Monday, October 30, 2006
Where the hell do we go from here?
I was perusing this site ( http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com/2004/12/san-francisco-giants_30.html ) when I realized that the Giants opening day payroll, if the season were to start right now, stands somewhere between 31 and 32 million. Just to put that number into perspective the lovable cats in Black and Orange had a payroll of 90 million-ish at the start of last year. Now, assuming McGowan allows Sabean to spend around the same amount of money he did on the team last year... and the million errr 60 million dollar question... How will the Giants spend that money? And maybe an even better question is how should the Giants spend that money?
Uh oh yeah I wouldn't look at that website too hard considering we are still on the hook to Morris for 9.5 mil and Benitez for 7.6 mil... gulp... Uh? Go Giants?
Friday, October 27, 2006
Stankeye Quote of the Week 10/27
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Definition Of Bad Timing
And I'm not sure, but I believe I heard Joe Buck mention Neifi Perez's name as one of the Tigers' big bats coming to the plate in the ninth inning.
This series has been a bit of a yawnfest so far, with only Kenny Rogers's pine tar hijinks and Todd Jones's ninth inning near-implosion in Game Two providing any kind of spark. But hey, at least we get Ken Rosenthal's nerdy non-insight from the sidelines!
Friday, October 20, 2006
World Series Poll
Stankeye Quote of the Week 10/20
-Rotoworld, on the shooting incident involving the White Sox's Juan Uribe and three others in the Dominican Republic.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
2006 Stankeye's 10 Most Hated Players List
Before we get started, I think I should mention that there are two omissions that just about every Giants fan on the planet will disagree with me on: A.J. Pierzynski and Jeff Kent. With Pierzynski, the fact that he was the centerpiece of one of the most gawdawful trades in Giants history, and because he acted like a jerk-off while with the team, well, that would usually justify his inclusion on this list. As readers of this blog know, though, I was a huge fan of the guy when he was with the Twins, and I still enjoy his antics, so sorry, but I'll gladly sit by my lonesome in the A.J.-defending corner of the Giants universe.
As for Kent, well, he's a jerk, a horrible fibber, an incompetent car washer, and he couldn't stop ripping the Giants after he left town. However, I can't really say I dislike the guy after he put up Hall of Fame numbers as a Giant and helped lead them to three postseason berths and an NL pennant. Plus, he's the kind of hard-nosed, jerk-type player that I tend to love. Yes, he's a freaking Dodger, but I think production as a Giant trumps almost anything done off the field, and if there's one thing Kent did while in San Francisco, it was produce.
With that out of the way, let's start the hatin'...
10. Scott Spiezio There's one reason and one reason only why he's on this list, and I don't think you need more than one guess to figure out what that is. That's right, Game Six. Amazing how one swing of the bat can sour a guy on an entire franchise forever. If it weren't for that fateful home run cut, I'd feel pretty indifferent about the man.
After 2002, Spiezio fell off the face of the earth, hitting rock bottom last season when he OPSed .286 (!) for Seattle. He caught on with the Cardinals this year, found his bat again, and grew a really atrocious red soul patch that the media latched onto like a bunch of remoras on a shark. Since he's had a couple of big hits this postseason, media-types are suddenly remembering that he's this mad "clutch" hitter, and thus we have to relive his Game Six home run again and again and again. And I haven't ever heard a song by his band Sandfrog, but since I can't get over 2002, I'm just going to say they suck.
9. Jose Vizcaino I actually had fond memories of Vizcaino before 2006, based solely on his 1997 season with the Giants. That year Vizcaino played a serviceable shortstop for a team that won the division. Of course, those warm feelings of nostalgia were shot to hell when Sabean brought Vizcaino's charred husk in for a cool million to act as the top backup infielder this year. I just ate, so I'll refrain from running the nauseating numbers, but let's just say that you didn't have to be Nostradamus to foresee that Vizcaino would be a complete disaster. Of all the moves Brian Sabean made this offseason, signing Vizcaino may not have been the worst, but it was surely the most perplexing.
8. Salomon Torres Yes, thirteen years later, it still hurts. From his bizarre Manny Aybar infatuation to having Tsuyoshi Shinjo pinch hit in Game Seven, starting Torres on that fateful day in 1993 has to rank as Dusty Baker's all-time worst "hunch".
7. Livan Hernandez Still big, still fat, only this year he reverted back to his old, sucky pre-2003 ways, meaning that ruminating on his interminable tenure as a Giant is now only marginally less infuriating. One of the most perplexing myths in recent baseball history was this idea that Livan was "big game" pitcher, that the higher the stakes, the harder fatso bore down. We know now from Game Seven of the 2002 World Series that this was a bunch of baloney, but up until that moment when he imploded on the Angel Stadium mound, Livan was regarded as a big money postseason pitcher. This despite the fact that he had one, count 'em one, truly terrific playoff start, and that came only because Eric Gregg had a strike zone that spanned the entire Florida peninsula from coast to coast. His two 1997 World Series wins came despite a 5.27 ERA, his two starts in the 2002 postseason prior to the Series were shaky at best, and he got tattooed in Game Three of that World Series. Of all the times to really prove to everybody what an "unclutch" load he was, why did it have to be in Game Seven? Why? For that (and for mistaking an old man's head for a golf tee in the subsequent offseason) we'll never forgive him.
6. Jose Mesa He has a mug that makes Randy Johnson look like Brad Pitt, and he apparently sees fit to crank up the homicidal machinations whenever Omar Vizquel steps to the plate. After Vizquel called him out for blowing the 1997 World Series, Mesa threatened to hit Omar every time he faced him, and followed through on that promise until MLB finally said enough was enough and suspended him. Yes, Jose, maybe Omar was a little wrong for singling you out, but get over it. Dude, you suck, stop trying to kill one of our favorite players.
5. Pedro Feliz
People all over the world
Start a hate train, hate train
People all over the world
Start a hate train, hate train
With all due respect to the O'Jays, the Pedro Feliz Hate Train rolls right along. How about this. I promise I will never, from here on out, mention Feliz in a derogatory manner on this blog again...on one condition. If...if...he doesn't re-sign with the Giants and is not back in a Giants uniform in 2007. If I never again have to watch him hack at garbage in the dirt while wearing balck and orange, I'll lay off. If for some reason he's back next year, doing his usual thing, he's fair game. Sound like a deal? As a final shot, for those of you who still think Pedro's 22 homers and 98 RBIs amount to a hill of beans, here's Pedro's 2006 OPS compared to that of someone we'll call Third Baseman X.
3B X: .736
Third Baseman X is David Bell. Join hands. Join hands.
4. Brett Tomko I'd call Tomko a horse's ass, but that'd be an insult to the back sides of horses everywhere. Tomko is a lout of the first order, one of those players who walks and talks like a Hall of Famer, despite the fact that his record speaks hilariously otherwise. He also has a penchant for blaming everybody but himself for his own foibles. He sucked in the first half of 2004, and blamed it all on his already put-upon catcher. He sucked for pretty much all of 2005, blew a couple of key games down the stretch, and then accused the Giants of not respecting him. Yeeeahhhh. In a fitting example of the old adage "a man's character is his fate", he's now a Dodger. Ned Colletti apparently didn't know enough from Tomko's Giant years to keep from signing him to a two-year deal, but he was smart enough to get him the hell out of the starting rotation when he inevitably started stinking up Chavez Ravine. Unfortunately, the Giants didn't really get the chance to mop the floor with him, as Tomko did not start any games against them this season.
3. Armando Benitez Last seen on the Wrigley Field pitching mound, irately flipping the ball to Elizier Alfonzo in a childish display of defiance directed toward Felipe Alou, who was coming in to relieve Benitez in the middle of yet another one of his implosions. Benitez is third on my list but may well be the most reviled human being in the Giants universe. He moans, he bitches, he fails to hold three run leads against the Pirates.
At this point I would not be opposed to seeing the Giants just cutting Benitez and eating the rest of his salary. The man is done. There are few things in baseball less watchable than seeing Benitez stalk in from the bullpen, to some badass closer music no less, and give up a game-tying home run on a shitty split-fingered fastball, then stand there contorting his face in all sorts of strange ways as the batter circles the bases. A trade? Pshaw! There are some dumb GMs out there, but one dumb enough to take this guy, even with the Giants paying some of his salary? Not likely. The best option for all involved would be to just give the guy his walking papers and let him wear out his welcome in some other city.
2. Steve Finley I'm now more convinced than ever that Steve Finley was born simply to destroy the Giants. His record of absolutely killing the black and orange time and time again is well-documented. In fact, his last hurrah as a quality player was that slam he hit off of Wayne Franklin (a name that shall never be repeated from here on out) to close out the 2004 season. When the Giants got him, should we have expected him to produce, given his history as a Giant-killer? Of course not. He hit like the geriatric that he by all rights should have been four years ago, and the Giants paid him $7 million (and a $1 million 2007 buyout) for his services. Even Thom Brennaman, who has long had a severe man-crush on Finley, would have a hard-time suger coating his 2006.
Has there ever, in real life or in fiction, been an antagonist this consistently heinous to a symbol of good? Ican't think of one. Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes? Even Holmes threw him off a waterfall in the end. Nurse Ratched to R.P. McMurphy? Magneto to the X-Men? Khan to Captain Kirk? Bruce Campbell's right hand in Evil Dead 2? I think ol' Steve's got everybody beat. He just...won't...stop. Even if he retires, I'm sure he'll find some GM job within a few years, like with the Royals or something, and dupe Brian Sabean into giving him Lincecum and Villalona for John Buck. Resistance is futile.
1. Neifi Perez He ran over my dog. He surrendered West Point to the British. He sold nuclear secrets to the Soviets. He burned Edward Woodward alive in the Wicker Man. He was the second shooter on the grassy knoll. He canceled Arrested Development. He killed Jimmy Hoffa. He's responsible for Supermans III and IV. He's Rush Limbaugh's ghost writer. He cast Sofia Coppola as Mary in The Godfather: Part III. He sold weapons to the Contras under the Reagan Administration. He rigged the Florida ballots in 2000. He was the inspiration for the villain in Milton's Paradise Lost. And he's a really crappy baseball player.
(Note: Some of what you just read may be conjecture.)
Let's talk 2004. The Giants lost the division to the Dodgers by two games, and the Wild Card by one game. The Giants were certainly not a great team that year, but they were fun to watch, mostly because they could hit (second in the NL in runs scored) and they had some solid starting pitching. In fact, my utter disgust with their failure to make the playoffs that year was perhaps my number one reason for starting this blog in the first place. I needed some place to vent. As we all know now, the Giants were undone that season by an atrocious bullpen, but it's possible they could have won those two extra games without a certain historically bad-hitting infielder soaking up at bats for half a season.
Neifi Perez that year started the season as the starting shortstop and was awful...just awful. It took 319 at bats of .232/.276/.295 for the Giants to finally realize just how much he was killing the team. By the time the team cut him in August, it may have been too late.
My question to you is this: Could the Giants have made up those two extra games in the division if they'd have even had an adequate hitter at shortstop for the entire year? A hitter like, say, Deivi Cruz? We'll never know the answer, but I would have to guess that there's a good chance that the Giants could have won that division if Cruz, a scrap heap pickup, had been their everyday shortstop.
Cruz's line that year, in 397 at bats, was .292/.322/.431. No great shakes, but compared to Neifi, that's Alex freaking Rodriguez. Cruz's OPS+ in 2004 was 90, once again no great shakes. Neifi's OPS+ with the Giants that year? 47! That means Perez was exactly 53 percent worse than a league average hitter, yet he still got over 300 at bats. Unbelievable. According to BP, Cruz accounted for 3.7 Wins Above a Replacement Player in 2004, while Neifi contributed 1.4 (that just has to be purely defense...has to).
There you go. That's two wins right there. Those two wins tie the Dodgers for the NL West and win the Wild Card. Do you see where the hatred comes from? Every year Neifi does this to some poor team, yet every year baseball people all over the country develop some increasingly convoluted rationale for why he's on a major league roster. If Neifi had never come into San Francisco, I would probably not care, but the fact that he did that to the Giants in 2004, and that I had to sit through 647 interminable at bats in the span of a year and a half...well, that makes me care. Should I get over it? I can't get over it. Neifi and his ilk are a disease on baseball. If we don't find a cure they'll spread, and soon they'll take over your favorite team, and your will turn into the Kansas City Royals (apologies to Royals fans).
The King of the Most Hated List retains his well-earned place atop the throne.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Of course, there's disappointing, and then there's just plain sucky with the perception of disappointment. I think this kind of thing happens quite a bit. Take the Giants' 2006 season as a whole, for example. Yes, we expected them to be a lot better, but when we look at the opening day roster, the farm system, and the midseason acquisitions, I think it's fair to say that this team just wasn't going to be very good. Sometimes players and teams aren't good in the first place but we lead ourselves to believe otherwise, and thus are saddened when they let us down. Lets now go down the list and check off which players truly underperformed our expectations, and who exactly should rank as Mr. Disappointment.
Pedro Feliz. He was terrible, but I think everybody pretty much expected him to be this bad, even if it was a kind of subconscious thing. Any predictions that he'd be adequate were purely from the wishful thinking boat. Since there are still those who would entertain the idea of bringing Feliz back, and since I relish being the conductor of the Feliz Hate Train, let's look at some numbers that again demonstrate just how ungodly awful Feliz really was.
In 2006, Baseball Prospectus rated Feliz as the second-worst third baseman in the major leagues (minimum 300 plate appearances) according to his -8.2 VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). What does that mean exactly? Well, it means that Feliz is about eight batting runs (or nearly one whole loss) worse than some random AAA third baseman begging for a shot in the major leagues. Yes, if Moonlight Graham were a modern day Quadruple-A third baseman, he'd be one pissed off cat right now. Maybe Feliz's terrific defense makes up for a few of those negative points, but I just don't see why anyone would even consider bringing him back as a regular.
Barry Bonds. I guess Bonds was disappointing in the sense that he wasn't BARRY BONDS, wielder of the mighty 1400 OPS and deliverer of small, spherical white objects unto McCovey Cove. However, considering the knee problems and the long layoff, I think the 130 games played and the 1.000 OPS were above and beyond what we had any right to expect.
Matt Cain. He was well on his way to being Mr. Disappointment around All-Star Break time, but he turned it around and ended up being one of the bright spots, or perhaps the bright spot, of 2006.
Matt Morris. The disappointment came when the Giants doled out $28 million for his services. When everybody expects you to be a disappointment, you can no longer be described as one.
Some other candidates fail to qualify for the simple reason that if they had played well it would have been a phenomenon akin to an aurora borealis opening up in Principal Skinner's kitchen. Lance Neikro, Jamey Wright, or Steve Finley? Don't make me laugh. Guys like Ray Durham, Omar Vizquel, and Moises Alou all had awesome years, so they obviously aren't part of the conversation. This leaves us with three remaining candidates.
Armando Benitez. Again, the contract is more disappointing than the actual player performance. I never expected Benitez to be any good, even if I was certainly hoping.
Noah Lowry. He makes a great case coming off that solid 2005. Really, though, one miserable start in Coors Field inflated his ERA, and perhaps his strikeout rate in 2005 was a little flukey. He's a solid candidate for the "disappointing" title, but I don't think he can hold a candle to our winner...
That's right, the title of Stankeye's 2006 Mr. Disappointment goes to Mr. Randy Winn. How much of a letdown was Winn's crappy season? Let's see, for one, I nominated Randy as the Official Stankeye Player of the Year prior to Opening Day, and I even went so far as to sponsor his Baseball Reference Page. Yes, folks, that's a solid twenty bucks that I could have made better use of by just lighting it on fire. Luckily, my sponsorship expires in less than a month, so I can move on to bigger and better things, like Mark Bellhorn.
I think it's fair to say that no one expected the Mickey Mantle impersonator from the latter half of 2005, but come on, was it really too much to ask for a .340 OBP or something? Randy's final 2006 line: .262/.324/.396. That's sub-Benardian, ladies and gentleman. True, we were certainly spared the outfield theatrics and unsightly little mustache that came along with the Benard package, but those numbers just ain't going to cut it, especially not for the money Winn's about to make.
Oh, did I not mention that part? Yes, Winn is about to get quite expensive, earning salaries of $4 million next season, $8 mil in 2008, and $8.25 mil in 2009, when he'll be 35. For comparison's sake, take Ray Durham. Durham was a guy who, in 2003, signed a somewhat similar deal, four years for money similar to what Winn will recieve, while in about the same age range. In contrast to Winn, though, Durham provided above average, at times phenomenal, offensive production at a more difficult defensive position. That's the kind of situation where a $7-8 million deal makes sense.Winn got similar money despite being a middle-of-the-road center fielder.
So while Brian Sabean, in signing Winn's contract extension, probably fancied himself locking up a center fielder for the next four seasons, he may have instead netted himself a major league albatross. Winn's performance last year, to be sure, was much worse than should have been expected given his career line of .284/.343/.421. So yes, he may have just been having a bad year. Then again, he's 33 and playing in a pitcher's park, so it's possible, and what a horrifying possibility this is, that his 2006 numbers could be par for the course from here on out.
Even setting aside the stats, Winn just didn't look good this season. In the second half of 2005, he was hitting everything with authority, pulling fastballs down the line and over the fence. This year it seemed like he had transformed into a punch-and-judy hitter, taking little flick-of-the-wrist slaps at good fastballs and whiffing at curveballs down in the zone, the kind that he used to rake. Even the majority of his base hits seemed to come on little dunkers, especially in the second half. Often times he just looked completely overmatched, especially against power pitchers.
I don't know what to make of it. The contrast between Randy v.2005 and Mr. Disappointment is too large and too strange to make any sense out of. Seriously, it's like Eddie Murray came to the ballpark one day and started hitting like Jose Macias. I understand the whole half-season sample size issue, but again Winn just looked like a completely different person in the batter's box.
What I do know is that I feel betrayed. When you nominate a guy the official representative of your crummy blog, you expect results. Perhaps I jinxed him here and on Baseball Reference by associating his name with the term "Stankeye", but Winn's Mr. Disappoinment title was well-earned. There's some talk of the Giants picking up a center fielder via trade (Vernon Wells? Yay! Gary Matthews? Ack!) and then moving Winn to a corner outfield spot, but if that happens and Winn continues to hit at a .720 OPS clip it'd be an unmitigated disaster. Right now, the best we can do is hope that Winn's 2006 was an outlier, perhaps some hardcore karmic retribution doled out by the baseball cosmos for his scorching 2005 second half. If he can get back in my good graces again with a solid season, maybe I'll dub him Mr. Comeback or something equally uninspired. Next time, though, I'm keeping my twenty bucks.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Stankeye Quote of the Week 10/13
"Things this evil simply do not die on their own." -Baseball Think Factory, in their Wiki biography of Neifi Perez.
I guess I'm good for a Neifi two-fer...
"Somebody -- a grad student in psychology, perhaps -- should write a thesis on this bizarre infatuation with Perez that's apparently shared by various baseball people who should know better." -Rob Neyer, on Neifi.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Random LCS Thoughts, Washing Down Like Tears In Rain
-The A's look screwed, but I think they're safely in the "down but not out" phase. The encouraging thing about the first two games for the Athletics is that they kept getting a ton of runners on base, which usually means that the runs will come at some point. They were abysmal with runners on base in Game One, then were a little better in Game Two, but Esteban Loaiza impersonated the 2004 likeness of himself so it hardly mattered. Still, they're working the count and not letting the Detroit starters go deep into the games, so if they keep doing that it should pay off eventually.
-Of course, let's not kid ourselves. The odds are stacked against the A's coming back in this series. With Harden's injuries and Haren's sub-par September, their pitching is questionable, and they now have to beat a hot Tiger team at least twice in Detroit. Plus, no team in the history of LCS play has ever lost the first two games at home and come back to win the series. The last postseason team to do that was the Yankees in the 1996 World Series. The last team to do it before them was the Mets in the '86 series. Hey, it's 2006, so maaaaaybe...
-For those wondering, yes I am rooting for the A's for the rest of the postseason. Yeah, I know they're the Giants' rivals, I know dumb A's fans will give us nonstop shit if they do win a fifth Oakland championship, and I realize that their mullet brigade of the late-80's will forevermore be a black eye for Bay Area baseball. Still, I've softened my stance on the A's over the years (I used to basically regard them as the Dodgers' retarded little brother), and I love what Billy Beane does year-in, year-out with that team. Plus, if the A's win, it'll shut up all the idiots who say a "Moneyball" philosophy can't win, without really understanding that there really is no such philosophy in the first place.
-One move that would certainly help the A's in Game Three against Kenny Rogers would be to start Bobby Kielty in left field and shift Jay Payton to center. Kielty absolutely murders lefties, hitting .325/.358/.607 against them this season, with a .901 OPS lifetime. I know that Kotsay is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, but Kielty isn't bad afield at all, and the edge in offense the A's get by starting him far outweighs the loss in defense. If Ken Macha doesn't make this move tomorrow, his IQ should be questioned. Frankly, Kielty should have been starting in Game One against Nate Robertson.
-Is it just me, or do the Tigers have one of the most bizarrely constructed lineups ever? The FOX goons harp incessantly about how they have their three home run leaders hitting 7-8-9, but is this really smart? Here's the Tiger starting lineup from Game One, with each player's 2006 OPS:
Casey .650 (w/Tigers)
Now, I'm obviously no wise baseball sage like Jim Leyland, but it seems to me that you would want your best power hitters in the middle of the lineup, not squashed down where their power is less of an asset. Here's how I would fashion this lineup:
This way, you maximize at-bats for your best hitters, who are Guillen, Thames, and Ordonez, and get them and the other power guys another plate appearance or two as the late innings approach. There's absolutely no reason a guy like Thames, who slugged .549 on the year, should be batting eighth, and the higher in the order that you can get your best hitter, Guillen, the better.
Yes, Polanco and Casey are more prototypical top-of-the-order hitters, but let's face it, Casey has no power left and Polanco, by any real measure of offensive ability, was terrible this year. Of course, the Tigers are two wins away from the World Series, so what do I know.
As for the Game Two lineup, I'm not even going to comment on the fact that Neifi Perez was batting second.
-One supposed strength of Detroit, really a weakness, that opponents can exploit is the whole Todd Jones-as-closer farce. The Tigers have some absolutely electric hurlers in that bullpen. There is no need to trot Jones out there to close out games, when the team can just keep Fernando Rodney or Joel Zumaya in there to dominate opposing hitters, 37 mustachioed saves be damned. Do you really think batters on the other team, after facing 100 mph heat and filthy sliders for two straight innings, are going to shake in their boots when Todd Jones wanders out to the mound and starts throwing shitty little cutters? No! They're going to be licking their chops!
For the love of God, Rodney absolutely blew the A's away in the eighth inning last night, then Jones went out and nearly coughed up the game. Seriously, if Frank Thomas is just a little more ahead of that last fastball, the series is tied at 1-1. Forget Jones, if Zumaya is healthy just let him finish games from here on out. No one can freaking hit him.
-I love how Neifi Perez is so awful that not even the FOX announcers could give him the sugar coat when he stepped up to the plate in the first inning yesterday. Lou Pinella chimed in with, "Well, he's a veteran..." That's about as good as it got.
-Curtis Granderson is quickly becoming one of my favorite players. The guy can hit to all fields, he's got solid pop, he can go get it in center field, and he's still only 25. He's a better hitter than his .335 OBP would tell you (an awful month of August dragged his numbers down), and if he can cut down on the strikeouts he should be an All-Star a few times, maybe even something of a Carlos Beltran Lite.
-Speaking of Carlos Beltran, the home run he hit tonight was an absolute stunner, halfway up the scoreboard at Shea. It brought back memories of the kinds of bolts Darryl Strawberry used to hit out there in the 1980's.
-I failed to do any NLCS predictions this year, but i'd be surprised if the Mets let this thing go past five games. I've been wrong before (see previous post...or hell, just read through the history of this blog), but the Mets' offense easily outclasses the Cards', and their pitching, while surely not good, is still better than St. Louis'.
-As you can probably guess, I'm not too impressed by the Cardinals this year. Shall we pile on? Watching today's game, I was surprised by just how many awful hitters the Cards send out to the batter's box. Here are some of the luminaries: David Eckstein (.694 OPS), Aaron Miles (.672), Ronnie Belliard (.666), So Taguchi (.686), Yadier Molina (.595!). Sadly, three of these guys are in the starting lineup.
It gets worse. Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen, both probable Hall of Famers, are playing at half-speed due to various injuries, and Juan Encarnacion and Preston Wilson are no great shakes either. So it's basically a matter of praying that Eckstein can out-hustle some infield choppers before Pujols can come up and hit one to the moon. A far cry from the Cardinal demolition derby of two years ago.
-I guess I owe Jeff Weaver some props for following up his solid NLDS performance with another gem tonight, against a much better lineup. Maybe it's really Jered out there, and Jeff is somewhere headbanging to Motorhead. I know that I promised I'd eat my mouse pad in just such an instance, so...(munch, munch).
-Those FOX promos featuring Tommy Lasorda trying to pep up fans of the also-ran teams are cute and amusing and all, but if I turn on my TV and see Tommy trying to talk a Giants fan into pulling his head out of the oven, it's just going to get offensive. Talk about hitting close to home.
-Final verdict: The difference in taste between a mouse pad and a McDonald's Big Mac is decidedly negligible.
-A few words about Corey Lidle. I didn't know the man, obviously, but I'll always harbor fond memories of him for a rather silly reason. In 2001 I played my first year ever of fantasy baseball. Early on in the season, with me being a super-green rook, I made a trade for Lidle that, at the time, could have been charitably deemed questionable. Of course, Lidle turned in a magnificent season, going 13-6 with a 3.59 ERA to help the A's win 104 games...and help me win my fantasy baseball title. So if nothing else, Lidle certainly helped put a smile on my face for that year, and for that I'll always be a fan.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
So just for fun, let's see where I was off-base the most. Here are some comments I made about each series.
The Tigers are a great story, their fans should be proud, but they're dead meat.
In yo' face, Ryder! The Tigers totally took it to the Yankees, who dissolved into a steaming, finger-pointing mess. If the Yanks could have just won one game in Detroit, they probably would have taken the series, but Joe Torre's bizarre lineup machinations and awful starts from Randy Johnson and Jaret Wright (should we have been surprised?) ended any chance of that happening.
Even though I looked like an ass in predicting the Tigers to get swept, it was nice to see the underdog win, and it's a ball watching the New York media skewer the pinstripes on an hourly basis right now. The Tigres deserve the credit for coming through, but I still say this series is case file #3754 in why the playoffs (especially the first round) are such a crapshoot. I don't think there's any debate that the Yankees were a better team than Detroit, but the Tigers dominated in two games and that turned out to be the difference. Hey, I'm just glad we're now free of Yankee/Red Sox postseason baseball.
This should be a close, exciting series, and at least with the Dodgers around we have a clear villain.
I said it before and I'll say it again: DODGERS GOT SWEPT.
And you know what? It was really never in question.
The Cards, on the other hand, just stink. Any lineup with Albert Pujols in it can put runs on the board, but their pitching staff, behind Chris Carpenter, is just bloody awful.
I'm still convinced the Cardinal pitching staff blows (other than Carpenter, of course), but this team clearly doesn't stink as bad as I thought. Tony LaRussa did a superb job managing his bullpen, and Carpenter was lights out in Games One and Four. I will say this: if Jeff Weaver breaks out another performance in like Game Two, against the Mets lineup, I'll eat my frigging mouse pad.
I actually like the Padres a lot in the postseason this year. Their offense is underrated and their starting rotation is deep and imposing. If Jake Peavy and Chris Young are both on, watch out. The Pads have decent depth and have been playing very well in the last month or so, and at this point they're my pick to come out of the NL.
Another prediction that looks like crap. The Padre offense was underrated, but when you can't come through against a chump like Weaver you deserve to lose in the playoffs. Also, starting Josh Bard in Game Two instead of Mike Piazza seemed a tad questionable.
As for the A's series, I don't think anybody predicted a sweep by either team. I thought it was a toss-up going in, but the A's pretty much dominated, and the Minnesota offense was just anemic. Their inability to exhibit any patience at the plate was front and center in Game One when they repeatedly swung early in counts against Barry Zito, who led the AL in walks allowed.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
DODGERS GOT SWEPT!!!!!
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Vote For Pedro!
Omar (bay area): Would you agree that Pedro Feliz is a bum? Yeah, he accounted for 98 RBI's and over 20 HRs, but I can't remember when I last saw the guy swing with purpose in a clutch situation. Sad thing is, the Giants' state of affairs is probably going to force them to resign the terd.
Rob Neyer: I wouldn't use the word "bum" unless he was playing for my favorite team...but yes, Feliz is an awful player. Unless you run the numbers, you just have no idea how much damage a .281 on-base does to a team...and Feliz's career mark is .288. Oh, and he's 31.
Omar from the bay area? Hey, keep it in the locker room, buddy.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
2006 Post-Mortem: The New Guys
Matt Morris The big kahuna. Brian Sabean lured Morris away from St. Louis with a guaranteed third year, and right about now that added little cookie is looking pretty ugly. First, the bad news. Morris just suffered through a year in which his ERA threatened the 5 mark, and he conveniently saved his worst pitching for the stretch run. Oh, and to make things even more happy, 2006 was his "cheap" year; he'll make $9.5 million over the next two seasons.
So, yeah, this signing could hardly look worse. However, I think there is still hope that this move won't turn into a complete disaster, which at this point most fans would probably take in a heatbeat. For one thing, Morris's WHIP was 1.35, not great, but certainly not terrible. Usually when a guy has a decent WHIP but a poor ERA, it bodes well for the future, because it means he really wasn't allowing too many baserunners; he was just victimized by a few crooked innings or some poorly-timed home runs. Looking back, I can remember quite a few games where Morris struggled in the early innings and then settled down.
If he can just keep away from the big inning, he should at least drop his ERA half a run, which would kinda sorta make his contract easier to swallow. Of course, this is basically stretching for a silver lining. We paid for a #2 starter, but we ain't getting one. Morris will never return to his 2001-2003 self, and if he isn't striking guys out anymore, his walk rate will need to sink back to its 2005 level if he's even going to be an effective innings-muncher. That $19 million set to go to Morris for the next two seasons is wandering perilously close to a huge abyss. Verdict: Stankeye!
Steve Finley Acquired in your basic "my overpaid piece of shit for yours" trade, the best thing to be said about Finley is that he at least wasn't Edgardo Alfonzo. Unfortunately, we still had to sit through 426 at-bats of .246/.320/.394, and the Giants got to inherit the honor of paying Finley a $1 million buyout in 2007. Yeah, the 12 triples were fun and all, but Finley just kept on killing the Giants (as he used to do in other uniforms) while players like Todd Linden and Fred Lewis played tic-tac-toe on the bench. Verdict: Long, huge, ginormous Stankeye!
Mark Sweeney His year was basically the definition of mediocrity. The acquisition of Shea Hillenbrand cut his playing time down in the second half, but he still amassed a career high 259 at bats, something I was afraid might happen if the Giants failed to get anybody better to play first base. The only saving grace here is that he cost the team pennies on the dollar, and he's a serviceable guy to have on the bench getting limited exposure. Verdict: Meh
Jamey Wright I'm going to do a little reenactment here of a scene from the movie Miller's Crossing, only with some of the lines changed and Brian Sabean playing the role of the Jon Polito character, while I, John Ryder, play the Gabriel Byrne part.
Sabean: John, I have a confession to make, but you've got to promise me one thing.
Ryder: What's that?
Sabean: You can't say "I told you so".
Ryder (adamant): I never say that, and I don't like people who do.
Sabean (sighs): It was a mistake to bring in Jamey Wright as the fifth starter. I thought his experience would make him a better option than Hennessey or Correia. I thought his past struggles were just because of Coors Field. As it turned out, he just plain sucked. I never should have considered him.
Ryder (pauses, takes drag from cigarette): I told you so.
Verdict: Stankeye, duh.
Steve Kline Kline had such a nondescript year that there were times I forgot he was even on the team. He was decent enough in 51 and 1/3 innings, but his real value was probably in making it so that we didn't have to pay LaTroy Hawkins $4.5 million to get bombed 60 times a year. Just because of that...Verdict: Boo-yah!
Todd Greene The lack of plate discipline and hideous defense were expected, but the solid batting average certainly wasn't. I was anticipating a .220 hitter who would hit like 10 bombs in limited at-bats, but the .289/.335/.428 was certainly reasonable. As a cheap backup who didn't embarrass himself with the bat in his hands, (which is more than can be said for some of the guys the Giants trotted out there) Greene was a solid pickup. Verdict: Boo-yah!
Tim Worrell It seems like ages ago, but Worrell actually did a good job as the closer when Armando Benitez was out in the first few weeks of the season. Then when he returned to a setup role he completely messed himself, and he ended up surrendering a ridiculous nine homers in 20 innings. His season ended in June due to a bulging disc in his neck, which is probably a good thing because Felipe probably would have found a way to get him 40 more appearances regardless of how crappy he was pitching. He's owed $2 million for next year, but the Giants might just cut him loose. Verdict: Stankeye!
Jose Vizcaino This signing was every bit as appalling as everybody expected it to be. Vizcaino contributed absolutely nothing but somehow found his way to 119 at-bats in half a season with the Giants. What the hell was Sabean thinking? What was wrong with Angel Chavez or Tomas de la Rosa? Those three months I was forced to watch Vizcaino slime around in a Giants uni are three months of my life that I'll never get back. I blame you, Brian Sabean. Verdict: Stuh-ank-eye!
There you have it. Five "Stankeyes", two of which were on the Giants' two major moves. Again, I realize that the free agent market was weak, and that getting Finley meant getting rid of Alfonzo, but a weak market doesn't justify overpaying a near-washed-up pitcher, and Finley certainly didn't have to be given so many at-bats. If you want to improve a team you're going to have to do a little bit better than adding one pitcher and a couple of old journeymen. Again, the fact that Giants management did so little with this roster last winter when there were so many glaring holes is a huge, huge reason this team is sitting at home right now.
The A's took a 2-0 lead over the Twins today with a 5-2 win in the Metrodome. The key play in the game came in the seventh inning when Torii Hunter misplayed Mark Kotsay's low liner into an inside-the-park two-run home run. Ironically, the last time the A's and Twins played in the playoffs, in 2002, there was a play almost identical to this one. In Game 3 of that series, Ray Durham led off the contest by hitting a sharp liner toward center field. Hunter foolishly tried to make a diving catch of the ball, much like his ill-advised attempt this morning, and the ball shot by him to the wall, with Durham racing around to score.
Scott Hatteberg followed that with a bomb that left the park, and the A's eventually won 6-3. Durham's inside-the-parker came under almost the exact same set of circumstances as Kotsay's today, in the same ballpark, with the same center player making the same dumb mistake. And wouldn't you know it, Durham's hit came exactly four years ago to the day. Eerie, mon.
-Here's a still from Game 5 of that series that will still make every A's fan cringe. Oh, but it makes me laugh so heartily (I was for the Twins hardcore that year).
-This is absolutely hilarious.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
2006 Post-Mortem: The Hell That Was First Base
Wrong. Never mind the foolishness in counting on Bonds to play a whole healthy season (he did, amazingly, amass 130 games, well above the total many had him projected for), and be the same hitter coming off three knee surgeries. The fact is that the Giants still had gaping holes that needed to be filled, and Brian Sabean and co. failed miserably at filling them, whether it be due to lack of any options or just plain complacency.
The one major hole that Sabean totally punted this off-season was at first base. With J.T. Snow parting, the Giants decided to let Lance Neikro and Mark Sweeney split time in a platoon, which to no one's surprise turned into a disaster. Neikro continued to prove he isn't a major leaguer while Sweeney basically hit like Doug Mientkiewicz Lite. The inability to find an adequate solution forced the team to acquire Shea Hillenbrand, who was basically a stocky, right-handed hitting version of Sweeney. In all, the first base situation may have played the largest part in bringing down the Giants this year.
When the season started, I advocated giving Neikro the starting job. He had some power, I figured, and maybe could smack 20 or so homers. I didn't think he'd be Paul Konerko or anything, but I thought he would at least be adequate. Nope. After a month or so of whiffing, Neikro got sent down, and things never really got any better from that point on, as the team got zero production from the position over the rest of the season. The trade for Hillenbrand brought some hope, but his propensity for hitting weak ground balls quickly drew the ire of the Mays Field boobirds. Nothing exemplified the train wreck at first base more than the fact that Jose freaking Vizcaino somehow got 27 at bats there.
I've harped about this before, but I think it bears repeating. Sabean's inability to find anything appetizing at the cornerstone is just an example of a total lack of imagination. Hitting talent, especially at the corners, is always out there; you just have to know where to grab it. There's always a power source wandering around AAA who could contribute. Of course, instead of taking a gamble on a free agent with some skills, Sabean grabbed a crappy nomad who'd had one good season with the bat, then later traded for an overrated batting average guy with no power or plate discipline. Here are some guys who were freely available but whom Sabean completely turned his back on. Any of these players would have been a better option than what the Giants threw out there this year.
Nomar Garciaparra: Tanked in the second half and got hurt again, but was still miles better than anything the Giants had.
Russell Branyan: Everybody hates those strikeouts, but he walks a lot and he slugged .556 with the Padres, so at the worst he would have been a feasible platoon partner with Neikro or somebody else. Plus, he signed a minor league deal with Tampa Bay and he would have been dirt cheap. The fact that he was dancing around in front of the Giants' faces and they did nothing about it is, in my mind, inexcusable.
Scott Hatteberg: Again, no prize, but he walked 74 times and his .826 OPS dwarfed that of any of the other louts the Giants threw at first base.
Hee Seop Choi: Yeah, yeah, a stathead favorite, and the bane of Jim Tracy, but please, I'm not kidding here. The guy has talent and he's been unfairly squashed in all of his stops in the majors. At the worst, the Giants could have given him a shot and dumped him if he sucked.
Doug Mientkiewicz: Certainly not a long-term solution, but his .770 OPS was still miles better than the Neikro/Sweeney/Hillenbrand trinity, and his glove is pretty sick.
Carlos Pena: Not the most coachable fellow, and he strikes out a lot, but he can also flat out hit. It probably would have cost the Giants nothing to acquire him.
Carlos Delgado: OK, maybe we're getting carried away here, but it seems to me that the Giants could have at least packaged something good for Delgado without including Cain. The Marlins were practically giving him away. Can you imagine Delgado in that lineup with Bonds and Alou? It might have been enough to give the Giants a playoff berth.
J.T. Snow: I'm one of Snow's goofier defenders (gotta love those high socks), but putting that aside, what the hell would have been wrong with bringing him back after the Red Sox cut him loose? He has no power left but he can still get on base and his glove is still terrific. At the worst, we could see the man play out his last days in San Francisco, where he belongs.
All of these guys were out there floating around, ready to be scooped up. I guess there may have been a damn good reason for Sabean to pass on these guys , but if you find it, give me a call.
Some of the other holes were erroneously seen as strengths. Pedro Feliz was expected to improve now that he wasn't going to be jerked around the diamond every week, but he just killed the team as an everyday third baseman. At catcher, Mike Matheny was an automatic out with an awesome glove. His injury was unfortunate but may have been a blessing in disguise, because Elizier Alfonzo's power had to be at least worth a win or two more in the standings. We all know about the Armando Benitez saga, and also about how young relievers Jeremy Accardo, Scott Munter, and Jack Taschner all crapped out.
The first base problem, though, was so glaring it was practically screaming bloody murder to be fixed. Sabean could have closed his eyes, picked some names out of a hat, and found somebody who could help, but somehow he didn't. Of all the sins of the 2006 season, the failure to find decent production at first base was the one that the Giants front office has to answer most for.
The Yankees hammered Nate Robertson and the Tigers as expected tonight, 8-4, but in the middle of the game Joe Torre did something so stupid that I'm surprised there was so little mention of it.
In the seventh inning, the Yanks held a comfortable 7-3 lead. Chien-Ming Wang was dealing, having retired the first two batters in the seventh, and the last six batters overall, without incident. With the lefty Curtis Granderson coming up, Joe Torre came out to get Wang and replace him with Mike Myers. To me, this made no sense. Wang was at 93 pitches and could have easily finished out the inning. Even if Granderson got on, Placido Polanco was on deck and he really isn't very good. It's one thing if Torre wanted to preserve Wang for Game 5, but this game certainly wasn't over and the Tigers were doing nothing against the Yankee starter.
Sure enough, Granderson took Myers deep, making it 7-4. Okay, so maybe Myers was in there to also pitch to Polanco and then Sean Casey, which would make the move more defensible. Nope. Torre pulled Myers and brought in Scott Proctor, who immediately surrendered singles to Polanco and Casey, bringing Magglio Ordonez up as the tying run. Proctor then got lucky when Ordonez popped a hanging curveball to the outfield for the third out, ending the threat.
Torre's gaffe meant nothing in the final outcome, as Derek Jeter pretty much beat Detroit by himself with a 5-hit performance, but this kind of micromanaging never ceases to make veins burst in my forehead. With your starter on such a low pitch count and cruising there is just no reason to bring in a crappy lefty for one batter because you want to play the percentages. If Myers stays in to face more than one batter, okay then, but by using him against one hitter you've just wasted a pitcher that could possibly be of value later on in the game. The move also necessitated bringing in Proctor, who clearly wasn't as sharp as Wang. Is there any reason to believe that Wang could not get one more out in that inning, especially since he had gotten the first two so easily?
The moral of the story: if a pitcher is dealing, just leave him alone. If Ordonez belts Proctor's hanger into the seats this stupid move is magnified a thousand-fold.
Monday, October 02, 2006
None-Too Accurate Playoff Predictions
As "Host of Seraphim" plays in the background, I slowly turn my back on the rainy saga that was the Giants' 2006 season and look toward the postseason, something that figures to be much more entertaining than watching Steve Finley sleepwalk through any more games.
Before I get into my predictions, I just want to mention something interesting I noticed after the season ended yesterday.
In the American League, there were five teams with 90 or more wins and eight teams above .500. In the National League, there was one team with more than 90 wins and just six teams over .500. That's a lot of mediocrity. I think we all expected the NL to be bad, but this bad?
These things tend to occur every so often in weird little cycles. The AL of the early-1970's was pretty abysmal (other than the Orioles), leading to the adoption of the DH, and there were some pretty mediocre division winners in the NL in the early-80's. In about three years, with free agency and the like, the talent pool should be spread out a little more evenly. At least, I hope that's the case. It really isn't good for baseball if we get one dominant league and one AAAA-type thing that wallows around in mediocrity, like what is going on in the NBA right now.
Anyway, onward with some predictions:
Yankees 3 Tigers 0
Perhaps I'm being too pessimistic, but let's just take a glance at the facts. The Tigers have been playing like absolute dogs since the All-Star Break. Their lineup is undisciplined and two of their best starters, Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander, have been horrible the past month. One other starter, Kenny Rogers, is useless in Yankee Stadium.
Contrast that to the Yankees, who have been demolishing everybody lately and have one of the most ridiculous batting orders the game has ever seen. For crying out loud, the lowest OPS of anybody in the lineup is .806, from Gary Sheffield, and that's only because he was hurt all year; his lifetime OPS is .923. Their pitching is alleged to be their weak point, but they still managed to finish with the 6th-best ERA in the AL, and with Mariano Rivera around, all bets are off in the late innings.
I'll certainly be rooting for the Tigers, but reality has to set in at some point. The Yanks, as much as I hate to say it, are probably the best team in the playoffs, while the Tigers are quite clearly the worst, at least behind the Cardinals. Anything can happen in a short series, but I think the Tiger rotation is going to get slaughtered in Yankee Stadium, and their bats aren't good enough to win a slugfest. The Tigers are a great story, their fans should be proud, but they're dead meat.
Twins 3 A's 2
This is probably the best matchup in the first round. It's hard to find two teams more evenly matched. Both have underrated lineups, solid defensive units, and terrific bullpens. The A's probably have a better rotation one through four, but no one they have matches up with Johan Santana, who has absolutely owned them the past two years.
It comes down to this: the A's have to win Games 2, 3, and 4, because Santana is an absolute nightmare to face in the Metrodome, and I just don't think they can best him. In those middle games, the Twins throw out the inexperienced (Boof Bonser), the injured (Brad Radke), and the just plain sucky (Carlos Silva), so the A's need to take those three games. If Oakland had home-field advantage, I'd probably pick them to win this series, but with three games in the Terrordome, and having Santana pitch two of them, the Twins have the edge.
Mets 3 Dodgers 2
My visceral hatred of the Dodgers prevents me from being very objective here, but screw 'em. If there's one team that doesn't merit objectivity it's the Bums. I have to admit, though, that they look about as good as any team in the NL. Strong, balanced lineup with team speed, power, and patience, a deep bench, three strong starting pitchers, and a great bullpen. Ugh, why do I feel so dirty?
The Mets roll in without their ace, Pedro Martinez, which is a huge loss, but their remaining three starters (Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, and John Maine) should be good enough to support what is probably the best playoff lineup behind the Yankees. This should be a close, exciting series, and at least with the Dodgers around we have a clear villain. Shea Stadium is always a rough place for opposing teams in the playoffs, so if it goes five expect the Mets to prevail.
Padres 3 Cardinals 1
It's a rematch of last year's NLDS, only this time it's the Cardinals who are the crappy team that took advantage of a horrible division. I actually like the Padres a lot in the postseason this year. Their offense is underrated and their starting rotation is deep and imposing. If Jake Peavy and Chris Young are both on, watch out. The Pads have decent depth and have been playing very well in the last month or so, and at this point they're my pick to come out of the NL.
The Cards, on the other hand, just stink. Any lineup with Albert Pujols in it can put runs on the board, but their pitching staff, behind Chris Carpenter, is just bloody awful. Carpenter can probably get them one game, but behind him there's Jeff Suppan, who isn't a guy you want starting big games, and then nothing...just nothing. If you want Jeff Weaver to be your third playoff starter, be my guest.
If the Padres beat Carpenter in Game 1, it's over. With their horrid starting pitching, the Cardinals figure to be facing a lot of early deficits, and with San Diego's rotation and bullpen, that's a recipe for an early October vacation.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
For those of you who recognize what movie this picture is from, and what scene it represents, this is basically how I feel as a Giant fan right now: beaten up, tired of the pain, ready to wash away like tears in rain. If I had easy access to a dove somehow, it'd be flying out of my hands and toward the heavens right now.
How about a do-over? Seriously, can we just pretend this season never happened? Nobody expected a great team, but I don't think it was ever too much to ask for a winning record, or at least an exciting finish. The Giants didn't even go out with honor, like Mr. Batty up there. They went out with a whimper, and it seemed like half the team was just gearing up for the football season.
In a year full of fits and starts, frustrating mediocrity, and fat, boorish relievers, perhaps the most insulting part of all is that the Giants couldn't even play the part of the spoiler against their hated rivals, instead meekly falling over when the ghosts of 1982 were just rarin' to be set free.
I was at Friday's game, revved up, yelling for the Giants, smacking the advertisements that were hanging on the front of the top deck (to the chagrin of the ushers, alas), just pumped up with adrenaline. I was ready for the Dodger Blue to be sent home crying. "Not in our house, bitch!" was the most quoted line from fellow Giants fans as we walked through the stadium.
As it turned out, I was like the swordsman from Raiders of the Lost Ark, flaunting my stuff in a grandiose show of machismo, while the Dodgers were Indiana Jones, blowing me away with nary a shrug of the shoulders. Mike Stanton came on in the ninth, gave up some bloop hits, threw a wild pitch (one that Eliezer Alfonso really should have blocked), then in the bottom half of the frame Mark Sweeney watched a slider break across the outside corner of the plate to end the game and kill a potentially scintillating comeback rally. I sulked, Dodger fans around me danced, and I contemplated jumping into McCovey Cove, and taking Lou Seal with me just for the hell of it.
All hope of the Dodgers collapsing died the next day when Greg Maddux not only shut the Giants down, but got a hit and stole a freaking base as the Dodgers clinched on the Giants' home field. I'd like to say that this crap won't go unanswered, but looking at the Giants' near future...errrr.
So now we Giants fans know what to do. If you have no one to root for in the playoffs, just root against the Dodgers. Root for them to get swept and for Grady Little to pull more of his patented playoff buffoonery.
Playoff predictions tomorrow, with a season post-mortem in the next few days. Until then, let's have a moment of silence for the 2006 Giants.
It's too bad the Giants won't live...but then again, who does?