Thursday, December 21, 2006


Klesko To the Rescuko

A few years ago, back when Ryan Klesko was still with the Braves, I was driving around Sacramento and saw, in a car next to me, perhaps the most bizarre case of fanatacism and idol worship you'll ever come across. The guy in the next lane had his entire car decked out in Braves paraphernalia, and I mean the whole she-bang, from the seats to the dashboard to the obligatory bumper stickers. Nothing but Braves.

It was clear, though, that the guy wasn't just your run-of-the-mill Braves fan transplant who had grown up mesmerized by TBS. Looking a little closer, I could see that this man had what appeared to be some strange and possibly unwholesome fascination with then Braves outfielder Ryan Klesko. He had a Klesko jersey on, had a Klesko bobblehead on his dashboard, and his license plate read, I kid you not, "KLSKO FAN". Hell, the guy even looked like Klesko, from the dark hair and scowl to the broad, hunched shoulders. For all I know, maybe it really was Klesko, just burning around Sactown. Who knows, maybe Klesko is just a raging narcissist.

Well, "KLSKO FAN" is going to have to retool his car on the flash, GTA-style because the Giants have just signed Klesko to a cheap one year deal to be their starting first baseman. If all goes well, the move gives the Giants their first legimate bat at first base since J.T. Snow was possessed by Lou Gehrig in 2004. Klesko is not the 30-homer threat that he once was, but he can still threaten 20 bombs, can plant one in the drink once in a while (remember his Cove shot against Ryan Jensen in '03? Yikes!), and he draws his walks. Plus, getting him out of Petco Park, which was just killing him, should be a boon to his production.

Giants projected 2007 lineup against righties, as of this point:

CF Roberts
SS Vizquel
2B Durham
LF Bonds
1B Klesko
C Molina
3B Feliz/Aurilia
RF Winn

Rich Aurilia will most likely start in Klesko's stead at first base against lefties, and hopefully Brian Sabean can find a better bat at right field or just give Linden a shot. Overall, though, with Klesko inserted in the lineup at first base, this Giant batting order is beginning to resemble something that could put some runs on the board. You have speed and on-base ability at the top, moderate power and patience in the middle, and some empty power at the bottom (which is better than nothing).

The trick with Klesko is staying healthy. He missed all of last year with injuries* and hasn't exactly been the picture of health in his years in San Diego. The Giants tempered the risk, though, by only giving Klesko a one year deal, so it's not like the team is hamstrung if he goes down. His defense is also a problem, but first base defense really isn't that important and, as much as Giants fans were spoiled by J.T. Snow's acrobatics over the years, I'd take a potential .270/.360/.450 batting line over some mythical run-saving ability any day of the week.

Ironically, I was getting ready to write another angry post with a list of potential cheap first base options that were sitting under Sabean's nose this winter while he was dicking around with Aurilia and co. Klesko actually would have been one of the players on that list, albeit behind Aubrey Huff or Carlos Pena. So bravo, Brian Sabean...bravo. I've always been a fan of Klesko. He has a certain weird charm, what with his odd, semi-hunched-over amble and his omnipresent scowl. Watching him stumble around the outfield like a confused wildebeest back in his Atlanta days was a joy all in its own. Most of all, though, the guy could always hit.

This is a very solid pickup, and one that will certainly help the Giants win games. Since the contract was so cheap, it also means that there is still money to be thrown at an impact player this year (like Barry Zito, perhaps). John Ryder, and "KLSKO FAN", wherever he is, both applaud you, Mr. Sabean.

* He did get into one game and went 3 for 4; imagine the nervous murmurs from opposing crowds when Klesko ambles to the plate with his .750 batting average from 2006 posted up on the Jumbo-Tron. Intimidating, no?

Monday, December 18, 2006


A Fistful of Veterans

Now that I have some time, lets get caught up with some of the players the Giants signed this past month. Since lists are the last bastion of a lazy-ass writer, it comes as no surprise that I present to you my rather belated take on each player signed or re-signed by the Giants this offseason in a format inspired in rather contrived fashion by a certain Sergio Leone western.

The Good

Barry Bonds 1 year/ $16 million

When the Giants decided to forgo a youth movement in favor of yet another ill-advised veteran love-in, getting Bonds re-signed, when it was clear he would play another year, became basically a necessity, no matter what kind of money they would have to pay or how bizarre Jeff Borris's ravings became. Besides, having the big guy finish out his career in an A's uniform or something would have been a disgrace.

Here's what I mean by necessary. Check out this potential non-Bondsian 2007 Giants lineup:

CF Roberts
SS Vizquel
2B Durham
1B Aurilia
3B Feliz
C Molina
LF Linden or some other exhumed relic from 1998, like Bobby Higginson or something.
RF Winn

When I look at this lineup, it reminds me of the time when I went to see The Exorcist when it was re-released in 2001. During the scene in which Linda Blair gets a particularly gruesome arteriogram, some woman behind me kept yelling "Sweet Jesus! Sweet Jesus!" every time blood sprayed all over the place. That's how I feel when I consider that this could have been the team that we fans might have been forced to watch next season. Sweet Jesus.

Honestly, it'd be a titanic struggle for that lineup to even score 650 runs. At least with Bonds and his .450 OBP and power threat you're probably going to bump that up toward 750, which takes a whole lot of burden off of an already questionable pitching staff. Even at 42 and with a bum knee, Bonds is still a terrifying presence in the lineup, and the fact that he's almost guaranteed to get on base at least twice a game is a giant lift for an otherwise anemic offense.

I've detailed before how Bonds's hitting prowess and enormous walk totals turned an otherwise innocuous lineup into a powerhouse in 2004. He's not the hitter he was back then, but even now he's still an impact player capable of being a top 5 hitter in the majors, and to me bringing him back was just a big, fat no-brainer.

Ray Durham 2 years/ $14.5 million

Love it. The Giants retained one of the best-hitting second baseman in the league and didn't even have to break the bank to do it. Yes, Durham is a day-to-day injury waiting to happen, and I realize his defense has fizzled almost into "avert your eyes" territory. And no, I don't expect the man to duplicate his mammoth .293/.360/.538 2006 season. However, all the guy does when he's in there is rake, and if this kind of production is coming from your second baseman, folks, that's an asset.

I find it absolutely baffling the number of Giants fans who pooh-poohed Durham's first contract and now deride this new one. Despite the sucky defense and injuries, the guy has been fantastic. It makes no sense that a lot of fans can't or won't appreciate Durham's production, yet Pedro Feliz continues to have staunch defenders. Name me one available second baseman who you would rather have to be playing second base for the Giants over the next two years. Mark Loretta? You're kidding. Marcus Giles? Durham's still better. Kevin Frandsen? Hey, I'm all about giving the kid a shot, but when you can get a hitter like Durham at a reasonable rate you go for it. Hell, give Frandsen third base and kick Feliz to the curb.

I was truly pleasantly shocked when the Giants re-upped Durham for two more years. I just assumed he'd be scooped up on an expensive four year deal by the Cardinals or something. Durham's signing has given me at least a small, tiny sliver of hope that the Giants can be competitive next season, because they retained an impact bat at a position where impact bats are incredibly hard to come by. Even if Durham regresses from last year and posts numbers around his .281/.354/.443 career norms, he's still one of the top second baseman in the NL. Love this move, love the player, and because I can't get enough of this snapshot of Ray from 2003, I'll throw it up in celebration of his return...

Steve Kline 2 years/ $3.5 million

It's hard to say how much Kline truly contributed to the Giants' cause last year, mostly because there were long stretches where I forgot he was even a member of the team. However, given the insane market for pitchers of any kind, locking up a solid reliever who can give you 50-60 generic innings and get lefties out for less than $2 million a year is certainly not a bad deal at all. Hell, after posting a 3.66 ERA last year, I'm halfway shocked Kline didn't get Scott Eyre money. Hey, if Gil Meche can get $55 million...

The Meh

Rich Aurilia 2 years/ $8 million

As a baseball move, this is probably going to turn into a horrendous signing, but dang it, I'm just a sucker for nostalgia. The Goateed One is one of my all-time favorites, and I've been a huge Rich-ay! cheerleader ever since his time as a part-timer in 1997 to his breakout in '99 to his inexplicable monster year in '01. He's also the man who inspired Mike Krukow to popularize (not sure if he coined it, per se) the term "stankeye", because whenever Aurilia took a fastball under the chin, he'd proceed to get up, dust himself off, give the pitcher a venomous glare, and then ram the next pitch for a double or a home run. Every single time. It was like clockwork: Richie gets dusted, Richie gets pissed, Richie goes yard.

So as a pure Giants fan, I'm excited to see Richie back in San Francisco. As a fan of intelligent baseball decisions,, not so much. As it stands now, Aurilia is the starting first baseman who will spell all the other infielders during their days off. If the Giants get a real first baseman, I like this signing a lot more, because then Aurilia becomes a kind of Ryan Freel-ish super-sub. He's certainly a more appetizing option backing up Ray Durham or Omar Vizquel than Jose Vizcaino, and the more at bats he can steal from Pedro Feliz, the better.

If Aurilia does indeed remain the starting first baseman, it could turn into a disaster not seen since...well, 2006. Aurilia is coming off a great season (.300/.349/.518), but he spent that season playing in a great hitter's park and he hadn't put up an OPS over .800 since 2001. Also, the last time he had a pitcher's park for a home was in 2004, when he split time with Seattle and San Diego and was pretty bloody awful for both.

Whatever. Right now I'm so frustrated with this team that I'm pretty much just content to ignore the downside and lose myself in a self-made nostalgic dream world where Richie launches 37 home runs again and all is well with the cosmos. Memories of the 2000-02-era teams may be all we Giants fans have left at this point.

Bengie Molina 3 years/ $16 million

At first, I reacted to this signing with sheer horror (another slow, crappy catcher for three years?!? What the hell, Sabean??), but after more thought I've sunk back into apathy's loving grasp. Label me comfortably numb, to quote the great Roger Waters. Molina is no one's idea of an impact signing, but heck, the Giants needed a catcher and Molina's bat is above average for the position, so it's really not so bad. Mike Matheny is likely done, and Elizier Alfonzo is probably not an option as a regular (with his power, though, he makes a nice backup), so getting a catcher who can hit for a couple years is certainly reasonable, and it's not like we're talking megabucks here.

Molina's defense is allegedly in decline and he never walks, but he puts the bat on the ball and can take a few yard. If he can put up a .270/.320/.450 line over the next three years, not totally unreasonable, I'd be perfectly happy.

The Kelly Osbourne

Dave Roberts 3 years/ $18 million

From all reports, Roberts is a great guy and he hustles, but I just hate this signing. It's bad enough that Brian Sabean felt he had to overpay Roberts to fill in this dubious "need" in center field when he already had a crappy, overpaid center fielder in Randy Winn. But three years? Why the hell do we need Roberts around for three years? At best, he's going to make a marginal contribution to a team that, in its current incarnation, is going to have to battle valiantly to obtain 75 wins. At worst, age kills his wheels and he isn't even good for trade fodder come 2009. Why pay $18 million for this?

Roberts can get on base and steal bags at a high rate. That's all well and good, but let's compare him to another guy with a similar skill set who was also a free agent.

Roberts: .293/.360/.393 49 steals in 57 attempts
Kenny Lofton: .300/.360/.403 32 steals in 37 attempts

Lofton just signed with Texas for one year. My point here isn't that Lofton is way better than Roberts, it's that he's basically the same guy, only he would have settled for a short term deal and the Giants would likely have gotten the same production without having to commit themselves long term. The Giants were supposedly out to get a stopgap solution, but the only problem is that stopgap means temporary!!!. There's nothing temporary about three years. While a lot of fans are currently devoting more energy to ripping the Molina signing, I think the Roberts contract borders on the idiotic.

Pedro Feliz 1 year/ $5 million

Well, you knew it was coming. At long last, here we are, staring in awe at this abomination. For a moment, a tiny, fleeting moment, there was hope that Feliz would disappear forever from our midst. He knocked in 98 runs, people go gaga for RBIs, and many teams would be looking to acquire a "proven" run producer. That would mean that a lot of GMs would be salivating over the chance to grab Feliz. Right? Right???

Nope. For the first time in eternity all of the other 29 GMs suddenly got smart and realized what a worthless load Feliz is at the plate. Not even in a market where Gil Meche gets a huge payday was anybody stupid enough to offer Pedro anything. So he came mewling back to the Giants, tail between legs, and now we have to endure more of the same for one more year.

Lets relive our favorite typical Feliz at bat, shall we? First pitch slider off the plate, Feliz wails at it and maybe hits a foul tip. Second pitch slider, even further off the plate, and Feliz wails away wildly and misses. Third pitch is a fastball right down broadway and Feliz stares at it without a clue. Sit down, Pedro. As Matt Damon said in The Departed: "Just...just kill me." I'm at the point now where all ability to denounce this signing is lost and, at this juncture, rendered meaningless. The only thing left for me now is a string of disembodied profanity.

Fuck! Shit! Ass!

Pedro Feliz is an absolutely terrible ballplayer. He has no business getting 600 plate appearances on a major league team. A .281 OBP and a .421 slugging average from a third baseman is an absolute killer. Yes, he plays great defense, but you know what? I don't give a shit. It's not worth the price the team pays with his amazing outmaking prowess. Sabean could have found a better third base option by sneezing on a list of AAA castoffs. If Feliz gets 300 at bats as a platoon guy who only starts against lefties, then fine, I'll calm down, but as of now that's not the case. The fact that we have to watch Happy Pedro flail around for another year drives me absolutely up the wall.

Maybe Feliz will luck into a year where he hits .270/.320/.460 and becomes marginally acceptable. And maybe Jennifer Connelly will knock on my door and have her way with me. I ain't betting money on either one. As optimistic as the Ray Durham signing had me, the Feliz signing has me going about 500 mph in the other direction. The Giants have a lot of problems, and improvement doesn't start until they become smart enough to stop giving a bunch of at bats to pieces of crap like Pedro Feliz.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Signings and Stuff

After a rather subdued first month of the 2006 offseason, the Giants have suddenly risen from their slumber to sign or re-sign a flurry of players in the past two weeks. I've actually heard some fans ripping Brian Sabean for not shelling out the big bucks to the big names on the market this offseason. Please. Sabean deserves plenty of criticism for some of his moves so far (Rich Aurilia at first base?!?) but given the current insanity of the marketplace, inaction is probably the best action this offseason.

Unfortunately, it sounds as if the decision-makers in the Giants front office did their best to be a bunch of boobs, only to be thwarted by equally dim-witted GMs. The Giants reportedly offered big contracts to Carlos Lee, Juan Pierre, and Gary Matthews, all players who don't deserve half of what they were given.

Lee is an above average slugger with shaky defensive skills and who has never had an OPS over .900. Does that sound like a guy who should command $16 million a year to you? Pierre is a crappy speedster who led the majors in outs made, so I'm happy to report that the Dodgers get the pleasure of paying him $9 million a year for the next five seasons. In early October, Matthews was rumored to be getting a deal around $6 million over three years, and that was considered overpaying. $50 million for five years? The moral of the story here for all you parents who want to retire early is to get your kids on the baseball

Basically, the Giants were fortunate to be outbid for a lot of these guys. Even Alfonso Soriano, the best free agent of the bunch, is not a guy I want to be paying Alex Rodriguez money to for the next eight years. There is no sure superstar on the market, and it is especially dangerous because even mediocre players are expensive. I mean, Jason Marquis is about to sign a three year deal for $21 million...buh buh buh whaaaaa???

The Giants are not looking at a particularly bright future in their current state, so why saddle the roster with one big multiyear contract on a guy who is probably not going to be very good by the time the deal is half over? The best thing is to just replenish the hideous farm system, get younger, and patch the holes with some cheap talent lying around the majors.

Young talent, you say? Pish posh. I know it sounds like a broken record, but instead of giving some young guys like Todd Linden or Fred Lewis a shot in the lineup, the Giants went out and signed a bunch of crappy old guys to act as lineup patches in some sort of hackneyed attempt at contending next year. Time and again, when there's young guys to be given a chance, Sabean will always return to the creaky-kneed retread who had his last good season like five years ago. Sabean is Pooh Bear, while the vets are like the honey jar. Even though he gets his nose stuck every time, he just can't keep away, dammit.

So instead of Todd Linden we get some ungodly situation where both Dave Roberts and Randy Winn patrol the outfield at the same time. In lieu of Carlos Pena or some other easily obtainable bat, there's Rich Aurilia and his goatee. Instead of basically anybody with a pulse, there's Pedro Feliz, back to terrorize us for another year while costing the team loads of runs. The thing about a young guy like Fred Lewis is that, hey, he costs nothing, so if he sucks just send him down and try to find something else that will work. If Lewis proves himself a major leaguer, bam, the Giants have a quality bat worth pennies on the dollar. If Dave Roberts suddenly stops hitting? Um, problems. The Giants are on the hook for $18 million for three years and Roberts takes up space on the roster while probably featuring prominently in some really gawdawful Giants TV promos.

So then, y'all excited about that Aurilia-Feliz-Molina three-headed beast in the middle of the batting order? Are you not entertained? Yeah, the Giants 2007 lineup looks about as exciting as snails mating.

-On a humorous side note, some poor sap over on McCovey Chronicles posted a long defense of Pedro Feliz, only to be rightly torn to shreds by several of the other readers on that site. Seriously, they were on the guy like hyenas on a carcass. For a self-proclaimed leader of the growing movement to boot Feliz off the face of the earth, it makes for a satifying read.

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