The former Met is jumping and whooping and spraying champagne and enjoying October so much more than anyone on his old team. A Mets fan at home might be screaming at the TV: Pagan is going to the World Series with the San Francisco Giants, and Andres Torres stunk this year! So the Mets should have kept him, right?
Sometimes a job gets weird, and the only way to rediscover your best self is to find another workplace.
“Angel isn’t a bad guy, but we needed to move him,” said one Mets official this week, knowing that Pagan enjoyed a competent year in center field for the National League West champion Giants, batting .288 with a .338 on-base percentage and eight home runs - and that Torres, the outfielder the Mets received for Pagan, batted .230 in 132 games. Reliever Ramon Ramirez, the final component of the deal, was even worse.
Pagan is a highly gifted athlete, and a positive presence when a clubhouse fits him. In the Giants’ locker room, he smiles, effusive about this taste of autumn intensity.
“I have never been in the playoffs before,” Pagan says. “This is my first opportunity. It’s truly a blessing. Being in this situation - going to spring training, getting to know your teammates, working on the plays, you work hard for this. You work in spring training for this. It’s just unbelievable.”
The summer of 2011 was much darker. Pagan began the year with a Carlos Beltran-endorsed move from right field to center, and the chance to become the future at that position for the Mets. But he hit .159 in April, spent time on the disabled list and saw an opportunity slip. His optimism curdled.
Happy and chatty during a breakout season in 2010, Pagan wore headphones and a scowl during most of his time in the clubhouse the next year, often sitting at his locker and staring at an iPad instead of interacting with teammates.
Those teammates noticed, and many were aggravated on July 24, when Pagan left a game in Miami with what he called dehydration.
“He’s ( f------) soft,” one player said that day - which might have been unfair, but was the internal opinion at the time.
Terry Collins tried to help. The manager would call Pagan into his office and deliver variations of this speech: Angel, you’re young, you’re gifted, you have a beautiful family and millions of dollars. Cheer up.
It did not work.
The year spiraled, and Pagan was lost - and all that came before the August day in Philadelphia when his colitis acted up. Pagan had an accident while in the field, and failed to appear in the on-deck circle when due in the next inning.
Sympathetic to his medical condition, Mets coaches and trainers still wondered why Pagan did not tell them what had happened, rather than vanishing, which created an awkward situation in a sold-out ballpark.
By then, the Mets had long been contemplating non-tendering Pagan , which would have ended his stay with them, while yielding no return. So when San Francisco GM Brian Sabean entered the Mets’ suite at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas during last year’s winter meetings and said he was ready to deal - well, Sandy Alderson was ready, too.
Upon arriving on the other coast, Pagan recovered his smile, and his talent.
“I think it’s always good for a player - a change of scenery can do them well,” says Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “They occasionally will, I hate to say, get stale, but they seem to become a different player sometimes with a different club. Same with the player that could be with us that moves on. You see that happen a lot.”
Did it happen with Pagan?
“With Angel, we really thought he was a really good player with the Mets and he did a good job over there,” Bochy says. “I think he likes it here and he’s enjoyed his time here and his play showed it.”
They are people, these major leaguers, and they need to feel comfortable. So while it is fair to criticize Pagan for his moody year in 2011, and Alderson for not finding a better trade, it is impossible - even on Wednesday, when Pagan runs from the dugout to the third base line at AT&T Park, cheered by fans of his new team before Game 1 of the World Series - to fault the Mets’ decision to move a player who only could have found happiness elsewhere.