Wednesday, October 04, 2006


2006 Post-Mortem: The New Guys

Continuing the theme of the last post, about how the Giants' failure to make any big offseason moves may have been a fatal mistake, I think it'd be interesting to look at some of the guys the Giants brought in for 2006. It's time to evaluate these players and see if they brought anything to the table, and what we can learn from the mistakes going into 2007. For each player, I'll give a grade of "Stankeye", "Meh", or "Boo-Yah!" to serve as a final verdict on whether the move was a good one or not. This is just for players who were brought in before the season as free agents or via trade, so midseason acquisitions or guys like Eliezer Alfonzo are excluded.

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.

-Playoff Stuff

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.

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