Monday, November 28, 2005
Tell Me You're Joking
Gathright's 2005 line: .276/.316/.340. In other words, Jason Ellison is a Silver Slugger compared to this guy. He stole 20 bases in 25 attempts, but you can't steal first base and Gathright is pretty much useless other than maybe as a pinch runner-type.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Big Deal, Part II
The big Josh Beckett deal that went down last week garnered mixed reactions. The Marlins did pretty well for themselves, considering they're in one of those fire sale modes that rings a sound like a dinner bell for all the other MLB GMs in the league. It's just like that old truism in a fantasy baseball keeper league: the minute a struggling team posts a defeatist message about getting younger or selling off veterans, jump on that guy like a shark on Robert Shaw. This type of thing usually results in Robb Nen-for-Joe Fontenot-type fiascos.
The Marlins did get four solid prospects, but the key to the deal was unloading Mike Lowell's albatross contract, a concept that seemed about as likely as Vincent Gallo making a thought-provoking film that didn't involve a mindnumbingly pointless motorcycle odyssey across the desert.
From the Red Sox side, it's hard not to like this deal from a talent standpoint. Yeah, they took on tons of salary, but in their never-ending quest to one-up the Yankees, that was merely collateral damage. Their pitching was awful last season and the team took a step to remedy that. Beckett has been very good when healthy, but he's unfortunately never been able to reach even 180 innings in a full season, battling recurring blister problems and a sore arm. Maybe his arm will never be able to shoulder a 200-inning load, but come on, he's still only 26 and he's one of the best in the game when he's out there. He has a career K/9 ratio of nearly a punchout for every frame. Just a random wild comparison, but his development could follow Pedro Martinez's career path: struggle to bring consistency with the stuff for the first few years and then skyrocket in the fifth season. At worst, he's a better bet than shelling out 11 million for A.J. Burnett.
As for Lowell, he was absolutely awful last season, but I refuse to believe that at just 31, after two seasons in which he slugged over .500, he's just suddenly fallen off a cliff. Reports had it that he was playing through injury, so some sort of rebound is likely if that was the case. Playing in Fenway should help his numbers also. He's getting paid way too much, obviously, but as Bill Simmons puts it:
If he stinks, well, he's supposed to stink -- he's the lemon we had to take to get Josh Beckett. If he shows any rejuvenation at all, it's a bonus. Worst-case scenario, he replaces Kevin Millar as the team's "right-handed slugger who used to hit for power right up to the year they started testing for steroids, I'm sure it's just a crazy coincidence" guy.
If Guillermo Mota starts impersonating his old Dodger self (not bloody likely), this could turn into a great trade for Boston. In the long term, it could be great for the Marlins, but we won't know until at least three more years. This could be a Glenn Davis for Curt Schilling-type beauty, with the Marlins doing cartwheels on the Schilling side. Or it could turn into an Aramis Ramirez-for-Bobby Hill disaster, with the Marlins playing the part of David Littlefield rolling around in his own filth. By the time we know, Boston could be celebrating another championship behind ace Josh Beckett.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Big Deal, Part I
For a trade essentially made at gunpoint, the Phils did pretty well for themselves. They absolutely had to get rid of Thome somehow, someway, and it's surprising that they got anything valuable in return. They still have to pay roughly half of Thome's owed salary, but there were fears that they would have to chip in much more than that. For their troubles, they nabbed two of Chicago's best pitching prospects from Kenny Williams and got a pretty good outfielder. While Rowand is nothing special with the bat, he plays a great center field and could be used as trade bait this winter for something more useful. The most important part of the deal for the Phillies, however, is that now Ryan Howard gets the starting first base job all to himself, mercifully ending the ridiculous notion of moving him to the outfield.
As for the White Sox, well, this trade just serves as more evidence that sometimes even doofus GMs get lucky and win a World Series, too. Thome is still a great hitter when healthy, and assuming the Sox can bring Konerko back, his presence will greatly improve a mediocre lineup. Unfortunately, Thome only played in 59 games last season and isn't going to get any healthier at age 35. Even with the Phillies picking up half of the $43.5 million still owed to Thome, this could become an albatross for the Sox if Thome can't fully recover from his elbow problem.
The most mindboggling part of the deal, though, is Kenny Williams' bizarre insistence on pushing the trade through now when he could have just waited a while and gotten Thome for less. Speculaton had it that Thome wasn't going anywhere until spring training, and due to Thome's contract and injury problems few teams were even in the running for him anyway. Apparently this wasn't going to stop Williams from doing something rash, like giving up two good pitching prospects for the right to snatch Thome away when no one else really cared. It's nice to see that Williams fancies himself one-upping the competition even when there is no competition to speak of. Even if he had exercised some patience, god forbid, there probably still wouldn't have been much interest and he probably could have forced the Phils to eat way more of Thome's salary. In the end, Williams turned out to be the kid camping out in front of WalMart for five nights to get the XBOX 360 when he could have just waited a little while and gotten it when the price came down.
Of course, strange snap judgement deals are Williams' forte, from the Billy Koch disaster to the Carlos Lee trade. It's hard to fault him too much after the guy won a World Championship, but this trade sort of mirrors the Eddy Curry deal in the NBA. It looks fine on the face of it, but look deeper and the long term negatives far outweigh the short term positives.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Stupid Mascot Tricks
It was because of that damned mascot, Lou Seal.
You know the bastard. He’s a funny-looking, bipedal, pseudo-cool seal who romps around the field, shooting hot dogs and throwing T-shirts into the stands in between innings. We know he’s hip because he has oversized shades and wears his hat on backwards, and because his only means of communication is giving the thumbs-up to embarrassed fans who have the misfortune to be caught on the JumboTron with this monstrosity. He also bounds up and down the aisles, making young kids and old ladies laugh with delight as his gigantic pot-belly gyrates in bizarre directions as he does the hula. It’s really quite unwholesome when you think about it, and the perversion is magnified when you realize he has no pants on. He might be the most annoying, unlovable mascot in the major leagues. It’s hard to sink to the depths charted by the Krazy Krab of the 1980’s, but Lou Seal is getting there. The problem is that he doesn’t offer anything. Phillie Phanatic is the greatest because he’s funny, clever, and never misses a chance to take a cheap shot at Tommy LaSorda. In Milwaukee, Bernie Brewer dives into a giant beer mug. Even Stomper across the bay somehow exudes ten times the charm of the Seal simply because he entertains instead of irritates. All Lou Seal does is dance badly on top of the visitors’ dugout and piss people off. And did I mention he has no pants?
Unfortunately, I came face to face with this behemoth on this fateful June night. I was at the game with a buddy and had terrific (and pricey) seats in the second row of the bleachers in left-center field, with various fans around us hurling insults at Coco Crisp (mostly focused on his strange name). It was the third or fourth inning, and the Giants were having trouble clawing their way back from an early 2-0 deficit. C.C. Sabathia looked like he had his good stuff, and the Giants weren’t touching him. Then suddenly Mike Matheny walked and it looked like the Giants could finally get something going. I was excited. The top of the order was coming up, and Sabathia was starting to look wild.
Then suddenly this corpulent, furry mass comes waddling into my line of vision. Sure enough, it’s Lou Seal, dancing around, pantomiming in his own grating way. It was a nuisance, but I just assumed he’d go away in a hurry. No such luck.
The yahoos behind us began flinging (well-deserved) insults at the Seal, calling him a “girly man” and tossing other none-too-inspired jabs (at least, none as good as “Cotts-sucker”, which a friend of mine broke out at a White Sox-A’s game in July as Sox reliever Neal Cotts warmed up in front of us). As I gleaned from about five seconds of yelling, apparently the people behind me were regulars, season ticket holders who had constant run-ins with the mascot and this was only a strange continuation of their battle of wits. Since these same fans were immersed in black and orange and seemed passionate in their love for the Giants, it would be tempting to call them “die-hard fans”. Unfortunately, judging from the way these people (grown men, mind you, not kids) obsessively scaled the front row of the bleachers in between innings, hoping to get a foul ball, and from the way they so eagerly engaged the Seal in a verbal sparring match, I think I’d have to waver more toward the label of “losers”.
Anyway, Lou Seal decided this crap wasn’t going to fly. He started pointing fingers and slamming his chest, gesturing to his tormentors, in good old George W. Bush fashion, to “bring it on”, and any hope of him leaving in a timely manner had been blown sky high. Just when the embarrasment started reaching its apex, this asshole Seal came barreling right at me. Honestly, I thought I was going to piss my pants. Here I am, trying to enjoy a game at a beautiful ballpark with my favorite team, and I’m about to get steamrolled by this grotesque creature while the whole ballpark watches.
He didn’t trample me, fortunately, but he leaped right onto the bleachers to my left and began challenging some guy behind me to a bout of arm-wrestling. Meanwhile the Giants had just put another runner on and I couldn’t see what the hell was going on because this stupid mascot was obscuring my view of the field. The fans behind me continued lovingly pelting the Seal with insults as I tried to keep the Seal’s gigantic gray ass out of my face. I don’t know who won the arm-wrestling match, and I don’t know if the Seal got the last laugh, but what I do know is that this went on for ten fucking minutes! As I sat there with this awkward half-smile on my face, trying to make it look like I was having some sort of fun, as veins were popping in my forehead, I began thinking how ironic it was that a mascot designed to provide nothing more than a little added entertainment to a baseball game was instead acting as a total hindrance to my enjoyment of said game. I paid good money to watch the Giants play, not to have Lou Seal do a dance in my face while the Giants rally.
The Seal finally took off, but by that point the Giants had gone down without scoring and my night was effectively ruined. Moises Alou would hit a monstrous home run in the next inning, but that only brightened my spirits temporarily. The night quickly turned sour again as Sabathia himself doubled in two runs and Al Levine came on in the ninth and gave up five more in his last appearance as a Giant. And across the field, Lou Seal was jiggling around in front of some other poor sap who at that point was beginning to ponder the merits of becoming a Nationals fan. Final score: Indians 10, Giants 2. Lou Seal 1, John Ryder 0.
Before that night, every time I saw the Seal on TV I was merely irritated by him. Now, after his stink was so close to me, I loathe him. In 2006, I’ll once again make my way to Mays Field to take in a Giants game, and I’ll root for my team as passionately as ever. Nothing will stop that, not even the Seal. But I’ll be prepared for him this time, whether it be with earmuffs, or maybe a taser. If he tries that crap in my vicinity again, he’ll find himself tied to a ferry in McCovey Cove being mauled by Portuguese Water Dogs. It’s baffling why the Giants have introduced some of the worst mascots in the history of baseball, but I long for the day that Lou Seal finds himself at the bar, sipping whiskey and trading war stories with the Krazy Krab. Then I’ll be the one dancing around, wiggling my belly in joy, not the Seal.
Lou Seal, Scourge of China Basin
Monday, November 21, 2005
Into Thin Eyre
Either way, the Giants were right not to go after Eyre too passionately. Brian Sabean has always tended to be a guy who knows when he is beat (i.e. the Dusty Baker debacle), so give him credit for knowing when to cut bait. From the Cubs, Eyre will get in the neighborhood of $11 million over the next three years (assuming he exercises his player option in 2008, a safe bet considering the high likelihood of Eyre seeing his performance collapse like Kirstie Alley’s bathroom scale…ba-zing!), and that’s not counting the substantial incentive money spelled out in his contract. For a 33-year-old middle reliever who’s just had his best season, and who has appeared in over 80 games in each of the past two seasons (thank you, Felipe), that’s not a worthwhile investment. Eyre was unquestionably one of the best non-closers in the game last season, and according to Baseball Prospectus he was the absolute best pitcher in the NL at preventing inherited runners from scoring, and it wasn’t even close*. He started getting righties out as well as lefties and finally shed that pesky LOOGY label that most southpaw relievers carry around with them like the Stone of Triumph.
Unfortunately, while Eyre was terrific, he wasn’t extraordinary, and relievers who don’t reduce opposing hitters to drooling lobotomy patients at the plate don’t deserve big paydays. Good middle relievers can be found scattered throughout the baseball universe. They are the single most easily replaceable commodity in baseball; you just have to know where to look. If you sift long enough through the Alvin Mormans and the Troy Brohawns of the world, you’re bound to come across a Chad Bradford or a Neal Cotts. Even Eyre himself was a scrap heap find by Sabean in 2002, a Blue Jay cast-off looking for a niche in the majors. When we remember how Eyre was dug up, we realize that it’s foolish to throw millions of dollars at him when somebody just as good can be found using exactly the same methods of dumpster diving. Wait long enough, and some rich snob in a gated community will toss out a perfectly good Armani. Also, young lefty Jack Taschner, who was so impressive in his limited showing last season, is a good bet to match Eyre’s production over the next few seasons. In the meantime, that 3 mil (or thereabouts) that would have gone towards Eyre can now be spent on a decent bat or another arm.
*Regarding this particular stat, Inherited Runs Prevented, I have to believe that it has an incredibly high degree of fluctuation from year to year. Unless a pitcher is an Eric Gagne-type who strikes out a bazillion batters per nine innings, it’s easy to see how a few little dunk hits and duckfarts could put a crimp in a pitcher’s success rate. If Eyre comes in five times with the bases loaded in 2005 and induces five line-outs, nobody scores and he looks like an IRP god. In 2006, if the cosmos open up a can of karma whoop-ass and those line-outs turn into singles or doubles, Eyre doesn’t look like too much of a genius anymore. Taking this into account just reinforces the fact that letting Eyre leave was probably a wise thing to do.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
"I First Became Aware Of It During the Physical Act Of Love."
It all makes sense now. Why else would the Giants sign Neifi Perez to a two-year deal? Why else would they give Mike Matheny three years, 10.5 million? Why would they trade a flamethrowing reliever and two promising prospects for a crotch-kicking catcher? Because there's been a Dodger plant within the Giants organization for years now, and the reality is finally coming to the fore. It's a brilliant scheme on L.A.'s part: insert an agent into the Giants' front office, build several years' of trust, get to know Brian Sabean's strategies and secrets concerning player personnel, then begin to slowly coerce the trusted party into making silly deals, i.e. the Neifi signing or the Hawkins deal. Then, when the assignment is over and the Giants' future looks as grim as possible, go back to the mothership.
Oh, Coletti obviously can't just walk out of the Giants organization and make himself cozy back in Dodger blue. That would arouse way too much suspicion. Instead we have this convoluted scenario where the Dodgers start wooing him for their GM position, only pretending to consider people like Theo Epstein or Kim Ng to serve as a facade. Oh, his plan was nearly foiled when the Giants almost won the World Series in 2002, but Coletti brilliantly convinced Dusty Baker, through some means as yet unknown, to bring in Felix Rodriguez to face Scott Spezio, and to start Livan in Game 7. Luckily for Coletti, the Giants blew it and his mission was still a go. After again being threatened in 2003 with a 100 win season, Coletti knew it was go time. He convinced Sabean to trade for Pierzynski, to make Neifi the starting shortstop, to make Matt Herges the closer, to sign Michael Tucker and Omar Vizquel before arbitration hearings, causing the team to lose potentially useful first round draft picks. Then, in the most diabolical manuever of all, he somehow got Sabean to believe that giving Matheny a three year deal based on his game-calling skills would send the Giants back to the World Series. That conniving bastard!
Now the plan is revealed and we can't stand for it anymore. We must take preemptive action against the Dodgers. We can no longer sit back and allow Dodger infiltration, Dodger indoctrination, Dodger subversion and the international Dodger conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
Just look at him, hiding behind that smarmy mustache, knowing that he's so close to getting away red-handed. Benedict Arnold in all his glory.
We have to strike back with all we've got for this gross transgression. We have to send a message that this kind of chicanery just won't cut it anymore. We'll win the NL West for the next ten years, and we'll bitch-slap the Bums every time they step onto Mays Field. No more Dodger spies whispering advice to give replacement-level catchers real money. No more Ray Oyler-level infielders getting 400 at bats. The Dodgers will pay. They won't take our essence.
(*Kudos to Stanley Kubrick for making Dr. Strangelove, which I'm ripping off mercilessly to write this ridiculous post)
Monday, November 14, 2005
Oh, THAT Sweeney.
Giants Fan #2: No, who?
Giants Fan #1: Sweeney.
Giants Fan #2: Mike Sweeney? Yes! Finally, they go after a big bat to stick at first base!
Giants Fan #1: Uh, well, no. Actually, it’s Mark Sweeney.
Giants Fan #2: (clutches chest and reels backwards Fred Sanford-style): Oh boy! Here comes the big one!
Henry Schulman reported the other day that one of the players the Giants are looking to pick up this winter is veteran first baseman Mark Sweeney, a guy who has carved out a niche in the majors as an expert pinch hitter. He had an .876 OPS as a pinch hitter in 2005, and his career line in those situations is .270/.363/.403. Last year, Sweeney received a career-high 221 at-bats and had unquestionably his best season, raking to the tune of .294/.395/.466, a line that looks even more amazing when you realize he was playing in the hitting vacuum that is Petco Park. He’s also 35, so he certainly meets the veteran criteria that the Giants hold in their quest to field the oldest lineup imaginable. Next on the list: Tommy John and Minnie Minoso. Seriously, at what point does Brian Sabean just hand Ned Coletti a chart of 1900-era ballplayers like Honus Wagner and Cap Anson, a la Mr. Burns, and tell Coletti to make the Giants a winner? It seems like the natural next step (though the idea of Ned Coletti informing a dejected Sabean Smithers-style that all those guys have, in fact, been dead for several decades summons up an amusing mental picture).
Sweeney seems more like a cheap stop-gap solution that the A’s would go after, reminiscent of Scott Hatteberg. I can’t believe the Giants would be silly enough to entertain the idea of making him their everyday first baseman, but then again this is a franchise that gave Neifi Perez a two-year deal with designs of making him their starting shortstop. Sweeney is an excellent pinch-hitter/bench guy, and grabbing him to fill that role, and that role only, would be a fine move. Sweeney can work the count and he’s got occasional pop, and he’d be a terrific upgrade to a bench that pretty much stunk up China Basin last year. As a bonus, he only made $575,000 last season and he should be had for similar peanuts again this year.
However, if the Giants have ideas of making him an everyday player, as the Schulman report implies, it’d be a mistake on several levels. First off, it’d needlessly take at-bats away from Lance Neikro, a guy who could potentially turn into a fine power hitter. I can’t reiterate this enough. Neikro is young and deserves a shot as the everyday first baseman, just in case he can start hitting righties and he turns into a major threat. If he sucks butt for a month, fine, get him get him out of there, but there’s no sense in having a proven mediocrity soaking up at-bats while a possible bust-out candidate in Neikro wastes away.
Also, as I noted before, Sweeney had his best season at the plate last year…at age 35. Danger Will Robinson! It’s possible that Sweeney’s always been this good, and that his numbers have just been squandered by a lack of at-bats (he’s averaged only 123 per season in his 11-year career). More likely, he just had a fluke year, and if given a full season’s worth of plate appearances for the first time he’ll just be exposed. Sweeney has been a top notch bench guy for a long time, and these kinds of players don’t have histories of just suddenly seeing their effectiveness fall into a bottomless pit (Lenny Harris and Dave Magadan went on forever), so he’d be a fine, if not particularly noteworthy, addition. The Giants just need to approach the Sweeney hunt by chanting to themselves the mantra “200 ABs, good. 500 bad. 200, good. 500 bad!” and acting accordingly, and everything will work out fine.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Crazy Prognostication Of The Day
So here's who I think we'll see at First next year: former Gold Glover and all-around spelling bee foe Doug Mientkiewicz. Keep in mind that I'm not saying this is the best move, or even a good one, but just a move that I think has the highest probability of becoming a reality.
Expect to see Doug Minkvxzyi!#%$^! in a Giants uniform in 2006.
Think about it. Minky is basically a younger version of J.T. Snow, a slick-fielding pretty boy who is generally liked by the media because of his upbeat attitude and his dirt dog mentality, and who is overrated by lots of people because of his glove. Also like Snow, Minky has a weak bat for a player at the keystone. But as we know, Sabean likes these kinds of guys, the guys who apparently help you win games via some magical power that no one can really see. Mientkiewicz was (and probably still is) one of the best fielders in the game, and he got a ton of hype for it when he was a member of the Twins.
As we all know, Sabean is a sucker for hype, often listening to it over objective evaluation, and he has a bad habit of throwing wads of money at players based on this hype (Matheny, Vizquel), even though their actual performance hardly merits it. Minky is the type of guy who has been characterized as a gamer, and who has been on winning teams almost his entire career, so don't be surprised if Sabean is seduced and Dougie Alphabet suits up and steals at bats from Neikro next year.
I've always admittedly been a big fan myself of Minky (again with the love of dirty uniform, red-ass types), but even I'm realistic enough to admit that he shouldn't take playing time from Neikro. If he's signed cheaply and is only given starts against tough righties I think it'd be a nice little pickup. He had an .803 OPS away from Shea Stadium last season and his plate discipline provides a decent occasional alternative to Neikro's wild hacking. Sadly, with Dumbass Alou at the helm, if Minky does get signed by the Giants, I think we'll be seeing a whole lot of him while Neikro rots on the bench.
Do Monkeys Pick These Awards?
Carpenter: 21-5 2.83 ERA 213/51 K/BB .231 BAA
Roger Clemens: 13-7 1.87 ERA 185/65 K/BB .198 BAA
Carpenter had a fabulous year, no doubt, but come on. Clemens had an ERA almost a full run lower than Carpenter's despite pitching in an extreme hitter's environment. His ERA was the lowest for a pitcher in a single season in over a decade. Away from Minute Maid Park, Clemens had a completely ridiculous 1.32 ERA. He was clearly, without a doubt, the best pitcher in the NL, even if his team couldn't get him any runs.
Ah, but the catch is that shiny number in the win column. Carpenter had eight more wins than Clemens and that's what won him the award, even though wins are almost entirely out of a pitcher's control. It's sad that in this day and age of enlightened performance evaluation that a majority of sportswriters are still duped by wins. Clemens had one of the worst offense in baseball backing him up, while Carpenter had one of the best. That's the sole reason behind the disparity in wins, not because Carpenter "knew how to get it done" or some garbage like that. This selection isn't nearly as asinine as picking Bartolo Colon over Johan Santana, but it still reeks of voter laziness and/or stupidity. Maybe someday I'll just stop caring.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Some Hilarious Comments From The Neifi
"I did my job last year, and I was hoping to stay in Chicago. I'm so happy right now."
You damn well better be happy! You actually found a team retarded enough to give you guaranteed money, and two years of guaranteed money at that. And if by doing your job you mean helping rob Derrek Lee of an MVP award with your inability to get on base for him, then yes, you sure did a damn good job of that.
"I think I showed them that if they put me in, I can play everyday."
I...ah...gee...wha....Huh?!?!? I'm totally speechless. You showed them you can play everyday? With what? That shiny .681 OPS that just happens to be your best since 2001? Neifi, you showed last year that you weren't even qualified to apply jock itch cream to the batboy. Is this man so full of himself that he doesn't know how horrible he is?
And one from Jim Hendry...
"Obviously, Neifi had a terrific year. He's a way, way, way above average defender and I think an important part of the ballclub no matter what his role is."
All right, you've convinced me, let's give him 600 at-bats. Obviously Hendry can't figure out that Dusty Baker giving Neifi 572 at-bats (268 in the #2 hole...yuck!) is a major reason why the Cubs only finished 9th in the league in runs scored despite having Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez mashing in the middle of the order.
Gratuitous ALF Pic
There. Much better
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Turmoil in La-La Land, and Why the Giants Should Care
When DePo was named the top man in the Dodger front office before last season, I became very afraid for my beloved Giants. As those who read Moneyball already know, DePodesta served for years as Billy Beane’s assistant GM/computer nerd, helping Beane turn the low budget A’s into a World Series contender. When he came to L.A. it should have sent off red alert claxons throughout the rest of the division. Depo was a guy who understood how to competently ration out payroll, where to look for cheap talent, and how to fill holes with that cheap talent. He was a guy who knew how to find good ballplayers for virtually nothing, a guy who would rather eat a live porcupine than toss $5 million at Neifi Perez. Now at the head of a huge payroll and in a bustling market with TV revenue coming in through every orifice, it looked like the possibilities were endless.
Sure enough, DePodesta’s moves helped the Dodgers win the NL West in his first year at the helm. He acquired Milton Bradley for virtually nothing, claimed Jose Lima off the scrap heap and sent him packing after his one good year, traded for Steve Finley (who practically won them the division), assembled an eclectic but very good bullpen, and cobbled together one of the better benches in the league, anchored by compost pile gems Jose Hernandez and Olmedo Saenz. His controversial trade of Paul LoDuca and Guillermo Mota was chum to be torn to shreds by the knee-jerk press, but it freed up chunks of valuable payroll that could be spent elsewhere on younger and more valuable parts. Even after losing 91 games in 2005, Depodesta had this team set up nicely for the future, with a great farm system and a talented core of players. His goal: compete now with the guys he’s got, wait until the hideous contracts of bygone eras have passed (Darren Dreifort, anyone?) and then become a Yankee-like power with all the talent that’s been stocked in the farm system and the endless payroll available to him.
The press, though, would have none of it. Never mind that last year the Dodgers lost a ridiculous amount of games to their best players due to injury; it was apparently all DePodesta’s fault. Never mind that he signed Jeff Kent, dumped Shawn Green’s salary, and re-signed their best pitcher from 2004, while continuing to stock the system with young talent. He had to go, said the morons on the L.A. talk shows and in the newspapers. Sure, he made some dumb moves, like giving Derek Lowe $8 million over four years, or signing J.D. Drew, a great player who is almost never healthy, to too much money, but the good outweighs the bad by a wide margin. None of the positive moves DePo made were particularly evident in 2005, because the entire team was pretty much a MASH unit all year. By August they were pretty much throwing out Jeff Kent and a AAA lineup. But any observer who actually cared to look deeper into what the Dodgers were doing would find a tasty future awaited this team. Fortunately for us, Dodger ownership suffered from near-sightedness, and couldn’t see the big picture.
Now DePo’s gone and it’s great news for the Giants. I just can’t stress this enough. Imagine if Billy Beane was given an enormous payroll and you’d get an idea of the kind of carnage DePodesta would have wrought upon the NL West in the years to come. He’s that good. Instead, the Dodgers are going to appease Tommy LaSorda, who reportedly hated DePo, and will probably sign some doofus who has no idea what he's (or she's) doing. The same doofus who will probably shell out an arm and a leg for A.J. Burnett and soon find that they should have kept that arm and that leg because Burnett’s have just fallen off. The Giants need to thank the Dodger front office for being too stupid to see DePodesta’s plan, and then caving in to the masses when they screamed their equally brainless opinions.
Well, I just wrote a long essay pretty much defending the Dodgers, and I suddenly feel a strong need for a bath or a Cat Scan or something. However, I think it’s much less a defense than simply a voicing of the incredible relief I feel that this man is out of the division. Seriously, he scares the hell out of me. Sometimes when I lie in bed at night, I hear tree limbs squeaking on the window and fear that it might be the evil DePo come to get me and screw the Giants over. Sometimes my closet door is propped open at night, and out from the darkness come the satanic red eyes of DePo!
Okay, this is getting sort of creepy, but you get the point. I have a feeling the Giants just dodged (no pun intended) a huge bullet with the Depodesta firing. God bless the Dodgers for having no bloody clue what they’re doing.
At least the BBWAA got the Rookie of the Years right. Huston Street was basically a no-brainer in the AL, but I was convinced that surely the dingusses who vote on this thing would be seduced by Willy Taveras’s speed and give him the NL award over Ryan Howard. To my utter shock, common sense prevailed, and Howard won.
As for the NL Cy Young, I’d guess Chris Carpenter wins, even though Roger Clemens deserves it. Arod will probably get shafted in the AL MVP voting after being torn to shreds after his poor postseason. Derrek Lee should probably win the NL MVP, but I wouldn’t be heartbroken if Albert Pujols wins it; both are deserving of recognition. Sadly, I think Andruw Jones is going to win it because lots of people think he “carried his team on his back” right into the playoffs, or some crap like that.
Proof That College is a Worthwhile Endeavor
"A strange man defecated on my sister."
There you go. Best line I've heard in a film in a long time, and I'll probably have to develop a thesis on it. Definitely worth the obscene amounts of money being poured into my education.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
To Cubs Fans, From a Giants Fan
I feel your pain Cubs fans, for I as a Giant fan have been through two years of what you are about to endure. If you think you've seen hapless flailing before, oh baby, you ain't seen nothing yet. You think you've been through hell? Nope, it's only begun. You just threw $5 million down the toilet, and basically destroyed your chances of fielding a halfway decent bench. I'd like to say it could be worse, but, frankly, I don't see how it could possibly get worse, short of bringing back Hal Lanier and telling him to strap it on and give it a go at shortstop.
Even the goat is quivering in fear on this day, because no power on Earth can withstand the evil force known as Neifi. All the tears you've cried Cub fans, well, bottle them up and prepare for more. The darkness has spread to the Friendly Confines and there is no way to stop it now. Repent before it's too late!
Golden Leather and the Catching Conundrum
Hear that sound? It's thunder on the horizon. A storm's a' comin'. Board up the windows! Batten down the hatches! Put the cats in the cellar! Box up the mayonnaise! Here comes another patented Give 'Em Some Stankeye! anti-Mike Matheny, pro-A.J. Pierzynski tirade! The tsunamis are hitting the shore! Mothers are clutching their babies in horror! Frightened Japanese civilians are running wild in the streets of Tokyo, reciting badly dubbed English lines. Cats and dogs are living together! Mass hysteria! I'll try my best to keep this from turning into a brainless diatribe a la Ann Coulter, but I make no promises.
Congratulations to Omar Vizquel and Mike Matheny for winning Gold Gloves the other day. The numbers may not have shown them to be the best, but who cares? It's just nice to have the Boys in Black and Orange represented in the postseason awards after such a dismal year, and they both certainly looked awesome in the field, especially Vizquel. Both probably got their award based more on reputation than performance, as it almost always takes BBWAA voters like three years after the fact to recognize great defensive performance (maybe Brian Schneider will one day be recognized for his work behind the plate).
Anyway, speaking of Matheny, I find it interesting that all the hoopla surrounding him in the off-season was over how well he worked with the pitching staff, how great he was at calling games, how his defense saved boatloads of runs, and how the entire pitching staff was lining up to give him backrubs and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. He was the yin to Pierzynski's yang, the Neo to Pierzynski's Agent Smith.
God vs. The Devil?
Matheny's defense may have been great, but we know now that it had absolutely no positive effect on the standings. In fact, despite the praises being sung about his magical game-calling abilities and his rapport with the pitchers, the Giants pitching staff was absolutely horrific in the first half of the season before righting itself in August. Meanwhile, alleged clubhouse cancer A.J. Pierzynski went to the White Sox on a cheap one-year deal and, wouldn't you know it, their pitching staff turned into the best in the league, and his teammates had nothing but good things to say about him. The Sox went on to win the World Series, while the Giants floundered around under .500 and got beat out for 2nd place by the freaking Diamondbacks. If you want to get real stingy, here we go:
Giants 2004 Team ERA w/Pierzynski: 4.29
Giants 2005 Team ERA w/Matheny: 4.33
Granted, essentially the same, but if Matheny is such a god at handling a pitching staff, and A.J. is just a lout who'd rather finish a hand of poker than discuss opposing hitters, the why the hell didn't the team pitching improve dramatically? Shouldn't the White Sox pitching staff have fallen off a cliff instead of turning into the best in the league if Pierzynski is as bad as he was made out to be?
Now, I'm not trying to make Pierzynski into a martyr and Matheny into a pariah or anything. What I'm trying to say is that the numbers above and the difference in the two pitching staffs this season means nothing. I don't think anybody could honestly sit here and tell me that Pierzynski is a better backstop than Matheny, or that Pierzynski is a better clubhouse guy, yet the two catchers' pitching staffs in 2005 could not have been any different. If the Giants had had Pierzynski, the pitching would have sucked and the team would have sucked, and he'd still be simply labeled a braying jackass. Now he's a braying jackass who's also a playoff hero and suddenly a game-calling genius. If the White Sox had had Matheny there's a great chance they probably would have still won the World Series.
The moral of the story is that you pay guys money based on performance, not silly intangibles that can't be quantified or, for that matter, even consistently recognized. We hear a lot about Matheny's winning clubhouse demeanor. That's all well and good, but let's face it, when the season starts, it doesn't mean shit. As Bill Lee once said, "Give me 25 assholes and I'll show you a pennant winner."
So now Matheny is on the hook for two more years (possibly three with his option) because his glove and his personality are supposedly highly conducive to winning. Well, we know now that that's wrong, so what do we have to look forward to? Matheny just had a career half-season with the bat at 34, but hit like his usual self in the second half, and it's going to get a lot worse next year. Sometimes major leagues GMs can't distinguish between the difference between situation and performance when doling out guaranteed money, and, as in this case, they get burned.
Monday, November 07, 2005
So Much To Talk About, So Little Time
As for the Giants, five players with options will be coming back in 2006. Ray Durham, Moises Alou, and Latroy Hawkins all exercised their player options. Durham and Alou were the team’s two best hitters last season (pre-Winn, of course), and while the usual caveats concerning injury apply, they’ll be back to knock the ball around and get on base in 2006, just to get stranded when Pedro Feliz pops out weakly to the shortstop. Interestingly enough, despite all the injury problems Durham had last year, he didn’t spend one day on the DL; he was just plagued by nagging maladies that never really shelved him for any length of time, so thus I’ll dub him “Day-to-Day" Ray.
"Day-to-Day" Ray will be back with the Giants in 2006.
Hawkins is sort of a mixed bag. On one hand, if he regains his 2002-2004 form, and the Giants get Scott Eyre re-signed, the team could have a darn good bullpen. Of course, if Hawkins decides to get all flaky again and have frequent meltdowns like last year, that 4.35 million he’s getting paid will look mighty steep. I just still can’t believe Brian Sabean traded Jerome Williams to get Hawkins. I can’t fathom what possessed the Giants to give up on the kid so soon. Was it the decreased velocity? The passing resemblance to Livan Hernandez? His Hawaiian roots? There aren’t any lepers there anymore, come on!
Also, the Giants exercised their team options on Randy Winn and Jason Schmidt, the former for $5 million and the latter for $10 mil. When Winn was first acquired, the prospect of paying him that much in ’06 seemed like a dubious prospect, but after he became possessed by the spirit of Mickey Mantle, it became a no-brainer. Schmidt’s option was sort of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t kind of thing. If he continues to pitch like he did last year, he won’t be worth half of what he’s going to be paid, but the Giants just can’t cut bait with him and watch him go to the Padres and win a Cy Young or something. If it were $10 million for several more years, then we’d have a problem.
Last but not least, the Giants re-signed Jeff Fassero to a one-year deal for relative table scraps. Fassero was pretty good in a swing role in 2005, but feeding this through the wise Processor of Reason presents some problems. 43-year-old + finesse pitcher + guaranteed money…..doesn’t compute! Doesn’t compute! AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!! KABLOOOEY! Are the Giants being naïve in thinking Fassero can repeat his reasonable success of last year? Let’s put it this way: wishful thinking like this is about on par with setting up a blind date with “boymagnet69” on the Internet and hoping to meet a girl who looks like Jennifer Connelly. Yeah, it might happen, but more likely you’re going to be face-to-face with a fat, hairy guy named Ron who keeps making creepy references to a banana in his pocket.
And I can’t leave without mentioning that the worst television show in recent memory continued to disease the airwaves last night, as our hero Michael Rapaport frantically tried to convince his nubile young daughter to keep her virginity, with the usual wild arm-flailing on hand for bad measure. You go, Rapa.