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?

Ray Durham BLOWS! I want to see Bond's win games, NOT R.D.!! Strike-out for the love of the sport. By the way...GO HALO'S!!!
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