Thursday, February 24, 2005
Random Bits of Stankeye
-Here's a transcript of the whole Bonds press conference on Tuesday. It wasn't the friendliest of exchanges, as I'm sure you've heard by now. But anybody surprised by this is an idiot, plain and simple. What do you expect Bonds to do when hammered with the same questions over and over again? This time the reporters' dumb inquiries were garbed in sheep's clothing due to a restriction against using the term "BALCO", but they were the same things they've been asking Bonds for the past year, and, as is his calling card with the media, Bonds responded by dishing out some surliness. It's just the same cycle, completed yet again: Media members ask Bonds silly steroid question, Bonds gets mad and calls them liars, media's hatred of Bonds continues to fester and they write more nasty things about him.
The funniest thing in my opinion was Bonds' remark about being better than Canseco ten years ago, and being better than him now. It wouldn't hold up in the court of public opinion or anything, but there's a glint of truth there.
-They're allegedly going to remake one of my favorite movies, The Hitcher. The original was basically a love it or hate it kind of thing, but it was very, very creepy in an understated way. So who's slated to direct this remake? Michael Bay. I think I'm going to throw up. So much for understatement.
-In the NBA, the Warriors inexplicably made a great deal by trading for Baron Davis. They gave up Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis' expiring contract to get him, so they essentially got an All-Star point guard for a sack of magic beans. Davis has been shooting horribly this year, but his track record speaks for itself and he's quite an improvement over Claxton. Of course, the Warriors are still going to be horrible and all, but this will at least give some hope for next season. The move also sort of makes up for the awful, awful contracts given to Derek Fisher and Adonal Foyle. Here's hoping the Davis trade signals the end of stupid moves made by Chris Mullin. Wait, he also traded for Nikoloz Tskitishvili today. Damn, guess I spoke too soon.
Monday, February 21, 2005
Giants Pitching Preview 2005: From Bombko to Tomko
When the Tomko signing was announced last winter, fans broke into sarcastic applause and began to place bets on which mediocre innings-eater Brian Sabean would sign next. Not to toot my own horn or anything (though this is a really, really lame horn to be blowing on), I actually predicted that Tomko would have a surprisingly good year in 2004 on this incredibly amateurish and borderline pathetic web page I concocted last spring. Of course, this is the same page where you can find intelligent insight such as “Giants fans will love A.J. Pierzynski” and “Jeffrey Hammonds will have a productive year” sprinkled throughout. I know, it’s bad, but come on, I was young, and we all make mistakes when we’re young. Maybe not the Kaz Tadano kind of mistakes, but mistakes nonetheless.
Anyway, I thought that if Tomko were to start throwing the changeup more often Jason Schmidt-style, he’d have a successful year. Dave Righetti’s advice worked wonders for Schmidt in 2001, I concluded, so why not the same for Tomko? It seemed like a reasonable theory. Well, sure enough, Tomko did his best to make me look like a total heel come the start of the season. To get an idea of how Tomko performed in the first month-and-a-half of 2004, just picture him as Ned Beatty in Deliverance, then have that burly backwoods hillbilly represent opposing hitters. I think you get the picture. As disturbing as that analogy may be, it’s appropriate. He was bad, very bad. And to top it off, he popped off to the Oakland Tribune in May, blaming his problems on his flaky catcher. Then he got stuck on the DL, even though he denied being hurt. It was ugly. Trust me, I absolutely hated this guy until June. Tomko looked to me like he would be tossed into the forsaken land known as Lair of Past Giants Whom We Will Never Ever Speak of Again, where Salomon Torres, Glenallen Hill, and Jim Poole are all said to be sipping tea together, discussing how ludicrous the ending of Saw was. Every time he showed up on TV or something I would literally have to leave the room and mangle one of those gooshy stress balls.
Of course, we now all know that Tomko ended up putting up his best year since 1997, and it wasn’t really due to any changeup, but just a seemingly newfound confidence in his ample fastball. His improvement was also directly correlated with a substantial drop in his home run rate (19 surrendered in '04, as opposed to 35 in '03). You'd think it would be due to the move to Mays Field (that's right, I'm officially converted after visiting the new web site), but Tomko actually gave up more homers at home (12 in 79 innings) than on the road (7 in 114).
So what's the outlook for 2005? Well, I actually think Tomko will improve.
All the sabermatricians in the audience just had a collective stroke. "Improve? A 32-year-old journeyman who has put up one good year in his last five...improve? You're sick man! Sick!"
Just hear me out. Tomko last season dealt after the All-Star break (7-2, 3.15, 1.15 WHIP), improving his K/BB ratio (63:31) to something at least respectable after the aforementioned hideous start. More often than not, strong second halves tend to project good things for the following season. What really has me looking for an improvement though, are Tomko's home/road splits. In 2004, Tomko was poor at home (5.31 ERA), but terrific on the road (3.15). It's natural to expect improvement in this area for 2005, simply because very few major league pitchers are better on the road than at home in neutral parks or in pitchers' parks like SBC (though SBC did play more toward hitters last year, at least in terms of batting average; it still quashed home run production). There are, of course, some exceptions resulting from extenuating circumstances, like Jeff Weaver or Kenny Rogers with the Yankees, but San Francisco isn't nearly the pressure cooker that New York is, and even the flakiest of pitchers have been somewhat successful (even Shawn Estes had his 1997). Usually home/road splits like Tomko's tend to be one-year flukes, like Tom Glavine in 2003. I whole-heartedly believe that Tomko's bad home stats were an aberration, and that he'll be much better at SBC...uh, Mays Field this season.
Of course, the flip side to that is that any gains in the home ERA will be mirrored by a drop in road performance. After Tomko's hideous 7.77 showing away from home in 2003, and a career road ERA of 5.20, it's silly to think that he can keep up the 3.15 ERA away from the Giants' home. But the expected improvement at home plus Tomko's change in pitching philosophy in the second half of last year should combine to negate the expected road decline. Does that make him a legitimate #2 starter? OK, now you're getting into tougher questions, but if he can indeed improve just a tad upon last year he'll certainly justify the contract option the Giants picked up on him this offseason.
Random Bits of Stankeye
-While this plug may or may not have been influenced by this comment here, I want to direct your attention to a new website called Mays Field, which is an online campaign to change the name of the Giants’ home ball field from the depressingly corporate SBC Park to a much more fan-friendly Mays Field. It’s certainly a noble cause, and one I urge everyone to join. While I doubt the Giants are eager to give up the cash SBC forks over for naming rights, every movement has to start somewhere, most often at the very bottom, before it gets steam rolling and gathers more and more momentum as it rolls along, and more people join the cause. Just think of the rich history that will be conveyed if they successfully lobby to get the stadium renamed. Mays Field. McCovey Cove. The greatest Giants immortalized on the diamond, sort of an amalgamation of the past and the present like Yankee Stadium has. All I’d want after that is to name the right-center field gap Doug Miribelli Triple’s Alley. Maybe the big glove in left could be called the Marvin Benard Memorial Iron Glove. The possibilities are endless. But in all seriousness, I can’t encourage you enough to check it out and continue to spread the word throughout Giants fandom.
-John Sickels released his Giants minor league report card on his blog, something that Giants fans have been drooling in anticipation for for a while now. It's more optimistic than the general doomsday impression of the Giants' farm system fans hold, but it's hardly a ringing endorsement either. Also, Todd Linden continues to follow the vaunted Steve Hosey/Dante Powell career path.
-I was working all day yesterday, so I missed all of the NBA All-Star Game. Basically, I saw some highlights of Allen Iverson winning the MVP and sucking up to Shaq, and also shots of P Diddy talking on this insanely large Shaq shoe-phone. If anybody wants to clue me in on exactly what was going on there, I’d be much obliged. Oh, and Vince Carter broke out what would have been a sick off-the-backboard-pass-to-himself-then-dunk move, if Tracy McGrady hadn’t already busted it out two years ago. And everybody hates Vince Carter now anyway, so he’d basically have to raise the dead to impress us anymore.
-Also, as I was sifting through the scattered magazines and newpapers in the break room at my work, I stumbled across an absolutely awful article in this month's Source Magazine about Ron Artest. The story was all about how Artest is a misunderstood soul and it basically played him out to be the victim in the Detroit/Indiana crowd fiasco in November. The article also alleged that race played more of a part in the brawl than anything else. Un-freaking-believable. I don't read the Source regularly, thank goodness, but if this is the kind of brainless tripe they throw in every column I'd say it's more evidence that journalism (heck, even trash journalism) has taken a noticeable step backwards. The National Enquirer story about the Olsen Twins' alleged drug problem had more credibility than this.
Friday, February 18, 2005
Giants Pitching Preview 2005: Ace in the Hole
That’s exactly how I feel as pitchers and catchers report this week as spring training officially begins. The real fun doesn’t really start until exhibition games begin in a couple weeks (though finding out which malcontents are refusing to report to camp has its perks), it's refreshing to know that baseball is just over the horizon. After a long winter of Red Sox love-ins, repetitive articles featuring nonsensical steroid speculation, and wallowing in Denny Neagle’s sleazy personal life, the baseball season is now back on the radar. So pardon me if I dance around wildly like Tuco. Of course, if you’re a Tiger or a Pirate fan, the Good, Bad, and Ugly analogy is more like Saving Private Ryan, where you go through this horrific trek across France to find some guy, only when you do hunt him down, the ungrateful S.O.B. refuses to leave his platoon, rendering the whole journey pointless. So Giants fans next time you whine about the team and Sabean’s strange love affair with Mike Matheny (a good pointer for myself, no less), at least remember that you have something to look forward to every year, like Tuco and his gold. For a lot of other teams they simply get screwed and are stuck turning their socks into bombs while trying to defend a bridge from Nazis.
So in celebration of this annual event, I’m going to go ahead and begin a fun little preview of the Giants’ starting pitching. You’re going to see a lot of these kinds of previews in the coming weeks, from a lot of sources, most of them more reputable than me. What separates my pitching forecast from the rest? Well, nothing really, other than a few random references to Weird Science and quotes from old spaghetti westerns, as seen above. But this is a Giants blog, and its not like I can fill up this column by pondering whatever happened to Ilan-Mitchell Smith or Anthony Michael Hall, or Kelly LeBrock, for that matter. But I can sure call Dodger fans “sons of a thousand fathers” can’t I?
We’ll go ahead and start with the Giants’ unquestioned ace, and go from there on a day-to-day basis, simply because it’ll give me stuff to talk about each day so I’m not stretching for stupid news to discuss, like the latest Red Sox player to dis on Alex Rodriguez or the countless number of games Doug Mientkiewicz saves with his magic glove (I can't believe they allow stuff like this to get printed).
Jason Schmidt 18-7 3.20 251 K’s 1.08 WHIP
We throw the word love around these days like it’s nothing. We say “I love Cheerios” or “I love Kevin Sorbo’s sterling performance as captain of Andromeda. Nobody has acted this well since Fred Dreyer in Hunter.” But, of course, we don’t really mean it in the way we love our parents or our wives or our children. Well, I love Jason Schmidt, just love this guy. Maybe not in the bizarre heterosexual man-crush way, but if I’m ever going to be in love with a man, this is it. Hmm, am I creeping you out yet? Good. Look, if you’re expecting biting baseball analysis and not strange psychosexual rantings, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Go to ESPN, they’ve got a bunch of eunuchs over there. Peter Gammons, are you kidding me? If there’s anyone who screams “got nothing down there,” it’s that guy.
Ugh, enough of that. Don’t go away, I was only kidding about the whole lack of analysis thing. Honest.
Anyway, I beg the question, is Schmidt the best Giants starting pitcher since Juan Marichal? You’d have a hard time finding anybody to make a better case. Ron Bryant? Montesfusco? Reuschel? VanLandingham??? Schmidt has had two consecutive brilliant seasons, and no Giants starter that I can find ever strung together this type of dominance since The Dominican Dandy put together a decade of excellence and Roseboro noggin-bashing. Schmidt last season probably would have won the Cy Young had it not been for a groin injury that hampered his mechanics for the last month and a half. Before that, he was the same old Schmidt, blowing away hitters and holding opponents to a piddling .202 batting average. He’s a testament to how something as simple as adding one pitch can change your career. With the Pirates, Schmidt was a bad pitcher with good stuff, but when he came to San Fran, Dave Righetti taught him a changeup and now he’s like the second coming of Curt Schilling. The beauty of the changeup is that he throws it around 87 mph (yes, it can lap Kirk Rueter’s fastball), so even if hitters expect it, they still have trouble hitting it. By all accounts, Schmidt is healthy and raring to go for this season, though it’d be nice if Felipe would lay off the whip early on in the year and give his arm a rest. If something happens to Schmidt, it’s probably best to describe the Giants’ 2005 season as, to quote Lawrence Tierney in Reservoir Dogs, “dead as Dillinger.”
One thing I love about Schmidt is his total change in demeanor from when he’s off the field to when he’s on the mound. When he’s being interviewed on television or on the radio, he seems like such an innocent, modest fellow, batting away praise with a simple “aw shucks” mentality. When the cameras catch him in the dugout he seems to be a lovable prankster, dishing out elephant ears to unsuspecting teammates and creating all sorts of unsightly bubble gum contraptions to place on the helmets of poor batboys. But when he gets on the mound, he’s all badass. I’m talking Tom Cruise in Collateral badass. Lee Van Cleef in every western known to man badass. A typical Tarantino character badass (er, excepting possibly Jimmy of Toluca Lake). He’ll be pitching his game, striking batters out, then suddenly WHOOSH, here comes a bullet up and in, within inches of the batter’s beard stubble. Then Schmidt turns around and looks off into center field with this little smirk on his face. One time last year he sent Ryan Klesko sprawling on his butt in this fashion, and a stunned Klesko got up, dusted himself off, gave Schmidt a little, ahem, stankeye, and whiffed unceremoniously before proceeding to glare at Schmidt as he lumbered Klesko-style back to the dugout. Schmidt just smirked. It was classic. He was in Klesko’s dome the rest of the game. He actually does this kind of thing quite a bit, at least once or twice a game, but he doesn’t have the rep of Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez in this regard because he has a boyish face instead of a menacing scowl. Maybe if he grows a Fu Manchu or something, or starts weaving intricate patterns into his facial hair a la Dustin Hermansen.
On second thought, he’s probably fine as is.
Also, if you're into fantasy baseball, there's only one good magazine amidst the plethora of guides coming out around this time, and its known as Fantasy Baseball Index (or the one with Vlad on the cover and which the incomparable John Sickels writes for). If you buy any other magazine you're just flat out wasting your money. I mean, I got one mag where they actually recommended taking Omar Infante in the early-middle rounds. Ladies and gentleman, having Omar Infante on your fantasy squad is sort of the roto equivalent to giving yourself a corncob enema. Sure, he might help a little, but in the end he's going to give you nothing but pain and then you're embarrassed to admit that he's stuck on your team.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
I Want My...I Want My MVP
On the other hand, Mikey needs to get over it. Greenwell finished second to Canseco in the 1988 MVP voting, but Canseco had a superior year in almost every aspect, steroids or no. Canseco's line was .307/391/569, with 42 homers, 40 stolen bases, and 120 runs scored. He was the first player to steal 40 bases and hit 40 home runs in the same season. All this while playing in a tough hitters' park.
Greenwell went .325/.416/.531 while playing in a hitter-friendly park. He wasn't even as good as George Brett or Kirby Puckett that year, which turned out to be the best of his career. Were the steroids really the determining factor in the difference in performance between Canseco and Greenwell? I somehow doubt it, contrary to Canseco's rather unscientific claims that steroids can make you a "super-athlete".
Look, far be it from me to defend a numbskull like Canseco, but I just think that once you start putting asterisks on things, you open the door for all kinds of goofy second guessing. Should we take away the Mets' 1986 championship because the whole team was hooked on "greenies"? Should we deprive Tim Raines of his 1981-84 stolen base titles because he allegedly sniffed cocaine in between innings and carried vials of the narcotic in his back pockets during games? Hey, man, that smack can make you run like lightning, don't cha know? If Moises Alou were to somehow shatter Hack Wilson's RBI record, should we put an asterisk on that because he pisses on his hands before every game? It never ends. If we go ahead and give Greenwell the 1988 MVP, why don't we go ahead and give Darryl Strawberry the '88 NL MVP, since he was way more deserving than Kirk Gibson was. Them sour grapes taste bad, there Mr. Greenwell?
Finally, Some Real Insight
So imagine the joy I felt when Knickerblogger.net reported that basketball stathound and underappreciated genius John Hollinger was slated to begin writing for ESPN.com soon. Pure ecstasy. After years of senseless schmaltz from Chris Ford and incomprehensible mind-vomiting from Bill Walton, we get an analyst who actually brings some insight to a basketball game.
For those who don't know, Hollinger is the author of Pro Basketball Forecast (formerly Prospectus), a book that changed my perspective on basketball in ways that are too numerous to explain without sending your head crashing through your LCD screen in boredom. Basically, the book shows how silly performance evaluation based on per-game averages is, and uses several different (sensible) formulas to show that just because a guy averages 20 points a game doesn't mean he is actually a star, or any good in the first place (I'm looking at you, Carmelo). Hollinger argues that traditional basketball statistics fail to account for several factors during gameplay, most notably pace and number of possessions, and thus are inherently deceiving. If you buy the book (well worth the $21.95 cover price), it'll go a long way toward changing how you look at players. You'll realize that Mehmet Okur is actually great and Antoine Walker is truly as crappy as he looks.
Of course, Hollinger will write on ESPN Insider, which is a bummer for cheap bastards like me who don't want to dish out the $4.95 a month to find out what hyper-nerdy new statistic Rob Neyer came up with. But Hollinger is certainly worth it, just for the humor he brings to his articles and his all-too understandable deep-seeded hatred of Michael Olowakandi. It's about time he received a wider audience. Now if only ESPN would contact me...(cough).
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Channeling Stu Miller...
But seriously, the truly big news was the announcement last week that SBC Park will host the 2007 All-Star Game, making the Giants hosts to their third midseason classic since moving to San Francisco. The first two were held at Candlestick, the first in 1961, when Stu Miller was allegedly blown off the mound, and again in 1984, which was notable only for the fact that Atlee Hammaker was mercifully absent from the proceedings, and thus unable to disgrace the good Giants name on national TV again by coughing up a grand slam to Fred Lynn.
As for the announcement itself, it’s about freaking time. We’ve waited too long. It was tough enough to endure the games being held in the neo-futuristic mallparks in Milwaukee and Houston, and then to watch US Cellular/Comiskey get rewarded with one the year after two shirtless morons jumped a helpless coach on the field. Rumor had it that the anti-Christ was peeved with Giants ownership when they decided to build Pac Bell with private money instead of using taxpayer dollars, and this was the reason the Gem by the Bay was locked out of All-Star Game consideration. Either Mr. Selig had a Scroogian change of heart, or those rumors were just silly conjecture started by Thierry Meyssan-esque conspiracy-mongers like myself. Either way, it’ll surely be neat to have SBC and all its beauty displayed on national television, with the best players in the world all gathered on the field. I just wonder who the Giants’ player rep(s?) will be. Vizquel? Matheny? Neikro? Chris Brown Jr.? Maybe Barry will stick it out until ’07 on knees made of marmalade.
What nobody seems to be talking about, and what I’m most looking forward to, is the Home Run Derby that year. Just think: some left-handed stud power hitter, say Justin Morneau or something, ripping a ball that seems certain to splash into McCovey Cove. Morneau stands and takes in the ball’s majestic flight, as the players in the dugouts gawk and scream and wave their video cameras around, and Chris Berman breaks into an orgasmic “BACK BACK BACK!”, only to have the ball clunk off of the bricks half way up the right field wall, another victim of the wicked SBC right field jetstream. Guys are going to win the first round with like three home runs, just watch. It’s going to be the most comical Home Run Derby in history. God, I love that ballpark.
Credibility, Thy Name Is Not Canseco
Frankly, this whole thing reeks of an attempt to cash in on the latest and juiciest craze. Steroids talk has become sort of a McCarthyist witch hunt in baseball in recent years, and now that it’s reached its peak with the whole BALCO mess, here comes Canseco with a well-timed tell-all book about his experiences. Coincidence? Judge for yourself. Just remember that we’re talking about a guy whose few remaining shreds of credibility are dangling by their chinny-chin-chin. This is a guy who once tried to ram his ex-wife off a bridge, who whined and sulked his way through six-and-a-half years in Oakland before being traded for erstwhile “village idiot” Ruben Sierra, who blew his arm out trying to impress fans as he warmed up in the bullpen with Texas, and who once had a baseball bounce off his head and over the fence for a home run. Integrity certainly isn’t a strong suit with this guy.
Then again, its easy to dismiss what Canseco has to say because he’s a proven dimwit, but maybe we just can’t or won’t bring ourselves to believe what he alleges is true. What if a baseball sage like Nolan Ryan or Greg Maddux came out and wrote a book naming names of steroid users? People would sure as hell listen then. Maybe Canseco is telling the truth. Then again, maybe he is simply full of hot air, and is out to gain fame in the Jim Bouton way by making himself out to be some sort of half-assed whistleblower. Maybe Tony LaRussa was right when he said that Canseco was simply jealous of McGwire’s accomplishments. The only thing I know for sure is that Canseco’s book will do absolutely nothing to solve the steroid problem in baseball, but will only serve to fan the flames of speculation that hinders progress instead of aids it.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Dishing Out Some Love on Valentine's Day
As if he needs me to spread the word about him, John Perricone runs what is probably THE Giants blog on the web, Only Baseball Matters. Few writers mix common sense and baseball knowledge as sublimely as he does, and his take on the recent steroid scandal is a nice refresher from the ridiculous speculation you get from most of the media.
Then there's my all-time favorite, McCovey Chronicles, formerly known as Waiting For Boof. This is by far the most hilarious Giants blog anywhere on the Internet. No one mixes insight, humor, and random references to crappy FOX shows better. The author also has a pathological hatred of Neifi Perez that makes my disdain for El Neifi pale in comparison. If these two were to meet in a dark alley, I shudder to think what might occur.
As if I hadn't kissed enough ass already, here are some other recommended Giants blogs. I'll have permanent links to these once I get enough time to put them down.
El Lefty Malo
Los Angeles Blues of Westwood
Across the Seams
And finally, for an all-too-appropriate Valentine's Day poem, check out this piece of genius, posted on McCovey Chronicles by a guy named pantsman. I don't know exactly what that name implicates, but if its anything like ASSMAN, it has to be good.
Baby, Even the Lohse-ers
That's the sad realization I came to when I read that Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse had won his arbitration case and is now set to receive a not-so-thrifty 2.4 million this year from the Twins, a raise of a whopping $2 million for a guy who richly didn't deserve any of it. Miraculous? I don't know how you can look at this guy's numbers and tell me it isn't. Lohse put up an ERA of 5.34 last season, aided by an unsightly 1.63 WHIP. This is 194 innings of log burning, here, folks, so the fact that Lohse gets what amounts to a reward for this devastation is strictly Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego territory.
Now, before I go on, I have to admit to being a closet Twins fan, which is why I tend to write a bunch of crap about them here, despite the fact that this is allegedly a Giants blog. It enrages me when bad players get big money on any MLB team, but when it happens on the Giants (Matheny) or Twins it nearly makes me turn green and go rampaging around town in a pair of ill-fitting purple shorts, throwing lampposts and swinging tanks above my head like a pair of bolos. This Lohse thing is crazy, and just goes a long way toward demonstrating the insanity inherent in all arbitration battles.
Since I work at the free-will squenching beast known as Wal-Mart, allow me to break out an appropriate analogy. Lohse getting this kind of a pay raise is the equivalent of me receiving a raise for punching handicapped customers in the face or tossing some poor kid's new pet goldfish into a vat of photo processing chemicals. The arbitrators must have determined that Lohse should get paid based either on the fact that he was a four-year major league vet or that he's rather durable (in the last 3 years he's started at least 31 games and has averaged 192 innings pitched), and durability is at a premium these days. It sure as hell wasn't based on performance. Lohse was pretty good in 2002, mediocre in 2003, and downright Gigli/Ishtar/Lara Croft: Tomb Raider rolled into a giant, horribly pungent ball bad in 2004. Normally, a young guy with good stuff like Lohse gets better as he gets older, but his performance record is looking pretty scary right now. Maybe this isn't jaw-dropping, apocalypse-is-nigh stuff, but it sure rankles my feathers.
BTW, as an addendum to my post last week on Johan Santana, the AP reported that Santana and the Twins agreed to a 4 year/10 million contract, which, if true, is an almost criminal bargain for Minnesota. I've already stated how I feel that Santana will dominate for years and years, so the fact that he's getting paid less than guys like Pedro or Roger Clemens while being considerably younger makes this deal incredibly sweet, especially after the insane Kris Benson deal set the bar for overpaying mediocre pitchers this offseason. Someone in the Santana camp must have done a full-scale Neville Chamberlain, because Johan is worth a lot more than this in the baseball market.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
It Ain't Vengeance...
Yet Another Mohr-onic Move
Dustin Mohr is one of those guys.
So you can imagine my consternation when I checked the wires one day and read that the Giants had non-tendered the versatile outfielder. Now, I’ve received horrific shocks in my life before. As a Freshman in high school I once found that I had unwittingly walked onto the Senior Lawn, and had about five seconds before the frosh-hating behemoths all noticed and beat me to a pulp. There was the time I watched The Crying Game. There was also the time Neifi Perez sent the Giants to Chicago with an inexplicable home run off of Robb Nen. Shocking were these events, yes, but I was even less prepared for this latest news. The lights started spinning, I started hyperventilating, I wondered what had become of the universe, if possibly we had slipped into some bizarre alternate timestream that wasn’t supposed to be, like in Donnie Darko or something.
Soon my shock turned to anger, then angry questioning. I just absolutely cannot comprehend what Sabean was doing when he decided to let Mohr leave. Mohr was a solid hitter, sporting an .821 OPS, higher than Grissom or Tucker. He was an excellent fielder and he was the type of hard-nosed player that I tend to fawn over and apologize for when they do stupid stuff. Oh yeah, and he was dirt-cheap too. Even after arbitration Mohr probably wouldn’t have even cost a million bucks, so money wasn’t the factor determining his demise. Some would argue that he was excess baggage after the Alou signing, but are you seriously going to tell me that he’s a worse fourth outfielder than Michael Tucker? Even as a fifth outfielder he’s valuable, since the Giants have a geriatric outfield with a collective range only marginally better than Greg Luzinski with a tree trunk strapped to his back. In fact, I’m willing to bet that Mohr would outperform Grissom given the opportunity, and seeing as how Mohr hits righties better than lefties, it would have made sense to keep Mohr and put him in a righty/lefty platoon with Grissom.
But sadly Mohr is gone to the Rockies, another unfortunate misinterpretation of talent by Sabean. Even Sabean’s most questionable moves at least have had a degree of comprehension. The Matheny move was stupid in every aspect, but at least we can see where Sabean was coming from when he said he was going for defense. The Mohr thing defies all common sense. It’s akin to the busty victim in a slasher flick running up the stairs when the audience is screaming for the dumb broad to just run out the door and call the cops. She gets slaughtered, Mohr gets screwed. This just wasn’t a hard decision. It was a freaking no-brainer, but apparently Sabean needs a crash course in brain surgery. I have no idea what rationale there is for not bringing Mohr back. Maybe it was his ill-fated encounter with the bullpen mound in San Diego during the last week of the season. Maybe it was the fact that he was under 30, and Sabean is intent on concocting some sort of strange Logan’s Run in reverse. Maybe Sabean has weird, Dead Zone-esque powers and when he shook Mohr’s hand one day he foresaw a nuclear holocaust or something.* We could toss out reasons until we’re blue in the face, but none of them will be good. So instead of going into the season with a solid, and cheap, reserve outfielder, we’re pondering whether to give the job to Todd Linden, Tony Torcato, or, God forbid, Jason Ellison. The only way this whole situation will be redeemed is if one of these guys inexplicably changes their name to “Mookie”, and I just don’t see that happening.
*Wait, wait. If Sabean really does have precognitive powers, obviously he would be able to tell that Mike Matheny is going to suck this year and each one following it. He surely would have had the foresight to dump Livan Hernandez in 2002, before Game 7, and not to give Marvin Benard a four year deal that would have been better spent on a grilled-cheese sandwich that looks like the Virgin Mary. Of course, it’s possible that he actually has to make contact with the person in question to see their future, not unlike Christopher Walken in the Cronenberg flick. Perhaps he just talked to Matheny over the phone, and won’t be able to see the Laughing Tiger until it’s too late. Wow, that’s certainly a pretty crappy way to tell fortunes, and it doesn’t get us fans anywhere. I guess it’s one of those gifts that’s also a curse.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Just Give Him the Damn Money!!
Memo to Twins: Pay the guy!! He was the best freaking pitcher in the majors last season and projects to be nothing less than completely dominant for the next ten years or so. What about this suggests he shouldn't get what he demands? This isn't Sophie's Choice here, Mr. Ryan. The longer the Twins dick around and don't come to an agreement with Santana, the greater the chances get of Santana becoming alienated and leaving in a Bonds/Pittsburgh-esque fiasco like in 1992. And we all know of the Kevin Polcovich/Todd Ritchie-littered wasteland Pittsburgh became after that.
Catching a Dud
Sun is shining
The weather is sweet
Makes you want to move
Your dancin’ feet
Then you sit down on your computer, a satisfied smile spread across your face, and check out what’s new on Rotoworld. And that’s when you find out that the Giants have just signed Mike Matheny for 3 years/ 10.5 million.
There goes the neighborhood.
Suddenly that euphoric Bob Marley tune turns into The Cure, and that cramped space inside the oven doesn’t seem like such a bad place to stick your head. It starts to rain, lightning flashes from the sky, dogs and cats start living together.
I’d like to think that the idea of signing Matheny to a 3 year deal is a joke, maybe not as funny as a drunken bear, but a joke nonetheless. I assure you, friends, that it is not. Before this, the only reason I would even think of using the terms “Matheny” and “guaranteed contract” in the same sentence would be to lend some perspective to some kind of demeaning situation that I found myself in. Like, say, if I were to have Bruschetta hurled in my face during a particularly bad date, or if I were to take a basketball in the nuts A.J. Pierzynski-style during a pickup hoops game, I could simply tell myself, “Hey, at least the Giants didn’t sign Mike Matheny to a 3 year guaranteed contract,” and things would feel a little better. Now I don’t even have that anymore, as the nightmare has turned into horrifying reality, like a Freddy Krueger movie.
You see, this signing was bad for so many reasons, not the least of which is that the Giants already had a guy in Yorvit Torrealba who was better offensively and at least as good defensively, and who was significantly cheaper. I don’t understand what Torrealba did to warrant losing a starting job to an older, crappier player, but I assume it must have been pretty bad, like taking Brian Sabean’s daughter to a nudie bar or something. Vorvit is 26 and posted a .709 OPS last season compared to Matheny’s paltry .640. I realize that Yorvit wasn’t exposed to right-handed pitching too often, but come on. Vorvie still has room for improvement at the dish, whereas the 34-year-old Matheny has nowhere to go but down and most likely right off the face of the planet.
Another thing that stings is that the Giants just non-tendered a guy who was loads better because they hated his clubhouse attitude. I’m talking about renowned loins-punter A.J. Pierzynski. Nobody really liked Pierzynski because of the double plays and the rumors of him being a disruptive clubhouse presence. Also, Pierzynski could have made 5 million in arbitration, which scared the Giants front office away from going into serious negotiations with him. Now, I realize that 5 mil is too much for a good hitting yet poor defense-playing catcher, but if you’re going to shell out what will end up being over 3 mil for a guy like Matheny, why the hell not overpay Pierzynski for what will be monumentally better production at the plate? Yeah, he’s a jerk, but he's also close to a career .300 hitter and, as Bill “Spaceman” Lee said, “Give me 25 assholes and I’ll give you a pennant winner.” The fact that the ChiSox picked up A.J. for 2.2 mil just compounds this buffoonery.
Sabean’s rationale for this mess is that he was focusing on shoring up the defense. My question is: Is it really worth it to sacrifice this much offense just to have a great defensive catcher? In an era where more and more teams are trotting out solid hitters up and down the batting order, Matheny is basically an automatic out for the Giants in that 8th spot. One of the Giants’ strengths last year was that, post-Neifi, they had guys 1-8 who could hurt you with the stick. The opponent didn’t really get a break until the number nine spot. Now we essentially have 1-7 and then two pitchers coming up. Yargh. If there was a worse signing this offseason…hell, if there has been a worse signing in Giants history, I want to hear about it.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
From the Pages of: Silly Signings
In the news today, the move that sticks out is the Twins re-upping starter Carlos Silva for 2 years/ 5 mil with an option for a third year. The Twinkies are a team with a deep farm system with a number of solid pitching prospects, so this move makes no sense. Silva won 14 games, sure, but his WHIP was a mediocre 1.43, a product of giving up a whopping 255 hits in 200 innings, while striking out only 76. Now, I'm not a stauch follower in DIPS theory, but this is ridiculous. As an extreme groundballer, Silva relies on his defense more than most pitchers, and now that defensive studs Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz are gone, a weak infield of Mike Cuddyer, Juan Castro, Luis Rivas, and Justin Morneau could spell death on Silva.
This whole thing is an illustration of the dangers of GMs focusing on wins and innings pitched instead of strikeouts and WHIP when evaluating their players. If the Twins were to simply lose Silva after this year and plug Grant Balfour or J.D. Durbin in his place, the results would be much cheaper and, I'm sure, a lot better. Silva gets 1.75 mil this season and 3.2 mil in 2006 (though the deal is loaded with incentives). This isn't as bad as, say, the Reds and Eric Milton, but it's way too much money for a guy who will probably put up an ERA in the 5's this year, and for a budget-conscious team like Minnesota, this is an extremely poor way to allocate payroll. But Terry Ryan has never been one to competently hand out contract extensions, case in point being Joe Mays and Torii Hunter.
Winter of Discontent
The nay-sayers certainly have a point. We hear in one ear Peter Magowan whining about paying off ballpark debt and having to limit payroll, then we open the newspaper and see Sabean investing 10.5 million over three years on a catcher who would have a hard time out-hitting the fat kid from The Sandlot. Instead of investing large amounts of money on young stars like Carlos Beltran or a top-tier pitcher like Pedro Martinez, Sabean nabs Vizquel for 14 mil, re-ups a lefty specialist for a million, and gives Pedro Feliz a 2 year/6 mil extension. Whatever. Since taking over as GM in 1996, Sabean has never once been responsible for putting a losing team on the field. That may certainly not be attributable entirely to him (a Mr. Bonds comes to mind) but he certainly deserves credit for the long streak of winning and he’s earned our trust even when he makes moves that look silly on the outside.
Here’s a little look at some of the major moves Sabean has made this offseason. In this fan’s humble opinion, it has been for the most part a successful winter, despite the criticism. The Giants look stronger on paper than they did last year, and with the defending NL West champ Dodgers doing God-knows-what it looks like the boys by the bay have the division in their crosshairs. Notice that two of the transactions Sabean made aren’t discussed here. That’s because they were ugly, send-me-on-a-long-Vicodin-induced-bender-type of moves that can only be rationalized with the theory that Sabean was either horribly drunk or intent on proving that grown, well-educated men can also spit in the face of common sense on a whim. I’ll discuss these moves at a later date, but for now, here are the deals that were either good or merely tolerable.
Omar Vizquel Well, they had a shortstop in Deivi Cruz who was cheaper and not much different in terms of production at the plate, but Sabean said “Damn the Torpedoes” or something like that, and signed this Proven MLB Veteran Who Has Played On Winners Before ™ anyway. It was a move that was completely unnecessary, but apparently Sabean saw a great need for an upgrade at short. Omar is certainly better defensively than Cruz, and their offense is about a wash, so it wasn’t a horrible deal. Deivi never walks, and thus his .292 average looks fluky and he could easily plummet back to the .250 baseline he had established before, which would kill his value. At least with Vizquel you know you’re getting a high average, decent OBP guy. Still, it would have made more sense to allot this money to somebody better. The only thing I’m concerned with is that third year on Vizquel’s contract. He’ll be 40 and I have visions of him being a Benard-esque albatross.
Armando Benitez It was a move that had to be made. I hate overpaying for closers, and I think paying guys lots of money to come in for one inning to get three usually easy outs (unless they’re named Gagne or Brad Lidge) is asinine. But after watching opposing hitters re-enact Sherman’s March against the Giants’ bullpen last year, I’m not even complaining. Benitez always seemed to be giving up the big hit in the playoffs (he coughed up two games in the ’97 ALCS and we all remember J.T. Snow’s moment of glory in ’00), but I’m willing to take the risk if he can just help us get there. The other option was overpaying for Troy Percival, and the Tigers thankfully beat the G-men to the punch on that one.
Moises Alou Detractors of this signing point to his home/road splits. He hit a scalding .339/.405/.714 at Wrigley last season, as opposed to a more ordinary .247/.316/.400 on the road. Now he’s moving from the Friendly Confines to the Homer Unfriendly Spaces of SBC Park. I think you can understand the concern. Oh yeah, and he’s also a bad fielder. I’m going to go ahead, though, and endorse this acquisition, because he’s the first legitimate threat batting behind Bonds since Kent left, and the deal they gave him (2 yr/13.25 mil) was certainly reasonable. But I won’t go so far as to say that a year like Reggie Sanders’ 2002 is out of the question, and a year like that from Felipe’s son would be a serious disappointment.
Cody Ransom Not that Lemaster, er, Ransom being non-tendered was a major move, but I’ll mention it anyway because he’s gone…thank the Highest, he’s gone! Felipe’s bizarre conviction that Ransom was a good late-inning defensive replacement led to more than a few late-game follies that had me plotting a Marathon Man-esque interrogation session with our erstwhile hapless utility-man. “Is it safe?” If by “it” you mean the ball rolling to Ransom, and by “safe” you mean the out will be recorded, then the answer is definitely an emphatic “NO!” Cue Olivier with the drill, please.
Jason Christiansen I feel very strongly about signing relief pitchers to sizable contracts. Relief pitchers are the most replaceable commodity in baseball. Grab a mediocre starter who throws hard or features a decent out pitch and give him a role as a one-inning guy. Lee Smith, Trevor Hoffman, Eric Gagne, Robb Nen. These guys were all starters who flamed out before finding a niche as a closer. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look, not of how much to pay. The difference between a Danny Kolb and a hard-throwing pitcher like Justin Lehr (formerly of the A’s) toiling in AAA just ain’t that large. The Angels and Twins have been experts at finding scrap heap guys and turning them into excellent relievers, as the former did with Brendan Donnelly and the latter with J.C. Romero and LaTroy Hawkins. So when the Giants re-signed Christiansen for a million bucks, it begged the question: Why? Christiansen last season walked an atrocious 26 batters in 36 innings (against 22 Ks) and was unable to get key outs on numerous occasions in his relatively undemanding role as a lefty-specialist. I understand 1 million isn’t too much these days, but even so, are LOOGYs like Christiansen so sparse that you need to secure them with guaranteed contracts when you can just nab a guy off the scrap heap and he’ll do just as well? Remember when the Giants got Scott Eyre off of waivers for nothing? Christiansen hasn’t been good since coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2002 and bringing him back was really a dumb move. The Giants signed Jeff Fassero to a minor-league deal and I’ll bet anybody he matches or outperforms Christiansen this season.
Monday, February 07, 2005
Greetings and Salutations
Some of you might be wondering what Stankeye means. Well, if you are you certainly aren't a Giants fan, and are so ignorant in the ways of the great ones that I don't even want to talk to you, but I guess I'll just go ahead and enlighten you as to the meaning of the term and the purpose of naming this page after it anyway. Stankeye is a Mike Krukow-ism for when a batter gets buzzed by a high and tight fastball and glares at the pitcher with a "do that again and I'll plant my maple stick in your noggin" look. Krukow calls it stankeye, and I figured it's an appropriate name for an opinionated fan page because I will probably give everybody who underperforms or just plain sucks, on any team, including the Giants, the written equivalent to stankeye. Some will get it occasionally, some will get it every day (cough Mike Matheny cough). Some may get it as they sleep at night, when I drive to their house after a game and peer in their windows...uh, never mind. So it's a blog rife with stankeye, and you can bet I'll break out many more Krukisms along the way (vis a vis "Help me, Jesus fastball" or "Rear back, fill your pants and throw").
Anyway, my first actual post (not counting this contrived and laughably overlong intro) will be along sometime this coming week, where I'll focus on two moves which Brian Sabean has made this offseason that, in my opinion, are absolutely horrendous. Yeah, I like to start off a new blog all pessimistic like that.