Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Catching a Dud

Have you ever had a day where you got out of bed in the morning and just felt like there was nothing wrong in the world, that everything was going your way and that life was just plain worth living? The sun was out, the sky was a gorgeous, blinding blue, and you had the whole day to yourself to frolic and bask in the beauty of life and God's green Earth. You feel so good as you walk around, singing some Bob Marley:

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.

As President of the Mike Matheny Fan Club I take exception to your rap on Mike. He is a strong clubhouse leader, good with pitchers, and will bat as well as A.J., who is a real load. At the end of the 2005 season,you'll be glad Mike is the SF catcher..when they Play Priz sometime in 2006, maybe AJ will see his reflection in Matheny's ring!
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