Thursday, December 20, 2007
Channeling the '03 Dodgers
To quote Mr. Creosote, better get a bucket. What's the over/under on runs scored here? 550? Obviously, there's still a lot of time left and I'm sure moves will be made to improve ths squad, but man, it'll still take some sort of miracle to make this offense even respectable.
Personally, I'm excited at Frandsen's prospects; not so much at Ortmeier's. Frandsen's minor league totals indicate that he could at least be a kind of Bill Mueller-type, which would be doubly valuable if the Giants could acquire another third baseman and Frandsen could slide to second in 2009. If there's one thing I really hope that the Giants don't screw up this winter, it's acquiring some veteran chaff to play third base and then have Frandsen rot on the bench some more. One of the few things I'm looking forward to this season is finding out what this guy can do.
As for Ortmeier, the opposite field shots and the Dodger-killing homer were exciting, but a .775 career OPS in the minors doesn't scream success, certainly not at first base. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have the Giants give Ort a chance than dick around with more washed-up zombies like Tony Clark. However, it also doesn't make much sense to just settle on Ortmeier when Dallas McPherson, who has a career .959 minor league OPS (and who I've not-so-realistically thought about trying to get before) is available and can probably be signed for relatively cheap.
As for Rowand's place in this lineup, he's sort of like Bengie Molina in the sense that if he's your number six hitter or something, you're doing pretty well. But your main source of power? Forget it. The biggest problem here is that the Giants have ostensibly replaced a five-win caliber offensive player in Bonds with probably a two-win one in Rowand, and that seems to be a best-case scenario. If the Giants had one of the league's worst offenses with Bonds, how bad is it going to be now, especially with the old guys getting a year older? Matt Cain shudders.
--TGIF video. I have to wait six more months for this? But I want it now!
Monday, December 17, 2007
Clueless Giants Free Agent Signing V. 2008
So what do the Giants do? They decide that they need to "get speedier" and sign Dave Roberts to a three year deal, despite the fact that they already have an overpaid, mediocre center fielder whose contract they're kicking themselves over in Randy Winn. Not surprisingly, Roberts has a miserable year, the Giants suck, those holes that went unaddressed continue to kill the team, and the Giants immediately regret Roberts's contract. Seriously, like two months into the season.
Now flash forward to the present. It's the winter of 2007. The Giants are coming off an even worse season, those same holes at the corner positions remain unfilled, they've been trying desperately to unload the Winn and Roberts contracts, and their best hitter is gone in a sea of legal troubles and embarrassing Peter Magowan shenanigans, which means that they have even more work to do to make the offense respectable. So naturally, Brian Sabean's first move is to go out and sign yet another center fielder to a five-year deal.
What. The. Fuck.
I'm sorry, but the signing of Aaron Rowand to a five-year, $60 million deal is so stupid, so pointless, and in such obvious contrast to what the Giants actually need, that I'm beginning to think that Sabean isn't so much incompetent as he is just flat out insane. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and thinking it'll work at some point, right? Isn't this just Sabean repeating the same "defense wins ballgames" crap over and over again? When it inevitably fails and the team sucks again, will Sabean just yell at Giants fans to get off his back like he always does?
The Giants have way more issues that should be taking precedent, like the fact that this team still has no power at positions where power isn't too hard to find, and yet Sabean has gone and signed a guy who plays a position of relatively low urgency. Meanwhile, the team is still stuck pondering the pros and cons of Dan Ortmeier at first base. What is going on here?
If the Giants were on the cusp of contention, this signing still wouldn't be good, but at least it'd be defensible. Five years and $60 million for Rowand is preferable to five years and $90 mil for Torii Hunter, and Rowand is a nice player who could put a team over the edge if they needed center field help. The Giants aren't on the brink of being a contender, though. Not even freaking close, and locking up a non-impact for five years is just the last thing they need to be doing. I absolutely, positively guarantee that in two years, in the winter of 2009, the Giants will be desperately trying to dump Rowand's contract.
Rowand is coming off of a fabulous year, no doubt, but it's also a year that just reeks of a contract-year surge, and it came while Rowand was playing in an extreme home run park. He hit 25 home runs total in the two years before and now that he's moving into a park that is very stingy on power numbers, he could easily regress back to those middling 2005-06 numbers, which certainly wouldn't make him the "middle of the order threat" that Sabean touted him as. His plate patience is nothing special either, as his career high in walks is 47, but this should really be of no surprise coming from a franchise that still doesn't understand the value of batters not making outs.
As for his defense, Rowand is considered a great fielder and won a Gold Glove last year, but as we all know, GG's are meaningless and I think a lot of his defensive rep comes from the time he broke his nose crashing into a fence while making a spectacular catch in Philadelphia. A lot of the more advanced defensive metrics I've seen rate him as sort of above average, not super-stupendous.
Does this signing make the Giants immediately better? I guess, but that just means it turns them from a 105-loss team into a 103-loss team. Hooray! Rowand may help the ERAs of the Giants' young pitchers with his glove, and he may defy the odds and average 25 homers over the entirety of his contract, and I'll sit here and eat my crow and enjoy it, dammit. More likely, though, his defense makes a barely marginal impact and he regresses to the .700 OPS threat of his career norms, while I sit and stew and stick my middle finger at Sabean's photo on sfgiants.com.
I hate to be such a gloomy-gus on this, but the Rowand deal strikes me as yet another ill-advised, wrong-headed, and poorly-researched free agent signing, the kind that we Giants fans have been suffering over for far too long now. You can stretch for positives and find some, but you could have done the same for the Matt Morris, Armando Benitez, and Mike Matheny signings, and those all proved to be absolute dead fish. I'm not ready to come out and fully agree with the topic of this discussion, but I'm getting there.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Marvin Benard: Destroyer Of Little Childrens' Dreams
All the times I watched you swing at pitches a foot over your head, all the times I saw you do a faceplant in the outfield as a routine fly ball fell in for a triple...all of this is tainted. That day you inexplicably beat the Dodgers with a game-winning home run...asterisk! All those time you glared at the umpire after he had the audacity to call a third strike on a pitch right down the middle...my dreams are dead! Baseball's innocence is lost, all because of you, you bastard.
All kidding aside, the names revealed in the George Mitchell report seem to be made up of three (none-too-surprising) groups:
1) The players who had already been implicated as users before, i.e. Barry Bonds and Jason Grimsley, to name a few.
2) The standard list of scrubs and hangers-on like Gary Bennent and Howie Clark.
3) A number of guys who suffered career-threatening injuries like Troy Glaus, suggesting that the temptation to use the junk is likely very hard to resist if there's a chance it'll make you heal faster.
Of all the excuses people make for players using steroids, this is one I can sort of sympathize with. Imagine you're a player and you've suffered a horrible injury just as you enter your prime. Well, you've most likely been playing since high school and don't have many job skills, so you're going to be desperate to get your career back on track and get that MLB pension. If you come across a drug or whatever that will give you a chance to speed up the recovery process and restore you to even three-quarters of the player you once were, you're probably going to think long and hard about it.
To paraphrase Inspector Highland in Patriot Games, while I don't condone the things you've done, I can't quite bring myself to condemn ya.
Mitchell's report at least did a decent job of spreading the blame around to both the players and MLB, and I also like the fact that he recommended not punishing those named in the report as a means of moving on. The problem is, as hard as they try, and as much as politicians wag their finger at Don Fehr, there will never be a perfect solution to the drug problem in baseball.
At least, not until people stop watching and stop coming to the games, and that just ain't gonna happen. As long as there are millions of dollars at stake, players are going to be looking to get more advanced shit that won't be detectable in any test. It's chaos theory. Darwin, E-ching. Life finds a way, or some shit like that.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Feliz Navidad: An Early Holiday Gift For Giants Fans
Now, with this one move, my eyes have been awakened. I don't feel small anymore. I can grab Pedro Feliz, throw him through the window, and run and run all the way into a new Giants era. "I been away a long time", indeed. I've been away too long from horrible first pitch hacks at sliders two feet off the plate, from weakly hit grounders to the shortstop in crucial late-game situations, from OBP numbers that would make Johnny LeMaster hold his nose.
This, fellow Giants fans, is known as progress. If the Giants really want to move on and get younger and better, jettisoning one of the worst hitters in baseball is a great way to start. Now the Giants can sit back and pray that some dumb team (the Twins perhaps, as they seem to have the same disregard for on-base percentage that the Giants do) will sign Feliz and they can get a draft pick out of the whole debacle. Getting a draft pick for Feliz after his years of suckitude is a little like being given a napkin after having a bag of manure dumped on you, but it'll have to do.
The most talked-about in-house option to replace Feliz is Kevin Frandsen. A lot of Giants fans (including me, at least until recently) are worried that Frandsen won't be a feasible option at third base because his power is lacking for the position. Here's the thing: so is Feliz's. Over the past three years, despite the double digit home runs, Feliz hasn't broken a .430 slugging percentage one time. That's not good. Meanwhile, Frandsen's career slugging in the minor leagues is .458. Meanwhile, it goes without saying that his ability to get to first base is also clearly better.
Bottom line: Frandsen may not be the answer in the long run, but it's worth a shot to find out if he can at least be Bill Mueller. If nothing else, the chances of him being a better player than Feliz, even without the defense, are so high I'd throw all my roulette chips on it. Even last season, Frandsen's .331 OBP dwarfed Feliz's hideous .290 mark, and Frandsen also out-VORPed him 2.9 to -2.7, despite having nearly 250 less at-bats (!).
--Before I get too excited, it must be pointed out that there is still a chance that Feliz could come back to the Giants. In the olden days, if a player refused, or was refused, arbitration with his former team, he could not renegotiate with that team until May 1 of the next year. Under the new CBA, though, starting this offseason, a team can now negotiate with a player any time it wants after the arbitration deadline.
The only difference would be that, if Feliz does come crawling back, it'd be on the Giants' terms. Like, the team could say "here's $2 million to be a part-time player and defensive specialist, take it or leave it." Which is the way it should have been since forever.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Rumors Are Like Armpits...and So On
There's a smoking hot trade rumor rolling around that involves the Giants, and it's not particularly good. The team is apparently seriously considering a Tim Lincecum-for-Alex Rios trade, which currently has the lunatic fringe in quite the uproar. Apparently the deal is "sitting on Brian Sabean's desk" right now, and I saw one horrifying rumor that Sabean was ready to pull the trigger, only to be thankfully talked out of it by his cohorts in the front office.
My reaction to the Timmy-for-Rios babble can be summed up simply with this. The reasons not to make this trade are so obvious that I just can't believe that the Giants didn't pooh-pooh it at first mention. Has Sabean really lost his mind? Is his mission the next two seasons going to be to make as many stupid moves as possible just to spite those of us who wanted him fired? I can picture him now at a press conference, announcing the Lincecum/Rios trade, waving his two-year contract extension around and cackling with glee while flipping us all the bird.
Grant at McCovey Chronicles brilliantly sums why this move would be miserable here and here (and apparently Tim Kawakami didn't take too well to that second one). Rios is a very good player and might even improve into a 30-homer guy, but he's not going to turn a franchise around. Not even close. He might, might, have another two or three All-Star seasons in him, but he's definitely not a guy you build your team around. If he's the third-best hitter on your team, then you're on to something.
Lincecum meanwhile, with the way he blew away hitters in the minors and showed signs of dominance this past season, has the ability to be the best pitcher in the National League in the next few years, and that has way more value, obviously, than a 26-year-old corner outfielder who hits free agency in two years. There are players who I would trade Lincecum straight-up for (Jay Bruce of the Reds being one, but I can't see that happening), but Rios is definitely not one of them.
Here's what I think is going on. In Moneyball, Billy Beane famously referred to Brian Sabean as the "master of the dry hump", and hopefully that's the case here. Sabean might just be feigning interest in the hopes that, if he leads them on enough, the Blue Jays will keep going further and further until they offer something crazy and Sabes makes off like a bandit. At least, I pray that's the case. I think the fact that the whispers of this trade turned so quickly into shouts means that the dry humping has given way to full fledged Mile High Club status, as lurid a mental picture as that analogy will give you.
What I do know is that if this trade does happen, and the guy who so many dubbed "The Savior" is wearing blue and speaking French next season, prepare to see Mays Field burned to the ground, with me at the front lines, kerosene in hand.
--I'll go into this more on Monday, but...we're free. Is this really real? If I pinch myself, will I wake up to a cold reality of clueless hacking and sub-.290 OBPs?
--Didn't get the time for the usual TGIF video yesterday, so we'll put one up for TGIS, I suppose. If you grew up on Nintendo games and you haven't been enlightened to the AVGN, you're missing out.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Burned By the Hot Stove
Today provided us with the usual buttload of rumors, but no actual big name player movement, unless you want to call the sorry sack from Death of a Salesman a "big name". The general theory seems to be that everybody is waiting for the Johan Santana trade to go through, then the frantic trading will begin. Other big names that have come up in trade talks are Dan Haren, Eric Bedard, Scott Rolen, and, of course, Miguel Cabrera. I'd be shocked if Haren goes anywhere, but Bedard seems to really be on his way out, though I don't know what the Orioles are thinking. What a garbage organization. If the rumored Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis for Detroit's entire farm system goes through, it makes the Tigers the heavy favorite to win the AL Central, probably for the next few years.
As for Rolen, the Giants seem to be his rumored destination, with Noah Lowry going over to the Redbirds, and St. Louis paying a hefty portion of Rolen's salary. I love Rolen and all, but what's the point? Can't the Giants find a younger, less MASH unit-prone third baseman for Lowry, like Edwin Encarnacion (which was also rumored, hopefully closer to reality)? I guess the best-case scenario is that Rolen comes over as a sort of stopgap, returns to All-Star form while the Giants shore up holes at other positions, and leads the team to an improbable run at contention. Not bloody likely, but it's the only reason I see for the interest, unless it means unloading another bad contract like Dave Roberts, or flipping Rolen at the trade deadline if he pumps up his value enough.
There were also a bunch of rumors involving Tim Lincecum, as per usual, including a quote from one anonymous sumbitch in the Cincinnati organization who said the Giants "have to" trade Lincecum (Lefty Malo has the link). Yeah, the Giants "have to" trade Lincecum like your team "had to" trade Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez for a bunch of crappy relievers, you stupid jackass. Luckily, it seems that Brian Sabean has had enough and is taking both Lincecum and Matt Cain out of any trade considerations, a move that gets a hardy applaud in this corner.
Perhaps the most terrifying rumor has the Giants interested in Shawn Green. Let's just say that if Shawn Green suits up for the Giants in 2008 I'm turning Stankeye into a freaking Kansas City Royals blog. I swear to God. A move like that, in the position the Giants are in, is just too asinine for words. Also firmly in the "hells no" category is the Giants' supposed interest in trading for Ben Broussard, a 30-year-old first baseman who has cracked a .335 OBP just once in his six-year career. Sigh...the more things change, the more they stay the same I suppose.