Pagan puts team first, steps aside for Span

Former center fielder moves to left as part of 'sacrifice over self' mentality

February 23rd, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Angel Pagan realized that the time had arrived for him to practice what Giants manager Bruce Bochy preaches: "sacrifice over self."
With that team-oriented mindset, Pagan announced before the Giants' initial full-squad workout Tuesday that he would gracefully cede the leadoff/center-field role -- which he occupied during the previous four seasons -- to Denard Span.
Pagan, the projected starting left fielder, didn't really have a choice in the matter. The Giants signed Span, a free agent, to a three-year, $31 million contract last month specifically to provide an upgrade over Pagan. But Pagan, who's in the final year of a four-year, $40 million contract, could have poisoned the clubhouse atmosphere by sulking.

Instead, Pagan earnestly said that he's "on board 100 percent" with the change. This continued the pattern of Giants players willingly stepping aside to accommodate a newcomer or accept a diminished role. This was most noticeable in San Francisco's World Series-winning seasons:
• 2010: Giants outfielders gladly made room for Cody Ross, who proceeded to excel in the postseason. And left-hander Barry Zito refrained from griping when he was left off the postseason roster.
• 2012: Infielder Ryan Theriot's playing time decreased sharply after San Francisco acquired Marco Scutaro shortly before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Coincidentally, Scutaro drove in Theriot with the decisive run in the Game 4 World Series clincher. When the postseason arrived, Tim Lincecum moved placidly from the starting rotation to the bullpen and thrived as a reliever.
• 2014: Michael Morse, San Francisco's primary left fielder during the regular season, withdrew into a secondary role in the postseason, but he still delivered clutch hits.
"The guys have been willing to set aside their own agenda and do what's best for the ballclub," Bochy said.
Now comes Pagan, who contributed heavily in 2012, his first year with the Giants (.288 batting average, 95 runs and 61 extra-base hits, including a San Francisco-era record 15 triples). Injuries have curbed his productivity since then. He had scar tissue removed from his right knee early in the offseason. But Pagan's ego hasn't been wounded, based on his remarks about the revamped outfield.
"I'll be real honest. First of all, I was a little surprised by the move," Pagan said. "... At the same time, Span is a great center fielder, a great player. Every player has pride and you have to sit down and understand that at some point, you have to make a move. ... I'm here to do whatever the team needs me to do."
Pagan, who hasn't played left field since 2010 with the Mets, said that he'll have to re-learn the different angles that batted balls take.
"Angel's so athletic," Bochy said. "We think he can do a great job in left field."

Pagan also had a frank discussion with Span to address any possible misunderstandings.
"I told him this morning that we have to sit down and talk about this," Pagan said. "For us to work well as a team, we have to have great chemistry, and I don't want anything to be between us. I don't have any hurt feelings at all. I want him to know that I'm on board, I'm ready to reach for a gapper with him and hopefully we can play the best defense possible for this great pitching staff that we have. ... Denard is a very good center fielder that I respect a lot and I think is going to do a great job for us."
Pagan also wants to have another heart-to-heart chat with Bochy.
"We have to talk. And we will," Pagan said. "Me and Boch, we have a great relationship. He's like our dad. He's a Hall of Fame manager who communicates really well with his players. That's what I love the most. ... I can't wait to talk to him and let him know that I'm ready to go out there and do anything possible."
Pagan's ultimate zone rating of minus-14.3 on ranked last among National League center fielders in 2015. Span ranked sixth in the same category with a minus-4.7 figure in '14. Span didn't play enough during his injury-filled '15 season with the Nationals to qualify for the leaderboard.