ feet, and the diligence came due on Evans’ watch. If Utley plays well, Evans will be savaged by the people Sabean once deified as “the lunatic fringe,” and if he stinks, Evans will be considered a man of exemplary perspicacity, a Branch Rickey of his time, a smart dude who kept his wallet safe rather than undercutting his manager’s lineup card.
Nobody knows how it will play out, but we do know that general managers are graded on just such moments, and this is Evans’ first. Before this, his reputation was largely framed by word-of-mouth, mostly Sabean’s, and Sabean liked and promoted him to all who asked. Now Sabean has promoted him period, and this is that stark moment where there is no gray area. Utley either puts the Dodgers over the top, or he does not.
Besides, the Giants have Kelby Tomlinson, the game’s latest Fearless Fly impersonator, and as the first Kelby in North American team sports, Tomlinson has enough pressure on him without having Utley looking either over his shoulder or at him in the rear-view mirror.
Tomlinson gets to be evaluated by this decision as well, because life is unfair and get over it. But mostly, this is Evans’ stand, and even though it is about a player he never had, the trades unmade can be as damning as the trades that are.
And if anyone is positioned well to condemn things that don’t exist, it’s us. But at least we know who to condemn. For the first time we nuance-resistant kneejerks can see, this is Bobby Evans’ team.