Giants' merit-based culture is team baseball at its finest

Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Angel Pagan scored 95 runs and accumulated 61 extra-base hits for the Giants in 2012, the year San Francisco won the second of its most recent three championships. He batted leadoff for the team that October.

But this season, the third year of a four-year deal he signed after that championship, he has seemed diminished by injuries and age (he turns 34 on July 2). His batting average is down to .273; his on-base percentage is .306. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has used him in the leadoff spot twice. Pagan has hit mostly in the No. 3 spot in San Francisco's order in an effort to offset the loss of Hunter Pence to wrist problems. But Pagan also started a game recently hitting at No. 6, and has six starts out of the No. 7 spot.

This is merely one example of the Giants having the major league's purest merit-based culture, a climate in which the manager's choices are simplified: Bochy's decisions are based on what gives his team the best chance to win that day's game.

The concept sounds simple, but it's exceedingly rare in an era in which most managers are forced to navigate around egos, star power and long-term contracts.