Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Ha! More Like Bull-Shit-Pen

Webster's defines a travesty as "a debased, distorted, or grossly inferior imitation". So give Brian Sabean and the Giants' front office credit for putting together this "bullpen", a collection of faux-quality arms that nearly coughed up two leads tonight and wasted a brilliant performance by Matt Cain. If the Giants hadn't battered hapless DBack rookie Tony Pena (no, not the guy whose liner Candy Maldonado ran afoul of in 1987) they'd have been forced into extras (or worse) after Benitez's umpteenth blowup in the past month.

It's gotten to the point now that the only reason Benitez is even being trotted out there anymore is because of some desperate hope that he'll at some point begin to at long last justify his salary. Judging from his decreasing velocity and increasingly lifeless splitter, that wait is probably just all in vain, and Armando looks just about done as a quality closer.

The other culprits in the late-inning debacle included Mike Stanton and Steve Kline. Stanton gave up the game-tying home run in the 8th, while Kline gave up a mammoth double to Chad Tracy (a home run in just about any other park) with two runners on in the ninth before retiring Johnny Estrada (please welcome the latest entry to the list of Giant-killers) on a sharp ground ball to shortstop. Stanton hasn't been too bad as a Giant but,again, there was just no need to give up a curiosity like Shairon Martis to get a stopgap guy who fills one of the most overrated and pointless roles on a pitching staff, that of a LOOGY. If Stanton is used as a LOOGY, great, fine, I don' t care. Give him full innings and we've got a problem. Steve Kline is like a less congenial version of Stanton. Left-handed, yes, but in the end equally obsolete. I mean, what has Kline done this year that like some random Quad-A guy couldn't do? It took me like two months before I remembered that he was even on the staff.

As for Cain, he was terrific, shaking off some early-game command problems to dominate Arizona's lineup for 7 innings. This kind of thing is what I'm talking about with Cain. There were commentators and fans who actually believed he would be Roger Clemens right out of the gate. Yes, we'd all love to have our own Doc Gooden circa 1984, but the reality is he's a 21-year-old kid with kinks still to work out.

Since the All-Star Break, Cain has a 3.48 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP, and a 56 K's in 53 2/3 innings, all impressive, and comprising a vast improvement on his erratic first half. Cain still has periodic fits where he has no idea where the ball is going, but overall his command has seen sharp improvement in the last month and that, along with Noah Lowry's second straight monster August, has given Giants fans reason to feel good about at least two-fifths of the starting rotation in the next few years.

With Jason Schmidt going tomorrow, a series sweep looks like a distinct possibility. Who knows, if the Giants can put some wins together and beat the Dodgers and Pads in their remaining head-to-heads, maybe they could squeak into the playoffs. They looked dead in the water in August of '02 before storming to the World Series. Then again, that team had a killer lineup and a closer with a still-live arm and whose head and heart amounted to more than ten cents.

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