Monday, May 19, 2008


Rockie Horror

A series at Coors Field is a great way to get the bats going, but not necessarily a great way to get a winning streak under way, no matter how bad the Rockies are at any given time. I seem to remember in the 1997-2004 period always salivating when the Giants were heading into Colorado coming off of a tough stretch in which their bats went cold. Since the Rockies were rarely good during that timespan, I always figured the Giants could beat up on them to their hearts' content while revving up the bats at the same time.

Of course, nothing ever works out the way you want it to. I always realized, too late, that Coors Field was a certifiable house of horrors, with routine fly balls going ten rows deep into the outfield stands, singles turning into triples in the huge expanse of outfield, shallow fly balls falling in for singles, and Neifi Perez hitting season-killing bombs off of Robb Nen.

Nothing epitomizes the theater of the absurd better than this nightmare in 2000, when the Giants coughed up an 11-5 lead in ways that defy description. Perhaps the worst part came in the first inning, when Bobby Estalella hit what should rightfully have been a grand slam over the right field wall. The ball hit a bench in the bullpen, however, and ricocheted back out onto the playing field. The umpire, in a fit of acute blindness, ruled that the ball hit the top of the fence, even though the benches were a solid ten feet behind the wall and the ball clearly crossed over into the bullpen. Estalella was credited with a triple and didn't score in the inning. The Giants went on to blow the game. I don't think I've ever cursed so loud at a blown call in my life. It was unreal.*

Now, I doubt that a 6-0 lead in that game, as opposed to the 5-0 that the Giants ended up holding, would have saved the team from crapping that game away in such colossal fashion, but those are the kinds of things that happen at Coors Field. It's weird, it's wacky, and it seems like the Giants always come away with a series loss and a pitching staff in tatters. In short, not the best place to end a five-game losing streak and sort out the sudden bullpen problems that have been plaguing the team.

As it is, Coors Field isn't the horror show that it used to be. Its park factor this season is 109, which still favors hitters immensely (anything over 100 is hitter-friendly), but that's nothing compared to its 1995-2004 period, when the average park factor was like 120, and topped out at 129 (yeah, that's unbelievable). Even if it's still a bandbox, the park's years of making guys like Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichett look like good hitters are over. Still, 109 is 109, so Pat Misch be warned.

*One hilarious moment from this game came when Russ Davis hit an absolute bomb off of Julian Tavarez to give the Giants their fateful 11-5 lead. Normally even when a batter launches a no-doutber home run, the outfielders will at least take a few cursory steps back in pursuit of the ball, as a courtesy to the pitcher. This time, though, left fielder Larry Walker didn't even move. As Davis's blast landed like two-thirds of the way up the bleachers, Walker just stood there motionless as if to say, "same shit, different day." I guess if any pitcher deserves to be shown up like that, it's Tavarez.

--In the eternal Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady debate, I'm squarely in the Manning corner, but...props.

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Friday, May 09, 2008


Post-Sweep Plank-Walking

Time to take a break from obsessive activities that threaten to destroy my ability to function in civilized society to jabber a little about the Giants and their hiccup by the Alleghany this week.

I guess it's not as bad as being taken over by the Crimson Permanent Insurance, but getting swept by this band of Pirates is humiliating enough. I thought that the Giants could go into Pittsburgh, square off against maybe the worst-run franchise of the last decade (to be fair, they've gone through an ownership change for the better, but the wreckage is still there), and get out of town that much closer to .500 on their way to a shockingly successful season. As J.T. Snow said on the radio last weekend, the best way to get over the .500 mark is to make it a goal to win every series, and what better team to do that against than the freaking Bucs? The Giants should have been Donatello.

Obviously, it didn't go that way, and now the Giants have lost five of six and are starting to really resemble that boring team that everybody predicted would crash and burn into 100-loss land. I'm still holding on to that glimmer of hope that this team can will its way to like 80 wins, but these last three games were quite a downer. All that, and Stankeye fave Doug Mientkiewicz didn't even get into any of the games. Ah well.

Some encouraging things...

--Barry Zito's start wasn't horrendous, which is a backhanded compliment if I've ever heard one. The five strikeouts were the most positive sign, but he still needed 99 pitches to get through five innings, and one diving stop by Rich Aurilia kept Zito from further disasters. He was still throwing in the low-80's, so maybe he's adjusted somehow, or maybe it was a fluke and he's going to get tattooed again in his next start.

--Dan Ortmeier has been a beast ever since switching solely to right-handed hitting, and he's 3 for 10 against right-handed pitching. With the power potential he flashed from the right side last season, it'd be interesting to see him get full time work against all types of pitchers, not just lefties, with Aurilia or Jose Castillo moving to a reserve role.

--Aaron Rowand just keeps ripping, and he's at .336/.390/.523 for the year, with sparkling defense and at least one great catch per week. No, I still don't like the contract, but Rowand is small sample sizing my words right back down my throat right now.

--The return of Billy Sadler. He blew away the red-hot Nate McClouth in the 8th inning yesterday with a runner on base. The 24 strikeouts in 16 AAA innings is stunning, but the 12 walks ain't. With Brad Hennessey down trying to get himself back on track, this is a great opportunity for Sadler to establish himself. Hopefully he can be more Brad Lidge than Scott Ruffcorn in the majors.

The Phils come into town tonight. Has anybody noticed what a miserable year Ryan Howard is having? .165/.285/.331 with 51 strikeouts in 127 at-bats! If he keeps that pace up, that's 221 K's over a full season. Somewhere Jack Cust is smiling.

--To paraphrase a line from a Simpsons character, for no reason here's U2...with a buffalo, for some reason.

Ok, back to GTA.

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Monday, May 05, 2008



Once, way back in the early-1980's, when Dave Kingman was playing first base (and badly at that) for the Mets, he tore his mitt in the middle of one game and had to have it repaired mid-inning. Upon watching one of the Mets equipment guys come out to re-stitch his glove, Mets play-by-play announcer Richie Ashburn quipped that the team should have called a welder.

I thought of this classic quote immediately after I watched poor Eugenio Velez fumble the game away for the Giants yesterday afternoon, as the team's defense as a whole looked as though it did indeed need to be rescued by a blowtorch and a KUKA. Due to a number of defensive lapses and Brian Wilson's first Benitez experience, the team dropped two of three to the Phillies in a series that they easily could have swept.

The chief culprit among the defensive rogue's gallery was Velez, who enabled the winning run to score yesterday when he missed a ground ball, and who also should have been credited with another error in a pivotal Phillies rally in the fifth inning. Velez is a guy who I've been trumpeting to play every day, but now I'm ready to do a 180 on that. Velez's miserable game Sunday brought his line to .232/.264/.354, which coupled with his erratic defense may have Giants fans welcoming Ray Durham back from the doghouse with open arms.

While it'd be fun to see how many triples Velez could rack up with his speed over a full season, I think it's best for all concerned if he were sent to AAA to be the starting second baseman. It's clear that Velez is overmatched by major league pitching, and the worries about his defensive performance that popped up in Spring Training are proving to be legit. As much as we all want to see the Giants play young guys, in this case it's probably only going to stunt Eugenio's development to keep trotting him out there.

Velez's most valuable asset is his speed, but without some ability to take pitches he's just going to turn into Gary Pettis without the defensive rep, and it's hard to get much more useless than that. I'd love to see him get regular playing time from here on out at Fresno and then see if he can't learn to hit there. Remember, his awesome season in 2006 came as a 24-year-old in A-ball, so maybe what we see is what we get. Still, there's really nothing to gain from letting him stink it up in the majors for a whole year, unless derailing his confidence is the stated goal. I'd gladly sit through another couple of months of Ray Durham if it means Velez turns into a useful ballplayer.

--Currently leading the NL in saves...Brian Wilson, with 10! That's right, I surmised in an earlier post that Wilson could theoretically save 30 games this season because every game the Giants win will likely be low-scoring, and thus Wilson should get a lot of opportunities. As if to prove me a baseball genius (rim shot), Wilson is well on his way.

I've always maintained that saves are a stupid junk stat, but if Wilson does rack up a bunch of them then it will help the Giants a lot in the future. For instance, if Wilson puts together a bunch of 30-save seasons in a row, and earns that beloved "proven closer" tag that gets bestowed upon the likes of Rocky Biddle and Derrick Turnbow, then he might have a lot of trade value as his arbitration years start to tick down. I can imagine a desperate fringe contender throwing a prospect or two at the Giants for the chance to get a gritty ninth inning man to solidify their bullpen and look mean. If the Giants could convince Wilson to wear coke-bottle glasses and grow wild facial hair, they'd only be helping their cause.

--I'm not sure what to make of the site called Steve Finley Was Here, since it takes the namesake of one of the most hated players in Giants history. It contains a link to my page, though, so I guess that means I should I plug it, right? Except...2004. Wayne Franklin. I'm so confused. I guess I'll call a truce and grudgingly link to it.

For real, though, check it out. It's all about West Coast baseball, it's good stuff, and if you ever wanted to know what Barry Zito has on his iPod, you're in luck (he apparently doesn't have Tu Quieres Volver...I guess I'm the only young adult in the world who would admit to putting that on a playlist).

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