Monday, July 30, 2007


The Deadline Approaches

With the trade deadline looming, it's all quiet on the Giants' front. This monster rebuild we all want looks like it may not come to fruition. If the team fails to make any major moves it will be hugely disappointing, if not terribly surprising. Another problem with Sabean's multi-year contract veteran binge this winter is that, when the realization hits that you should be a seller at the deadline, those contracts act as a huge detriment to getting a deal done.

Dave Roberts is a fine little player, and might garner some interest in a Red Sox 2004-ish way, but who wants to pay him $12 million over the next two years, and also give up prospects for the right to do so? Randy Winn is also a handy player for a contender, but his contract is poison. The same can be said for Rich Aurilia, Bengie Molina, and even Ray Durham. And Matt Morris? Don't get me started. He's been on Operation Destroy Trade Value for over a month, and given a chance to salvage some hope for a decent return in yesterday's ballgame, he went and shat himself real good, coughing up a 5-2 lead to the Marlins.

This is again why the Giants' future looks so dismal. The team is stuck with these veterans for up to two more years. These guys aren't very good, obviously, they aren't helping this team win, and no one else wants them. Therefore, if the Giants can't get some decent prospects through trade, and they have nothing promising in their farm system, where is the offense going to some from? Through more free agent signings? Brian Sabean, meet Eric Byrnes. "Hey, Eric, you're big in the Bay Area and we'd love to see your dog run amok in McCovey Cove on a regular basis. Just sign here on the dotted line for three years and $30 million." Kill me now.

Here are some players that I think still have some value in trade as we get closer to the deadline:

-Pedro Feliz. He's still horrible, but he's on one of his bi-annual hot streaks at the perfect time, so maybe a team desperate for a third baseman would be willing to throw some interesting players our way. Feliz is only on the hook for this season too, so a team wouldn't have to worry about being stuck with an albatross contract.

Looking around, it seems the Phillies are the only contender in real need of a third baseman. What's the best way to gauge when one of your regular position players should have his butt DFA'd? When Feliz would serve as a major upgrade on him. I'm looking at you, Abraham Nunez. Unfortunately, the Phils might just try to tread water with Wes Helms until Chase Utley gets back, then go with Tadahito Iguchi at third. Or go and get another, better third baseman from another team. You know, whatever.

-Ryan Klesko. The Yankees have a huge hole at first base, and ol' helicopter swing might be something they'd have interest in. After all, I doubt the Yanks are holding their breath waiting for the heroic return of Doug Mientkiewicz. Klesko is on a cheap deal and he can still hit, so he might be tradeable for a little curio prospect. I'd be kind of sad to see Klesko go, because he's a fun player, but since he's not going to bring back any draft picks, and for the purposes of getting younger, if a trade can be made, do it.

-Steve Kline. Uh, maybe we can get Shairon Martis for him. Left-handed relievers, especially those with lots of service time, are horribly overvalued in baseball today. Perhaps Sabean can get crafty and flip Kline to a contender with bullpen problems. Maybe pull a fast one and turn it into a Ricardo Rincon-for-Brian Giles-type dealie. Or not. Anyway, "get crafty" sounds like the title of some bad spoken word album sold at Starbucks. "Brian Sabean: Let's Get Crafty."


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


The Bravos

As I wait for the new Angry Video Game Nerd video to load, I'll take the time to fawn over an organization that I think is certainly one of the best-run in the major leagues, the Braves. Many fans simpy equate the Braves' run of success (they won 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005) with three great pitchers, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz, and those guys are obviously key reasons, but there's a lot more to their continued excellence than meets the eye.

Last month I read through John Schuerholz's book Built To Win, a memoir of his time running the team during their long run of success (he came aboard in 1990; the Braves went from last place that year to first in '91). While the book does contain the patented "crusty old baseball dude anti-Moneyball rant" (in the second chapter Schuerholz calls the basic premise of Moneyball "flawed", then demonstrates over the next ten pages or so that he has no understanding of what that premise actually is), overall it's a very good read. Schuerholz comes across as authoritarian and a bit of a stuffed shirt (the Braves don't allow any of their players to wear jewelry on the field; you get the idea that Schuerholz would have hated Bill Veeck), but there's no denying that when it comes to evaluating talent and putting together competitive teams, he has few peers.

What I find most impressive about the Braves is not what they did in the years when they had Maddux, Glavine, etc, but what they've done since 2004, after those guys left and after they had restrictions put on their payroll by Time Warner. As team payrolls began to escalate, the Braves were given a ceiling starting in 2001, and slowly the percentage of their team payroll relative to the league began to decrease. For a lot of teams, this would have meant bad times.

Not for Schuerholz. As their players got older and they started to lose some guys to free agency, a steady influx of young talent has kept the team afloat. The Braves won 96 games in 2004 (the first post-Maddux/Sheffield year), 90 in 2005, and now are 54-47 and three games back of the Mets in the NL East. They had a little squawk last year, finishing at 79-83, but their expected won-loss record (go here if that concept is foreign to you) was still 85-77. As Schuerholz is proud to point out, in 2005 the Braves had 17 rookies make appearances on their major league roster, and many played significant roles.

In fact, take a look at this list of players, 25 or under, on Atlanta's roster in 2007, making a significant contribution to the Braves this season (alongside is their age):

Brian McCann, 23
Kelly Johnson, 25
Jeff Francoeur, 23
Scott Thorman, 25
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 22
Yunel Escobar, 24
Chuck James, 25
Kyle Davies, 23 (ok, he sucks, but there's still potential)

McCann and Johnson are two of the best players at their respective positions. Francoeur isn't too far away, if he'd just learn to take a freaking pitch, and "Salty" (too tired to spell his name out) and Escobar are apparently big time talents. All of these players came up through Atlanta's organization and all are making solid contributions. That's quite a list. It's a testament to the Braves' scouting department, which is clearly tops in the game.

You see, this is sort of what pisses a lot of us Giants fans off about our team. The Braves won a lot during the 90's and into the aughts, and yet here they are, still on top, producing prospects out of every orifice (um, franchises have orifices? Where...never mind). You'd think that they would have fallen into the typical cycle of producing a winning team for a decade, and then losing those players to age or free agency, then sucking for a while. It hasn't happened, because their farm system has continued to bear fruit, even as their big dogs (Glavine, Maddux, Gary Sheffield, Javy Lopez) have gone.

Meanwhile, we look at the Giants, who have been winning for a long time, and their resume looks essentially like a how-to guide to running a farm system into the ground. Let's see, ignoring potential impact hitters in the draft? Check. Giving away picks in order to have more money to spend on Michael Tucker? Check. Continuing to draft pitching projects even though the organization hasn't produced a hitter since the days of Kruk and Kuip (the playing days, that is)? Check.

The Giants' argument for their continued insistence on signing late-thirtysomethings to surround Bonds has been that they want to compete now, while Bonds is still around; they don't have time to sit and wait for young players to develop. What Atlanta has done the past few years (and their success compared to the Giants') is like the perfect rebuttal to that argument. Perhaps Brian Sabean should look at the Braves and take some pointers on how to successfully replenish your major league team with young players while continuing to win. Hint: it doesn't involve Dave Roberts or Rich Aurilia.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have some man-crush on the Braves here. I'm not particularly fond of them, and their fans (at least the ones who go to the games) are an apathetic lot. However, I'm just impressed by their smarts as an organization. It's like the samurai: I don't like you, I will kill you, but I respect you as a fellow warrior. And notice how this tribute to the Braves slowly morphed into another anti-Sabean rant? Sigh, some habits die hard.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Excitement For Naught

If tonight's 7-5 loss to Atlanta illustrates anything, it's that even if a season is completely lost and all hope for organizational competence has been abandoned, there are still reasons to get excited over a fun baseball game. The Giants' comeback from down 4-0, with two out in the ninth, no less, was scintillating, even if the eventual result was that all too familiar "L".

In the ninth, I started out thinking, "Well, let's at least avoid a shutout." Moral victories always provide a sort of weird placebo for the depression of a 95-loss pace. When the first two batters walked, I pumped my fist, as Tim Hudson's shutout bid came closer to ruin. When Barry Bonds and Klesko made outs, though, I threw up my hands, muttered an F-bomb, and made a dash for the radio dial. However, Rich Aurilia and Pedro Feliz, two of the most awful hitters in baseball this season, got back to back clutch hits (who'da thunk it?), and good ol' "two out" Bengie struck again to tie it.

The comeback was fun because 1) it was a two out comeback from four runs down against a seemingly invincible pitcher, 2) it tied the game, obviously, and a Giant win, however much of a rarity these days, always makes the day brighter, and 3) it prevented Matt Morris from getting a loss for my fantasy team. Yeah, yeah, real team before fantasy, but you have to take everything into account here.

The Giants lost it in the 13th when Jonathan Sanchez was all over the map, but almost made another comeback in the bottom of the inning before Freddy Lewis struck out with the bases loaded. Sucky, yet still exciting. If the Giants are going to lose, let's at least see some fight like they showed in the 9th and 13th innings of this game.

On a related note, around the 5th inning, about the time when Chipper Jones (who is having a remarkable season) launched his 17th home run, I sent a text message to my friend that said, simply: "Matt Morris is horseshit." Not only is he killing my fantasy team, he's effectively destroyed whatever trade value he may have had with his awful pitching over the past month.

I could see maybe another GM being crazy enough to take on the remainder of Morris's bloated salary when he was keeping his ERA under 4. Now that his peripherals have caught up to him and he can't get anybody out, what could the Giants seriously get for him besides like the second coming of Alfredo Simon? I mean, the pitching market is absurd, but not that absurd, not to the point where a team will give up a high-potential player for a pitcher who is rapidly approaching Jamey Wright territory. You could practically see the advance scouts dashing for the exits about the time Kelly Johnson ripped a single to plate two runs today. Ick.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007


An Ill Trade Wind Blows

Now that we have that out of the way...

With the trade deadline coming up in a hurry, and the Giants in desperate need of an influx of younger players, it's very possible that we'll see some moves that cull some of the veterans from the roster and bring back something that will maybe make this team's future brighter. Unfortunately, the Giants may not have much to bargain with. Who's going to give up a young, strapping five-tool prospect for the sub-.300 OBP stylings of Dave Roberts, after all?

Matthew Pouliot of Rotoworld had some damning things to say about the Giants' trade leverage:

>The Giants and Red Sox continue to be linked, with Omar Vizquel, Randy Winn, Dave Roberts and, gulp, Matt Morris getting mentioned as possibilities for Boston. Still, I don't see how there can be much to it. Morris' trade value is gone. Winn is owed $16.25 million in 2008-09 and Roberts is due $13 million over the same timeframe, making them way too expensive to be carried as fourth outfielders. Vizquel has made it clear he doesn't want to be a utilityman.<

Ugh. Ugh and a half. Winn's contract-to-production ratio is poor enough to where he's basically trade poison, and if that weren't bad enough, he has a no-trade clause for this season, so rule him out completely. Roberts might have had some value if he weren't due, as the article above said, $13 million over the next two seasons. No one wants to pay that kind of money for a rapidly declining fourth outfielder-type (except the Giants apparently...grrrr). As for Morris...gulp indeed. He's been horrendous for over a month and any GM who trades for him should probably be fired on the spot. Although that's not to say I don't hope and pray that there's a GM out there dumb enough to actually do it.

Ryan Klesko might bring something back because he's still productive and dirt cheap, but don't expect Billy Butler or anything. Ray Durham also might have trade value, because he has a reasonable contract (I still say bringing back Durham was a decent gambit, even though he's sucked this year), and production at second base is hard to find. Would the Mets give up Lastings Milledge (weird baggage and all) for Durham? Here's a fun little debate about it.

In all, I think the Giants' most valuable trading chip is clearly Noah Lowry (well, it would be Cain or Lincecum know). Lowry is young, he's cheap, and he has proven he can go out and give you 200 innings a year. Those are some traits that would make a lot of teams salivate. There are fringe contenders all over in need of pitching, namely the Yankees and Phillies, but there are also young teams like the Devil Rays who have more young outfielders than they know what to do with and might be a perfect trading match. There were rumors this past winter that Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford was on the block (who knows why, but this is the Devil Rays, after all). If the Giants could possibly swing Lowry and Jonathan Sanchez for Crawford, it's something they should do in a heartbeat. That's probably an LSD-trip scenario, but there should be something close that the Giants could work out.

Many fans are squeamish about gutting the Giants' stable of young pitching, and rightfully so. However, I'm not convinced Lowry is a player who should be regarded as an untouchable. Giants Cove beat me to the punch on this one, but I'll reiterate the argument, because it's a good one.

Like I said earlier, Lowry has proven he can go out and throw a lot of innings, but with his poor K/BB ratios (in decline since his terrific 2005) there's every indication that he's going to fall off, maybe not this year, but soon. You see, if a pitcher has the kind of average strikeout rates that Lowry does, without great control, like Lowry, it's a recipe for disaster. We've learned over the years from those pesky BABIP and DIPS nerds that the more balls that are put into play, the higher the likelihood that some are going to just fall in for lucky hits. It's a bitch, but that's the way the world turns. If a pitcher puts a lot of runners on base to go along with those balls being put in play, and he can't miss bats, he's walking a tightrope. One unlucky inning and his day is ruined.

This is Lowry's problem. If everything falls right, he could be an even better Kirk Rueter. There's nothing, nothing, wrong with that. However, what he isn't is some indispensible asset. If his home run rate ticks even a smidge northward (he's given up an absurd six homers in 119 innings; he gave up 21 in both '05 and '06), his ERA is going to skyrocket.

The market for pitching right now is, I'd say, irrational (take a look at the Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis contracts, after all). The market for young pitching is downright zany. I'm not saying the Giants should trade Lowry just for the hell of it. I'm saying they should dangle him out there and see what kind of offers bite back. If they get lowballed, keep him. He's a good pitcher. If the team can get a real, solid young player for him, though, a player who can serve as a building block to get this offense to a point of respectability, jump on it. He's the Giants' best bet for getting good value in a trade at the deadline.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Pondering Sabean

I was perusing McCovey Chronicles the other day when I happened upon a diary with the headline "In Defense of Sabean". Immediately upon reading this title, I thought to myself, "uh oh." From time to time over at Grant's site, some poor soul will begin a diary trying to defend an unpopular notion, with a title like "Feliz Isn't So Bad" or "Give Benitez a Chance." Sure enough, the other denizens of the site soon catch wind of it, and things get reaaaaal ugly. Insults get tossed, VORPs and EQAs get thrown around, and soon enough the little troll who started the mini-argument is chased back into his little cave.

Thankfully, though, the debate sparked by this latest contrarian diary, while very passionate, was actually quite cordial, and I recommend that all fans go and read it. There are a lot of intelligent arguments pointing out the pros and cons of Brian Sabean's tenure as Giants GM, and whether or not he earned his extension.

That's what I'm here to talk about now. I, like many Giants fans, was baffled by the full vote of confidence given to Sabean by Giants ownership. I wanted to see the Giants go in a different direction. The Giants' future outlook is relentlessly bleak, and most (if not all) of it is of Sabean's making. I can see giving him the chance to dig himself out of the mess he's created, but what indication is there that he's competent enough to do it? He rebuilt the team from scratch in 1997, and did a hell of a job, but he also had Bonds in his prime and a bunch of other solid players entering their prime, so comparing then to now is apples and oranges.

Now, to be fair, I would argue that from 1997-2002, Sabean was one of the five best GMs in baseball. As I said before, he did a great job revitalizing this team at the major league level. Through 2002, he surrounded Bonds with adequate talent, and he found that talent through a number of shrewd trades. He absolutely robbed teams of Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow, Ellis Burks, Robb Nen, Jason Schmidt, Felix Rodriguez, Brian Johnson, and even Wilson Alvarez and Roberto Hernandez, if for just half of a season. His general philosophy was: trade your prospects (i.e. risks) for known commodities, and for a while it worked beautifully. Most of the prospects he traded flamed out completely, while the guys he traded for shined. He had the Giants in contention every year from 1997 to 2002, and while the farm system did continue to decay, you can't deny those results.

From 2003 to the present, though, I think it's clear that Sabean has been one of the worst GMs in all of baseball. His "prospects for vets" philosophy became increasingly cockeyed to the point where it almost became self-parody, as he began sacrificing draft picks for guys who he thought would help the team now. It might have worked, but instead of bringing in good players in their primes like Snow or Nen in '97 and '98, he was throwing away picks for mediocrities like Michael Tucker.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same dumb thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome each time. Perhaps Sabean's old person fetish drove him into insanity's cold embrace, because he kept on signing bad veteran after bad veteran in the hopes that the team would get better, and now we're stuck with the results of that plunge off the edge, as the team has a bunch of old guys and a horrible farm system. Where Sabean was once ahead of the curve when it came to building a contending team, at some point many other GMs grew wise to his ways and realized it was cheaper and easier to build through a solid combination of young talent and smart free agent pickups, and Sabean got left in the dust.

The Giants need to retool, and they need to do it by overhauling the farm system and just blowing up the roster as it is now. Sabean isn't the man to do it. Maybe if there were a quick fix, if it were a situation like 1997, Sabean would be the right man, but there's just no evidence whatsoever that he has the ability to rebuild this franchise. And don't start with the cries that he's rebuilt the pitching staff. Yes, Matt Cain rocks, and so does Lincecum, but Lincecum was a guy the Giants basically lucked into because a bunch of scouts had their heads up their asses. Noah Lowry? I like him, but he was an afterthought in the farm system who was thrown into the rotation in 2004 and, voila. He was a huge surprise. Plus, his control problems and below average stuff don't portend future greatness. These three guys are hardly indicative of some underlying genius.

So no, I'm not thrilled about Sabean's coming back, and a lot of Giants fans share my view (as do Joe Sheehan of BP and John Perricone of OBM, only they are way blunter about it than I am). I personally think the Giant front office is behind the times when it comes to talent evaluation and how to build a franchise. In extending Sabean, it's unfortunately likely to stay that way.

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Monday, July 16, 2007


Yet Another Goofy Movie Analogy To Describe the Giants

It's time to revisit one of my favorite pastimes here at Stankeye, the use of the bad movie analogy to illustrate what is going on with the Giants or one of their players. We've been down this barely inspired road before here and here, to name just a few examples, so let's get crackin' again.

There's this movie from the 80's called Legend, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Cruise. I'm sure you've heard of it for one reason or another, maybe because of the mini-controversy that surrounded it after the producers scrapped the original music score (by the great Jerry Goldsmith) in favor of a more kid-friendly one by Tangerine Dream.

Anyways, it's really bad. The idea was to tell an old-fashioned fairy tale, in the Brothers Grimm mold, I suppose, and that's a novel premise, especially for a modern film audience. Unfortunately, the movie just plain blows. The plot involves some hot chick who is the embodiment of innocence, which means some evil creatures want to kill her, and they also want to kill the last unicorn, because if they do, then all light will be vanquished forever, and darkness will rule, blah, blah blah. Some fairies try to save her, but it's really hard to care because the movie is really boring and stupid, and Tom Cruise looks totally embarrassed throughout the proceedings. Again, it's a very bad movie.


There's one redeeming quality, and it's a big one. The villain, known as the Lord of Darkness (aka the big horned guy), and played by Tim Curry, is awesome. As in, one of the greatest villainous concoctions in movie history. I'm not kidding. He's huge, imposing, evil as hell, and every time he appears onscreen, he bursts into an eloquent soliloquy in which he basically just brags about what a bastard he is. Curry's performance (under a mountain of makeup, you can only recognize him from his trademark sneer) is a Shakespearean delight. It makes the film worth watching, at least if you have nothing to do and catch it on TV or something.

So think of Tim Lincecum as the Lord of Darkness (yeah he looks innocent, but, brother, his fastball is sinister), and think of the Giants' team as the shitty movie he's stuck in. Right now, the rise of Lincecum is pretty much the only thing exciting about this team. Just look at his performance today. He still needs to cut down on the walks, but pitching in a historically tough ballpark on pitchers, against a good Cubs lineup, he dominated.

Watching Lincecum make good hitters look foolish is worth the price of sitting through the usual horrible at bats by the Giant offense. In my days when the Giants were contenders, I'd make time during my day to be sure I could watch every game or listen to every broadcast. Back then the team was a can't-miss, like Aliens.

Now? Not so much, except on the days when Timmy pitches. Seeing his name penciled in as the game's probable starter is enough to make me fit my day around the Giant game. You see, watching him rise to the top ranks of NL hurlers amidst the grating sub-mediocrity around him is like watching Tim Curry's brilliant performance in an otherwise immensely crappy movie. Stop and watch his scenes, then turn it to "Dancing With the Stars" when he leaves the screen. With Lincecum, watch him pitch his game, then turn on the apathy when Barry Zito goes up against a Cub lineup full of righty sluggers (ugh).

All right so I realize that this analogy could have been made using any movie with a good villain, but the ratio of villain badassness to movie shittiness in Legend is just too great to pass by. I guess the comparison would also be apt with Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, or Powers Boothe in Sudden Death, or Patrick Stewart in Masterminds. Wait, check that last one.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007



I think it's safe to say that this is the absolute low point of the Giants' season. A month ago I was at Mays Field when the Giants' lineup got dominated by the immortal Lenny Dinardo and the A's finished off a humiliating sweep. I walked out of the stadium that day thinking that, no, it just couldn't get any worse than that. Well lo and behold, it has, tenfold.

I was actually up and excited going into this series. Yes, I spend a lot of time bitching about how the Giants suck and that their lineup is old and boring, but come on, it's the Giants and Dodgers. No matter how bad the Giants are, no matter how hideous they are to watch, no matter how much Cammy Blackstone makes me never want to watch another FSN Bay Area broadcast ever again, I'll still get excited about Giants-Dodgers. They're the Bums, after all, and who doesn't want to see the Giants be the sub-.500 force from the grave that prevents the Dodgers from advancing to the postseason?

Well, it didn't happen in this series and, except for the riveting comeback in yesterday's game that just proved to be a big, fat dry hump, the Giants looked like the same old boring, punchless team with no hope and no prospects. Meanwhile, the Dodger sweep was led by a group of upcoming young players, most notably Russell Martin, who's awesome, and Matt Kemp. It's enough to make a weak-hearted fan like me immensely jealous. The Dodgers showed the kind of talent and poise that makes a team, well, good. Now excuse me while I re-read that sentence and then go throw up all over the place.

The Giants are now 38-51 and, forgive me for saying this, all you delusional optimists out there, but their season is done. Now it's time for this franchise to go out and give us a reason to care again. Mr. Sabean, you just got a two-year extension, yay for you. You're very fortunate that the word "accountability" is not in Peter Magowan's vocabulary. You got the vote of confidence, now start earning it, right freaking now.

Do whatever you can to get rid of the chaff on this roster. Get some young guys in, get some guys with potential. I don't want to watch this team anymore if it involves sitting through more awful at bats involving Pedro Feliz or Dave Roberts or Rich Aurilia. If you make some trades, get some young players in here, some players with upside, any upside, even if it turns out later that they suck, I'll watch, and I'll like it. But this veteran mediocrity dancing bear show has got to stop.

I understand that the Giants aren't going to get young impact players with the veterans they've got now. Maybe the most valuable piece they have is Ray Durham, simply because of his position and his history of productivity, but even he isn't a player who is going to bring back a whole lot of talent.

The team might have to surrender Noah Lowry to get something really good in return, and if that's the case, so be it. Break some eggs. Trade Lowry to a team looking for pitching and try to get a building block, something close to a sure thing. Package some of that young pitching together (not Cain and Lincecum, obviously), and try to get a young bat that this team can build around.

The last time the Giants were this bad it was 1996, and the Giants had the same bleak outlook for the future. Then Brian Sabean came in and brilliantly rebuilt the roster into a contender. Can he do it again? I don't like the fact that he was brought back. I thought it was time to go in another direction, and so did legions of other Giants fans. Now is his shot to prove everybody wrong. That involves getting younger and getting rid of the veteran deadwood, and if it doesn't happen very fast, it's going to be very hard to continue investing any kind of energy into supporting this team.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007


First Half Studs and Duds

The Giants are 38-48, they rank 15th among 16 NL teams in runs scored, 15th in hits, 12th in home runs, 13th in batting average, 12th in on-base percentage, and 15th in slugging. Long story short, there are going to be a lot of duds on this list, especially on offense.


Barry Bonds He's old, he's cranky, the media hates him, his legs have about as much mobility as a couple of tree trunks, but he still just may be the best hitter in the league. If it weren't for Bonds this Giants lineup would just be plain offensive, like 2003 Dodgers-caliber bad. Without Bonds, the 2007 batting order would be the suckiest bunch of sucks to ever suck, to quote Homer (Simpson that is).

Bonds is currently lapping the field in the NL in OBP, OPS, walks, and he's third in slugging. Bonds has clearly lost a step (due to injury, age, drug testing, I don't know), but the fact that we can say that and he's still OPSing 1100 is a testament to the kind of amazing hitter he's been in his career.

What I find most ridiculous is that there are people, many of them Giants fans (just read some of the comments on Rob Neyer's blog entry on the Giants yesterday, and you'll see them), who are complaining to this very moment that the Giants shouldn't have brought Bonds back for the $18 million they're paying him this year, that his contract was overpriced and that he's been a huge financial burden.

Um, what? Bonds, as I said before, is the only reason I don't turn the TV off when the Giants come to bat. In a lineup full of punchless veterans with no plate discipline, Bonds provides a refreshing injection of patience and power. The financial part of his contract, to me, is irrelevant. Yes, $18 million is a lot of money, but for only one year it isn't going to tie your hands up and keep you from making any other moves.

You want to complain about a contract? Complain about the $126 million for seven years given to a certain soft-tossing lefty pitcher (oh we'll get to him in the duds section, believe me). This bitching about Bonds's contract is nothing but typical, brainless "team sucks, so blame the best player" bullshit.

Matt Morris, Matt Cain, Noah Lowry Credit the Giants' pitching staff for retaining some measure of respectability. The Giants are currently third in the NL in ERA, and much of it has been due to the performance of the Morris/Cain/Lowry troika. Their poor peripheral stats belie their shining ERAs (all three have mediocre K/BB rates, and all have given up a ridiculously low number of home runs), but hey, we're not here to project future performance (yet), we're just handing out first half awards, of sorts. In the first half, these guys have gotten the job done, although Cain sadly doesn't have the record (i.e run support) to show for it.

Ryan Klesko Maybe the only offseason addition that has worked out so far (all right, maybe besides Bengie), Klesko is probably my favorite player on the Giants right now. He has a distinctively weird style of play, kind of a quirky tough guy thing going, and it's amusing to me. He lumbers around the diamond, scowling and looking mean. He takes massive windmill swings when at the plate, and when the ball connects, it goes a long way. When it doesn't, Klesko nearly falls on his butt, which is still great.

Even if Klesko stunk, he'd be a fun player to watch. Thankfully, he's been quite good, easily the Giants' second-best hitter, with a line of .295/.385/.477. Finally, fellow Giants fans, we have adequate production at first base. And to think Klesko was brought in as the backup to Rich Aurilia! It boggles the mind. He was signed for chump change this offseason, so this has been the rare post-2001 Sabean move that has worked out beautifully.


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Perhaps that's a little unfair. Maybe the finger should be directed at Brian Sabean, Peter Magowan and co. for lavishing that fat contract upon Barry Zito in what was obviously just a glorified PR move. Anybody with a working brain realized that this was a stupid signing, that in about four years the team would be regretting it. Now, with Zito sucking, despite pitching in a tough park on hitters and despite moving to the easier league, it's starting to look like it might be an unmitigated disaster.

Still, there was reason to at least hope that Zito would provide some return on that contract, and who knows, maybe he will. He has six and a half more years to do it, after all. There have been starts where he looks like the Zito from the early-00's, with the snapping curveball working beautifully. Unfortunately he's been alternating those with starts where he's Kirk Rueter circa 2005.

With all that we know about pitchers with long-term contracts going into their late-30's, Zito's current 4.90 ERA could be as good as it gets. How horrifying a thought is that? And guess what, fellow fans of the black and orange, he has a full no-trade clause! So start praying for improvement, because the Giants are pretty much stuck with him. For all of us long-suffering Giants fans, we deserve more.

Dave Roberts I hated this signing when it happened, and that was still assuming that Roberts would be his normal, decent self. Now that he's been one of the worst hitters in the major leagues for three months, the three-year deal handed out to him looks like rank idiocy. Let's see, he can't hit, he can't get on base, he has no power, his fielding isn't particularly good. Other than that, no problem.

Maybe Roberts has just been unlucky or something. Maybe he will revert back to his career norms (.709 OPS, which still ain't anything to brag about) and be a decent player in the second half. Or maybe he's hit the wall at age 35 and he sucks.

Fred Lewis is a better player right now than Dave Roberts has ever been. They essentially serve the same function, as a fourth outfielder-type. Knowing this, and knowing the Giants control Lewis for another five years (I think) for like nothing, how awful does the Roberts signing look? Yeah, it's only $6 million a year, but you know what, that's $6 million a year that could have been spent on someone, you know, good.

Pedro Feliz I was going to lay off Pedro for once, but after careful consideration...nahhhh. The Giants brought Feliz back for no good reason after a miserable 2006, and guess what? He's even worse this year! He sports a line of .234/.270/.405, he swings at everything, he eats babies (or so I hear). Do I need to go on? Can someone just spike his coffee with some greenies so we can get him the hell out of the lineup?

The crazy thing is, he still has defenders! Every time a "DFA Pedro Feliz" diary gets put up at McCovey Chronicles, there are always four or five misguided individuals who just keep on parrotting lines like "Well, his defense is pretty good", or "Hey, he hits some home runs, that counts for something", or my favorite, "Well, he's really the least of the Giants' problems". I guess you could argue that Feliz isn't the Giants' biggest problem, but all that says is that the Giants have a pretty shitty team.

Looking around the majors, the Twins are in desperate need of an upgrade at third base (they have Nick freaking Punto getting the lion's share of playing time there), and might be willing to take Feliz off our hands. The Twins have some live arms in their farm system, and perhaps the Giants could snag one of them in a trade. Or maybe the Twins would be willing to trade Nathan, Bonser...sigh, I won't go there. I know, I know, too soon. Seriously, though, I'd take chump change. I'd take a Randy Messenger clone. Anything just so I don't have to watch another terrible Feliz at bat.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Best. Game. Ever.

Sunday was, hands down, the Giants' best game of the season. For nine wonderful innings, everything was clicking. Let's go down the list: Utter beatdown of a division rival? Check. The Boy Wonder showing the kind of badass unhittable-ness that could make him the league's dominant pitcher for the coming years? Check. Ryan Klesko windmilling another home run into the arcade seats in right field? Give me a C! Give me an H! Give me an E! Give me a C! Give me a K!

The Diamondbacks just didn't have a chance against Tim Lincecum. He had that insane 97-mph two-seam-fastball-from-hell going and the Dback hitters couldn't even touch it. They got maybe three good swings all game, if I can recall. The fact that Lincecum struck out twelve batters in seven innings without even breaking the 100 pitch barrier is the most impressive part. It'll probably be a cold day in hell before we hear Mike Krukow giggle like a school girl on air, but as Lincecum was mowing down one perplexed hitter after another yesterday, I think he came damn close.

Now all that's left is for Timmy to do this consistently. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the lad, and I know that young pitchers go through rocky stretches, but all that's keeping Lincecum from being the best pitcher in the league, right now, is consistent command. Remember, he was due to get this start skipped because he had been bombed in four straight starts before dominating the Padres last Monday. In three of those four starts (the start against the Phillies wasn't so bad; his bullpen tacked on some extra earnies after he left the game), he just didn't have any control and had to resort to throwing meatballs across the plate.

For those of you familiar with JoeChat, the favorite pastime of the FJM boys, Joe Morgan is always harping about consistency, as if it were some all-encompassing skill that will turn you from a crappy player into a star. Most of the time it comes across as mindless fooferah, but in Lincecum's case, it probably applies. Once Lincecum learns to get batters out on the days when he doesn't have his best stuff (like he didn't against the A's, Blue Jays, and Brewers), he'll be the uber-stud we've all been looking for. That'll make the days when he does have his best stuff all the more fun, like yesterday.

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